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Introduction to Problems in Adolescents

By Sharon Levy, MD, MPH

Fortunately, most adolescents enjoy good physical health. The most common problems among adolescents relate to growth and development, school (see page School Problems in Adolescents), childhood illnesses that continue into adolescence, mental health disorders (see Overview of Mental Disorders in Children and Adolescents), and the consequences of risky or illegal behaviors, including injury, legal consequences, pregnancy (see page Contraception and Adolescent Pregnancy), and infectious diseases. Unintentional injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes and injuries resulting from interpersonal violence are leading causes of death and disability among adolescents (see page Physical Problems in Adolescents).

Psychosocial adjustment is a hallmark of this phase of development because even normal individuals struggle with issues of identity, autonomy, sexuality, and relationships. “Who am I, where am I going, and how do I relate to all of these people in my life?” are constant preoccupations for most adolescents. Psychosocial disorders (see page Overview of Psychosocial Problems in Adolescents) are more common during adolescence than during childhood, and many unhealthy behaviors begin during adolescence. Having an eating disorder (see page Introduction to Eating Disorders), poor diet (see page Obesity in Adolescents), smoking, using drugs (see page Drug and Substance Use in Adolescents), and violent behavior (see page Behavior Problems in Adolescents) can lead to acute health problems, chronic disorders, or morbidity later in life.

* This is the Professional Version. *