Adolescence is a particularly difficult age. And a concrete investigation now a little more why. According to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, of the Nature group, the age of most mental disorders is 14 years, when the brain undergoes major maturational changes. Experts claim to rethink the mental health system, structured in child and adult services according to whether the person is older or younger.
The research, led by the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, has been performed with a meta-analysis of another 192 studies including 708,561 patients to determine the age at which different mental disorders are usually declared. According to the study, the average age at which social anxiety appears is at 13 years, anorexia at 17 and depression at 30. The 17 disorders analyzed appear before the average age of 35. The average age is that in which 50% of the cases appear before this age and the other half, after. Researchers have observed that most mental disorders appear without interruption during the first 25 years of life.
Joaquim Raduà, head of the research group at the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (Idibaps), claims to optimize prevention to avoid the appearance of disorders or a serious development. “If we were able to detect in time any change that warns of a possible mental disorder, perhaps we could correct it and make the brain mature in a healthy way, preventing the appearance of the disorder,” he analyzes.
There are different risk factors for mental disorders, according to clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Neus García: “Mainly it is a genetic and an environmental issue,” she explains. Raduà cites social issues, such as “mistreatment” or belonging to “minority ethnic groups” t, which can generate “discrimination”. “These adversities must be reduced,” he claims. García assures that the first years of life are key to reducing these risks: “The first year of life is the basis of his personality,” he analyzes, “affectionate discipline is what most helps someone to grow. Sometimes they fall into overprotection and this does not prepare them and frustrations are not overcome. Or the other way around, the limits are too aggressive and there is a lack of affection that damages self-esteem ”. Silvia Picón, specialist in emotional trauma, points out a specific concept: “Emotional security”. “Covering emotional needs is basic,” he analyzes.
Raduà stresses the importance of offering a prevention program “at the specific age” at which each disorder begins to be effective. “Now we can influence more when doing prevention tasks,” he claims. Picón responds almost instantly: “Emotional support is the greatest prevention factor.” The director of the Eulàlia Torras de Beà Foundation, for psychological support for young people, Lluís Diaz, claims to lower the age in prevention work. “Investing in early childhood is saving individuals and families suffering, building a more tolerant society and, therefore, improving people’s quality of life.”
When mental disorders are detected, repair should be sought as soon as possible, according to Garcia. “It is important to find a remedy quickly, but it depends on each pathology. Autism cases are more difficult to treat. Eating imbalances are costly, but they are successful, and phobias, for example, have a better solution ”, specifies the psychologist.
The treatment of these pathologies, however, has a stone in the shoe. The mental health system is mainly divided into differentiated devices between minors and adults. “From the age of 18, young people are referred to other centers, and many no longer continue with the support because the change makes them uncomfortable,” Raduà warns. Along these lines, Diaz claims to rethink the system. “We have long believed that the 18-year cut is obsolete,” he laments. “It does not reflect the reality of the adolescent and young adult clinic.” Diaz, however, is optimistic about the paradigm shift that the sector is experiencing after the pandemic. “There is more visibility of mental health. The pandemic has catalyzed it. There is more awareness of mental suffering and the need to ask for help ”, he celebrates.