Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Overview of Psychosocial Problems in Adolescents


Sharon Levy

, MD, MPH, Harvard Medical School

Reviewed/Revised Jul 2022 | Modified Sep 2022

Psychologic and social (psychosocial) problems, particularly involving behavioral and school issues, are more common during adolescence than at any other time during childhood. Adolescents are much more independent and mobile and are often out of the direct control of adults. When misbehavior becomes severe and frequent, adolescents should be evaluated for a psychosocial disorder by a mental health professional. In particular, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are common during adolescence. Adolescents who have anxiety or mood disorders may have physical symptoms such as fatigue Fatigue Fatigue is when a person feels a strong need to rest and has so little energy that starting and sustaining activity is difficult. Fatigue is normal after physical exertion, prolonged stress... read more or chronic fatigue Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Chronic fatigue syndrome, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), refers to long-standing severe and disabling fatigue without a proven physical or psychological... read more , dizziness, headache, and abdominal or chest pain.

The COVID-19 COVID-19 COVID-19 is an acute respiratory illness that can be severe and is caused by the coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms of COVID-19 vary significantly. Two types of tests can be used to diagnose... read more pandemic and the global response to it, including changes in daily routines and school schedules, have impacted the rates of depression and anxiety among many adolescents.

Thought disorders, in which a person has difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality (also called psychosis), most commonly begin during adolescence or early adulthood. The first episode of psychosis is called a psychotic break. Schizophrenia Schizophrenia in Children and Adolescents Schizophrenia is a chronic disorder involving abnormal thoughts, perceptions, and social behavior and causing considerable problems with relationships and functioning. It lasts 6 months or more... read more and schizoaffective disorder Schizoaffective Disorder Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by the presence of mood symptoms, such as depression or mania, plus the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Psychosis refers to symptoms such as delusions... read more are examples of thought disorders. Periods of psychosis may be related to drug use. In these cases, psychosis may resolve after a period of time. Psychotic episodes may occur with cannabis (marijuana) use Marijuana Marijuana (cannabis) is a drug made from the plants Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica that contain a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana... read more , particularly edible products. Some adolescents who have a psychotic episode caused by cannabis use go on to develop a chronic psychotic disorder.

Eating disorders Overview of Eating Disorders Eating disorders involve a disturbance of eating or of behavior related to eating, typically including Changes in what or how much people eat Measures people take to prevent food from being... read more , especially in girls, are common and can be life threatening. Some adolescents go to extraordinary lengths to hide symptoms of an eating disorder, which may include substantial reductions in food intake, purging after eating, use of laxatives, or extensive, vigorous exercise.

Doctors can often identify these problems. They can offer adolescents practical advice and, when appropriate, encourage adolescents to accept treatment provided by specialists.

More Information

The following is an English-language resource that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!