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4 Ways Teens Hurt Their Mental Health (Without Even Knowing It)

Photo: JKstock / shutterstock.com, sparklestroke / canva
teen with long hair texting

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that “about 1 in 4 young adults are seeking mental health care.” We have to remember that teens with ADHD are trying their best.

But, despite their best efforts to manage their own lives and exercise the independence they so desperately crave, I notice that they seem to repeat several habits that interfere with these desires.

Whether it’s spending too much time on social media, practicing unhealthy eating habits, arguing via text, or expecting failure and not trying, they need guidance to help them navigate peer relationships, make thoughtful decisions, and practice self-care. Here are four issues that seem to keep popping up for teens in 2022 and how you can help them have a positive outcome.

RELATED: 6 SECRET Ways To Emotionally Connect With Your Teen

Four ways teens today hurt their mental health — without realizing it.

1. Spending too much time on social media.

Social media is one of the top issues for teens in 2022. It not only seems to suck up time faster than you notice but it also is built so that people compare themselves to others. These comparisons are rarely favorable, and people walk away not feeling positive about themselves.

As one adolescent girl told me, “No one ever posts pictures of their face mid-menstrual break-out or their bombed test grade.” Teens especially feel pressured to keep up with friends, stay in touch and maintain an image they’ve created. This creates more stress in their lives, interrupting their ability to reflect on themselves and what they think and make a sturdy sense of self. 

Tip: Schedule screen-free time each day. Whether it’s during a meal or after-school to take a break, help teens create screen-free time to give their eyes and brains some much-needed time away from technology to recover. 

RELATED: 10 Supportive Things To Say To Someone Struggling With Their Mental Health

2. Eating fast food on the run instead of preparing healthy meals and sitting down to eat them together

You’ve heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” It’s so true, not only what we eat but also how we eat. When we eat non-nutritious food quickly, we’re not providing our brains or bodies with the appropriate fuel to think and function well.

Sharing a meal is good for adolescent physiology and allows them to connect with people face-to-face and talk about their lives. When we sit down to eat a meal, our bodies slow down and properly digest our food so we can absorb the nutrients and simultaneously take a much-needed break from the chaos of our lives.

Tip: Create regular family meals in your routine. Set aside particular days and times when the family gathers together to share some nourishment. Engage your teen in cooking as well. This is an excellent opportunity for them to learn valuable and rewarding life skills. 

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3. Having arguments via texting or emailing.

Nobody can take an emotional weather report via electronic communication. If you say something difficult or sensitive, there’s no way to perceive how your words affect the other person.

You also may not perceive whatever feelings are brewing inside them. It’s easier to disengage and avoid accountability for your words and actions. Teens need to learn and practice interaction skills for healthy personal relationships and school, work, and life situations where they must deal with others. 

Tip: Assist your teen in dealing with issues more directly, by phone call, Zoom, or safely in person. Help them develop some phrases they can say and role play these conversations, so they feel more comfortable and confident.

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4. Giving up before they even start.

Many teens with ADHD struggle with low motivation, negative outlooks, and procrastination avoidance.

They put off activities like homework, chores, or hygiene because they don’t enjoy them and may not see their value. Many kids have a history of not succeeding despite exerting themselves and don’t believe they can do anything differently now. An adolescent boy told me, “I’ve tried before and failed, so why would it be any different now?” 

Tip: Break tasks down into smaller chunks to make them more manageable for kids to attempt. Help kids recall times when they made efforts and succeeded, clarifying what tools and actions helped them accomplish what needed to get done. Notice their effort and progress towards a goal and encourage them along the way.

It’s time for young people to start living a full and healthy life. Building a strong connection with your teens will protect their mental health and build long-lasting relationships that will help them grow into healthy adulthood.

RELATED: PSA: Your Mental Health Issues Are Not Your Fault

Dr. Sharon Saline, Psy.D., is an international lecturer and workshop facilitator and has focused her work on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences, and mental health challenges and their impact on the school and family dynamics for more than 30 years.

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This article was originally published at Dr. Sharon Saline's Website. Reprinted with permission from the author.