Mental Health

Mental health challenges among young adults and innovative counseling approaches

Adolescence and young adulthood are times of transformation, where individuals balance self-discovery and identity formation as they crave independence. During these changes, mental health challenges can materialize. Issues such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders among teenagers and young adults highlight the need for comprehensive mental health support during these formative years. However, less common health conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome and Capgras syndrome, can also present challenges for this age group.

This article will look at the mental health challenges faced by teenagers and young adults diagnosed with specific health conditions, and the creative approaches counselors can use to help them overcome these.

Tourette’s syndrome

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive, involuntary movements and vocalizations known as tics. This syndrome often emerges in childhood and adolescence. The media is responsible for harmful tropes revolving around comedic outbursts. However, the reality of living with Tourette’s is vastly different.

For teenagers grappling with Tourette’s, the challenges can be both visible and invisible. The unpredictability of tics leads to heightened self-consciousness, at a time when young people already feel self-conscious enough. This constant self-awareness can contribute to anxiety, depression, and a reluctance to engage in social activities. This often has physical and emotional consequences, such as not getting enough physical exercise and missing out on building essential social skills. The academic environment may also become stressful, as tics can interfere with concentration and note-taking. In more severe cases, persistent vocal tics draw unwanted attention and provoke teasing or bullying from other students.

A counselor can help young people struggling with mental health as a result of Tourette’s and the other health conditions mentioned in this article. Reputable education providers such as St. Bonaventure University makes it more convenient to study and graduate with online Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. For individuals already working in the counseling industry or those who want to switch careers, this qualification will provide them with the knowledge required, and a supported work placement for clinical experience.

Histrionic personality disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) is a complex and often misunderstood mental health condition that falls within the cluster of personality disorders. People with HPD can be unhelpfully labeled as attention seekers. They experience intense emotions and need constant validation. Although the disorder affects people across all age groups, the impact it has on younger individuals heightens the existing challenges of transitioning from childhood to young adulthood.

People with HPD may form fleeting and shallow relationships to get the attention and validation they need. When these fail because of the lack of a real connection, it can be even more damaging to their confidence and mental health.

For teenagers and young adults living with HPD, the overwhelming desire to be admired and praised can hinder genuine self-discovery. The constant search for external validation undermines the development of a strong and authentic sense of self. They are more likely to conform to fit in with others than to explore who they are and what they want from life.

Young people with HPD may also struggle to form healthy, lasting relationships. Their tendency to be overly seductive or provocative to be noticed can attract the wrong kind of attention. They can alienate potential friends or partners and come across as insincere or manipulative. 

There are often stigma and misconceptions around HPD, particularly as many people can go undiagnosed for all or most of their lives. Outwardly expressive and attention-seeking behaviors might be misinterpreted as deliberate attempts to seek attention, rather than the manifestations of a genuine mental health challenge. This leads to a lack of empathy and support, further isolating those who have HPD.

Capgras syndrome

Capgras syndrome is a rare and puzzling neuropsychiatric disorder that distorts reality for the individual. Those afflicted by this condition develop an overpowering belief that a family member or friend has been replaced by an imposter who looks exactly the same. The psychological distress of this can be devastating, especially for teenagers who are already struggling with the complexities of identity and relationships.

Capgras syndrome is rooted in a disruption of the brain’s ability to recognize familiar faces. Despite the person’s intellectual understanding that someone is physically identical to their loved one, they develop a strong conviction that the individual is an imposter. This clash between perception and emotion forms the core of the Capgras delusion.

It can be extremely distressing. For example, if a teenager is looking at their parents and experiencing an inexplicable certainty that they are imposters, despite the physical resemblance, this makes it impossible to trust them. This shatters the feeling of security that most individuals need, particularly a young person who is already learning that not everyone can be trusted. Usually, close friends or family act as the anchor, giving individuals someone they know they can trust. Capgras takes this away.

Diogenes syndrome

Diogenes syndrome is another complex and poorly understood mental health condition. It is characterized by extreme self-neglect, social withdrawal, and a disregard for personal hygiene and living conditions. The challenges faced by young adults grappling with its effects are particularly distressing, alongside the usual problems of growing up.

Diogenes syndrome manifests in a variety of ways, often marked by an accumulation of clutter and filth in living spaces, neglect of personal hygiene, and a withdrawal from social interactions. People affected may exhibit behaviors such as hoarding, neglecting basic grooming and hygiene, and refusing help from others. There can be a combination of psychological, social, and environmental factors, resulting in a debilitating cycle of self-neglect.

At an age when friends and peers prioritize independence, self-sufficiency, and always looking their best, this pushes the person towards isolation and clashes with them establishing their own identity. Young adults with the syndrome may find it difficult to maintain relationships, employment, or educational pursuits due to their chaotic living situations, social withdrawal, and bullying and judgment from others.

Their inability to keep up with self-care and personal responsibilities can make them feel ashamed or inadequate. This contrast between societal norms and the reality they face can further isolate them and exacerbate the symptoms of the syndrome.

