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Introduction to Problems in Adolescents

By Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School;Children's Hospital, Boston

For most children, adolescence is a period of good physical health. The most common problems during adolescence relate to

Leading causes of death and disability among adolescents are

During this phase of development, adolescents begin to transition from childhood to adulthood. Issues of independence, identity, sexuality, and relationships define this developmental stage. Mental health problems, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and thought disorders (such as schizophrenia—see Childhood Schizophrenia) as well as psychosocial disorders (see Overview of Psychosocial Problems in Adolescents), may develop or first become apparent during adolescence. Suicide is a major cause of death for this age group (see Suicidal Behavior in Children and Adolescents). Other causes of death include accidents, unintentional injuries, and homicide.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (see Definition of Eating Disorders), most commonly develop during adolescence and are more common among girls. Many unhealthy behaviors that start during adolescence, such as consuming a poor diet (see Obesity in Adolescents), smoking (see Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents : Tobacco Use in Adolescents), substance use (see Substance Use and Abuse in Adolescents), and violence (see Behavioral Problems in Adolescents), can lead to immediate health problems, long-term disorders, or poor health later in life.

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