A mental health clinic in Dubai has said it is seeing a growing number of young people with low self-esteem and social anxiety, with the Covid-19 pandemic partly to blame.
The Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai said anxiety was the largest single driver behind 10 to 19-year-olds seeking treatment, with a quarter of patients experiencing the issue.
The clinic added that 16 per cent of patients experienced depression.
The clinic has released information about the conditions that younger patients have sought treatment for before Children’s Mental Health Week, which runs from February 6 to 12.
Mohamad Naamani, a psychologist at the centre, said that over the past year, there had been “a clear increase” in the number of 13 to 18-year-olds with mental health issues, especially anxiety and low self-esteem.
“Mental health issues among teenagers are extremely common as they try to navigate their journey to adulthood, while also trying to manage fluctuating hormone levels,” he said in a statement.
“While much of this is normal, it’s also clear that the after-effects of the pandemic are still rumbling on.
“Its social impact was profound among this age group and the adjustment to pre-Covid routines has been a real challenge for many as they unlearn habits which started during lockdown.”
He said children in this age group had a lack of social support and connection and increased loneliness at “a key stage of their social and emotional development”, causing them to be less confident in dealing with others when things started returning to normal.
“No longer able to hide behind a screen, they have developed a real fear of being scrutinised. This has greatly affected their personal self-image and, in many cases, diminished their self-esteem,” he said.
Among children aged under 10, almost a quarter (23 per cent) received treatment for emotional or behavioural problems caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The pandemic may be a factor here again, with the clinic saying attention levels may have been affected by the shift to online learning, a change that has not been completely reversed.
The popularity of short videos on social media platforms, typically lasting no more than 20 seconds, is another issue, according to Ozan Akbas, a clinical psychologist at the centre.
“These videos and reels may well be decreasing the attention spans of students, although more studies are needed,” he said.
“But it’s fair to say that the ever-increasing amount of fast-paced online stimuli that young people are constantly exposed to will naturally accelerate the growing cases of attention problems and can increase the symptoms in those who have an existing developmental disorder.”
Parents should look out for signs and symptoms that could point to a mental health issue, the clinic said.
These include a lack of interest in school work and activities, concerns from teachers or a drop-off in academic performance, sudden social and emotional withdrawal, and persistent low mood, sadness or constant anxiety.
Other things that may indicate something is wrong include outbursts or extreme irritability, frequent headaches or stomachaches, poor sleep patterns, aggressive or destructive behaviour, negative talk about themselves and low self-confidence.