Yoga Therapy for Teens with Mental Health Disorders

By Ashley Curry, Yoga Instructor, re:YOGA Staff Writer

 

TEENSAdolescence is a challenging stage in life, yet it is common for adults to discount what teenagers may consider as stress. For many teens though, serious afflictions follow them into adulthood. Some debilitating issues that can affect our youth include depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, even suicidal ideations, and many other behavioral and mental health problems [1].

 

By the time they reach adulthood, 20% of teenagers will have experienced depression [2], 1 in 8 youth will be affected by an anxiety disorder [3], and roughly 3% of adolescents will have an eating disorder [4]. On top of that, these issues often go hand in hand; someone who has depression can often have anxiety; someone who has an eating disorder can often have depression; and so on. [3]. The compounding of these conditions make the whole situation more difficult to manage.

 

Additionally, many adolescents get wrapped up in using addictive substances. In this stage of life, their brains are still developing, and therefore, they are more susceptible to forming addictions consuming or using substances such as alcohol and drugs. Nearly half (46%) of high school-aged students use addictive substances with 1-in-3 qualifying as having an addiction. To put that in perspective, this means that 6.1 million teens are currently partaking in addictive substances [5].

 

TEENS_STUDYING

These serious issues often go unaddressed. For example, 80% of our youth that have an anxiety disorder and 60% that have depression are not being treated [3]. The same sentiment can be found in the other issues they face. Why is this? Teens lament that they feel like they are not being heard or taken seriously, or they feel they cannot freely express themselves for fear of judgment. Also, as a society, we often do not consider psychiatric problems to be as serious as physical health problems [6].

 

However, ironically, if left untreated many mental health conditions manifest into physical health issues. The most common are stress pains experienced in the neck and back, but it can extend into self-harm, harming others, and even suicide.

 

The good news is that teens can get the help they need through the establishment of supportive and open communication; this will allow them to feel safe when opening up about the issues that trouble them. As adults, we can be actively involved in noticing abnormal behaviors and addressing them early by providing professional medical attention and also by helping to equip them with tools to cope.

 

Yoga therapy is beneficial across the age spectrum, but during adolescence, it can be a profoundly helpful tool to foster “the important skills of creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline” [7].

 

At re:YOGA, we support this population by working closely with organizations such as Paradigm Malibu to bring yoga, meditation, and mindful breath practices to adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, and addition. As remarked by one of the teens at Paradigm, “Yoga is fun and really helps get rid of my anxiety and helps with my back issues.”

 

If we can address the issues affecting our youth, they have a better chance of becoming high-functioning adults who can be free of, or at least embrace and manage, their behavioral and mental health challenges. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, so let’s play our part to look out for the younger members of our communities.

 

 

References
[1] Paradigm Malibu Home Page. (n.d.). Retrieved from Paradigm Malibu: http://paradigmmalibu.com/
[2]
Borchard, T. J. (2016). Why Are So Many Teens Depressed? Retrieved from Psych Central: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/03/04/why-are-so-many-teens-depressed/
[3] Children and Teens. (n.d.). Retrieved from Anxiety and Depression Association of America: http://www.adaa.org/node/137
[4] Most Teens with Eating Disorders Go Without Treatment. (2011, March 7). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2011/most-teens-with-eating-disorders-go-without-treatment.shtml
[5] National Study Reveals: Teen Substance Use America’s #1 Public Health Problem. (2011, June 29). Retrieved from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: http://www.centeronaddiction.org/newsroom/press-releases/national-study-reveals-teen-substance-use-americas-1-public-health-problem
[6] Weller, C. (2013, November 19). Most Mental Health Problems In Teens Go Untreated; Phobias, Anxiety Among The Worst. Retrieved from Medical Daily: http://www.medicaldaily.com/most-mental-health-problems-teens-go-untreated-phobias-anxiety-among-worst-263174
[7] Marlynn Wei M.D., J. (2015, May 22). 7 Ways Yoga Helps Children and Teens. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/urban-survival/201505/7-ways-yoga-helps-children-and-teens