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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2013 Jun;110(25):432-9; quiz 440. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2013.0432. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

Growing up is hard: mental disorders in adolescence.

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  • 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Germany. bherpertz-dahlmann@ukaachen.de



Puberty brings on many biological, mental, and social changes. In this phase of life, the prevalence of serious mental disorders is about 10%.


This review is based on a selective search for publications on the prevalence, causes, risk factors, and effects of mental disorders in adolescence.


Internalizing mental disorders are more common in girls; these include depression, social anxiety, and eating disorders. Their prevalence ranges from 12% to 23%, depending on the particular diagnostic instruments and criteria that are applied. Disruptive disorders, e.g., disorders of social behavior, are more common in boys, with a worldwide prevalence of approximately 5% to 10%. Marked differences between the sexes appear during puberty. The one-year prevalence of self-injurious behavior is about 14% in boys and 25% in girls. The consumption of legal and illegal drugs is one of the risk-seeking behaviors associated with adolescence.


In routine check-ups and medical office visits, particular attention should be paid to the possibility of a mental disorder. Special outpatient clinics for adolescents can help more young people avail themselves of the existing preventive and therapeutic measures. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent mental disorders in adulthood and foster age-appropriate development.

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