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Introduction to Problems in Adolescents

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

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Fortunately, most adolescents enjoy good physical health. The most common problems among adolescents relate to growth and development, school (see 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 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 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 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 Introduction to Eating Disorders), poor diet (see Obesity in Adolescents), smoking, using drugs (see Drug and Substance Use in Adolescents), and violent behavior (see Behavior Problems in Adolescents) can lead to acute health problems, chronic disorders, or morbidity later in life.

* This is the Professional Version. *