Sometimes young people experience changes in their thinking, feelings, or behavior that are confusing or bothersome. It can be hard to know what to make of these changes. Do other people have these experiences? Should I be worried? Will they pass? 

One person may have the sense that his mind is playing tricks on him. Another may feel like she’s living in a dream. Young people sometimes describe feeling that lights are brighter than before, sounds are louder, or that it’s harder to understand conversations or get their thoughts out. They may just find it harder and harder to pay attention or keep up.

There are many different possible explanations for these types of experiences. Causes range from sleep deprivation, stress, inadequate nutrition, and substance abuse to neurological or mental health disorders including seizures, depression, and schizophrenia. Although these experiences may be fairly common among young people, they may be bothersome or interfere with a person’s functioning or sense of well-being. 

Many of these changes may be fleeting reactions to temporary stresses. But sometimes they indicate that someone is at risk for worsening problems. Taking the time to understand these types of experiences may reduce the fear and misunderstandings that keep people from getting help early.

Symptoms may include:

  • Cognitive difficulties
    • Trouble with memory, concentration, attention, mental speed, planning and organization of thoughts
  • Withdrawal from the outside world, including from one’s family, friends, and even one’s own self 
  • Trouble with motivation or getting started on goal-directed activities (such as working, schoolwork, or attending to personal hygiene)
  • Trouble thinking clearly and communicating with others 
  • Not showing much emotion, feeling emotionally flat, or having difficulty distinguishing between emotions
  • Feelings of suspiciousness or mistrust  
  • Hallucinations
    • These are false perceptions of one or more of the five senses: hearing, seeing, touch, taste or smell. They most often involve hearing noises or voices, such as having one’s name called when no one is around, or seeing something that is not really there. Hallucinations can also include odd bodily sensations such as tugging, burning, or feeling like something is under the skin. 
  • False beliefs or delusions
    • A false belief that does not fit with the person’s cultural group is known as a delusion. Even though delusions may seem odd or obviously irrational to others, they may be held as true by the people who have them.
  • Confused thinking
    •  Sometimes you may make meaningful connections between ideas and events that most other people would not make.  


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