8 Problems in Teens and Young Adults That Mimic a Mental Health Condition, But Aren’t


Big feelings and big changes are the hallmarks of the teen and young adult years. With so much changing, the road often gets bumpy. No wonder the normal course of development from kid to adult can get rocky, and even appear dysfunctional from time to time.


1.     Staying up half the night can look like a sleep disorder.

However- Teens and twenty-somethings routinely experience sleep phase delay. This means their brains prefer to stay up until 2am and sleep until noon. It’s common, and corrects with age in most cases.

2.     Intense Moods can appear to be depression or bipolar disorder symptoms.

However- With the all the brain changes and social adaptation that occurs during these years, normal mood changes can become pretty dramatic. Moods get intense during the teen years, and sometimes that’s normal.

3.     Fear and Worry about new experiences can emulate an anxiety disorder.

However- With so many new experiences in these years, it’s common to feel overwhelmed from time to time. Anxiety is common with big life transitions, and that’s not always a sign of big trouble.

4.     Poor self-direction/motivation can be mistaken for A.D.D. or even depression.

However- Many teens are not highly motivated. We want our teen and young adult children to have a sense of impassioned motivation, but that’s often not the case. For many, motivation develops slowly through the young adult years.

5.     Unwise choices can look like personality disorders, or bipolar disorder.

However- Young people learn through experience, and the lack of experience may lead them to some problematic choices. Being questionable choice-makers is often simply part of being young.

6.     Substance experimentation can look like addiction, or the substances themselves can create symptoms such as mood changes or psychosis.

However- Experimenting with substances often begins in the teen and young adult years. Substance use is not always addictive, especially when early intervention and guidance steer young people away from continued use.

7.     Impulsive action can appear like serious mood or personality dysfunction.

However- Young people may make quick decisions, when more thought would have been advisable. This is common, and levels off with maturity.

8.     Inaccurate assumptions can look like poor judgment, a sign of mental illness.

However- Youthful exuberance and lack of experience can lead to making wrong assumptions, and then acting on wrong information. Experience is the answer for improved judgment.


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Posted on September 4, 2017 .