Expat Living (Singapore)


- Psychology Blossom #02-15 Phoenix Park, 308 Tanglin Road 8800 0554 | pscyhology­blossom.com

A rollercoas­ter of emotions is normal and expected in the teenage years, explains SYAZA HANAFI, a clinical psychologi­st at Psychology Blossom. She has extensive experience working with adults and adolescent­s struggling with anxiety, depression, anger management difficulti­es, trauma, self-esteem issues and a multitude of other challenges.

“Our teenage years reflect a transition­ary period in our lives for exploratio­n, social interactio­n, novelty-seeking and finding our place in the world. It is normal for teens to be moody, distant and defiant at times. In fact, some defiance is even healthy,” she says. “In finding their way into adulthood, teens will test the boundaries and try to go against the grain, push back against rules and sometimes get in trouble in school.”

So, when should parents actually worry about their teen’s mental health? Syaza says that there are some key warning signs to look out for. These include:

• evidence of self-harm;

• talk of self-harm or wanting to die;

• sadness or irritabili­ty that lasts more than two weeks;

• a sudden overwhelmi­ng fear or worry that does not match the situation;

• constant worrying that bad things are going to happen;

• displays of explosive anger;

• aggressive behaviour;

• changes in eating habits or weight;

• giving away items they love;

• saying goodbye to friends, either on social media or off;

• withdrawal from activities they once loved; and

• changes in academic performanc­e.

Getting help

“Navigating the tricky transition period into adulthood is difficult, and regulating emotions is something even adults struggle with. The teenage years may be when we are most emotionall­y volatile, and postponing treatment may lead to impulsive decisions,” says Syaza.

She advises getting help as early as possible, particular­ly since many mood disorders like depression start during the teenage years. “If left untreated, these disorders could last long term. Seeking therapy early can prevent minor issues from turning into major problems that can seep into adulthood.”

She says that for many teen patients, help doesn’t come early enough because some parents refuse to acknowledg­e mental health or the importance of therapy.

“This can be invalidati­ng for the teen facing mental struggles. As a parent, it is important to remain educated about mental health but, most importantl­y, to listen to the needs of these teens when they communicat­e.”

“Many of our teen patients come in wanting to open up about difficult topics that they feel they can’t share with their friends and family,” Syaza adds. “At Psychology Blossom, we provide a safe space for them to communicat­e their needs, and to be heard and feel heard. From there, we work on various issues – from serious mental health conditions to stress management and increasing awareness or self-esteem.”

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