Misunderstandings and stigma around mental health struggles might lead to a lack of empathy and support. In some cases, those with the syndrome may be written off as lazy or unkempt, and blamed for their situation, rather than recognized as genuinely needing help.

Holistic therapy

In mental health counseling, the one-size-fits-all approach has been replaced by a greater understanding of individual needs and the diverse challenges they face. For those struggling to adapt to rare mental health challenges such as Tourette’s syndrome, HPD, Capgras syndrome, and Diogenes syndrome, traditional therapeutic methods fail to address the complex layers of their experiences. Instead, holistic therapy combines approaches that include art, music, mindfulness, and much more, to offer a tailored path towards healing and growth.

Holistic therapy embraces the connection between the mind, body, and spirit. The approach recognizes that a person’s mental health is linked with their emotional wellbeing, physical sensations, and personal expressions. By drawing from various disciplines such as art therapy, music therapy, mindfulness, and movement-based therapies, holistic methods provide a diverse toolkit to address the intricate needs of individuals navigating rare mental health challenges.

Instead of sticking to rigid structures, holistic approaches adapt to the changes in the individual’s journey. This flexibility acknowledges that progress might not always occur in a linear fashion, and healing often involves detours, pauses, and moments of revelation.

Technology-assisted interventions

Technology is reshaping the landscape of mental healthcare. Most teenagers and young adults are overly familiar with technology, having never lived in a time without the internet. For young people grappling with rare mental health challenges, their familiarity with technology can be used to help them. This ranges from therapeutic apps to virtual reality (VR) experiences and offers a new dimension of engagement and support. 

Therapeutic apps and VR experiences provide a space for teenagers to engage with therapy in a way they feel comfortable, manage their challenges, and enhance their wellbeing.

Therapeutic apps offer a range of features, including mood tracking, cognitive behavioral exercises, and guided meditation. For example, a teenager living with Capgras syndrome can use an app that provides tools to challenge delusional beliefs and restructure their thought patterns. These apps empower users to actively participate in their therapeutic journey outside of traditional therapy sessions, fostering a sense of control.

VR offers immersive environments that simulate real-life scenarios. A teenager contending with social anxiety related to HPD could practice social interactions within a controlled VR environment, gradually desensitizing themselves to triggers. This exposure therapy, delivered through VR, provides a safe space to confront fears.

Animal-assisted therapy

Another creative approach is animal-assisted therapy. The presence of animals has proven to be a transformative tool in helping people navigate their unique challenges. For those with rare mental health struggles, the gentle presence of animals can offer a unique form of solace and support.

Animal-assisted therapy taps into the natural connection between humans and animals, creating comfort, trust, and empathy. Interacting with animals has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and trigger the release of oxytocin and endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones. For individuals facing rare challenges, these physiological responses promote emotional healing and growth.

The emotional connection between humans and animals transcends words. Traditional talking therapies can be draining, and this provides a welcome relief from needing to verbally express problems. Animals offer unconditional love and acceptance, creating a safe space where individuals can process their emotions without fear of judgment. For teenagers grappling with the challenges of HPD, the genuine and nonjudgmental presence of an animal companion can become a welcome and safe distraction from emotional turmoil and confusion.

Narrative therapy techniques

Narrative therapy places importance on personal narratives for healing. By acknowledging the significance of the stories individuals tell themselves, people can reframe their experiences, building on their resilience. This therapy offers a transformative tool to reshape their perceptions and navigate their journeys of self-discovery.

Narrative therapy acknowledges that people are not defined by their struggles; rather, they are the authors of their own stories. People explore the narratives they have constructed about themselves and their challenges, then begin to deconstruct limiting beliefs and create space for new perspectives and possibilities.

For instance, a teenager with Tourette’s syndrome who has faced years of self-consciousness and isolation due to their tics could benefit from narrative therapy. This would encourage them to examine the story they have woven around their condition. Through guided exploration, they might uncover hidden strengths and moments of resilience, such as situations where they stood up to adversity or found unexpected support. By highlighting these alternate narratives, they can start to challenge the dominant narrative of struggle and create a more balanced perspective.

Rare mental health challenges can often result in a fragmented sense of self, as individuals grapple with perceptions and societal judgments that don’t align with their authentic identity. Narrative therapy offers a way to bridge this gap by inviting individuals to explore their true selves and acknowledge the strengths that have emerged from their challenges.

From the self-consciousness of Tourette’s syndrome to the emotional intricacies of HPD, Capgras syndrome, and Diogenes syndrome, these unique struggles are met with equally unique therapeutic responses. Holistic approaches interweave art, music, mindfulness, and technology to provide tailored solutions, recognizing the multifaceted nature of these challenges. Animal-assisted therapy provides unconditional support to those navigating complex emotions. Narrative therapy empowers individuals to rewrite their stories, reframing experiences and fostering identity reconstruction and self-acceptance.

By highlighting these lesser-discussed challenges and their innovative counseling solutions, counselors unveil a compassionate landscape where understanding, awareness, and empathy can help young people manage their mental health and live the best lives possible.

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