During my live-tweeting of the premiere episode of Family SOS, I received a tweet asking if I would cover the topic of anxiety and depression in teenagers. This topic is absolutely important as so many teens suffer in silence from anxiety and depression or, if they do ask for help, they are sometimes ignored or their symptoms are written off as “hormones.”
Writing about anxiety and depression in teens is a tall order, as there is much to cover and the issues can be so individual. But I believe it is necessary to discuss and will try to lay a foundation that will help raise awareness with parents, caretakers, educators, and teens on the topic.
If you believe your teen is suffering from anxiety or depression, it is important that you talk to your GP, a mental health specialist (such as a psychologist or therapist), your partner, and your teen. Communication is the most vital part in the road to recovery. If you’re a teen who is suffering, talk to someone you feel comfortable with: a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, mentor, doctor, whoever you feel will help you the most. If you are a parent or caretaker, communication is also the answer here, too. Talk with your teen, your partner, and a medical professional.
Teens: The best thing you can do is tell someone how you are feeling. Adults: The best thing you can do is listen and offer to help.
Sign and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Teens
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 1 in 8 children suffer from anxiety disorders. Though all children and teens suffer from anxiety of some sort as they grow up, it is the children who suffer long after a typical “stage” has passed that should raise concern. These adolescents will begin to avoid doing things they previously loved, visiting places they may have enjoyed, or simply leaving the house.
It can be frustrating when, as a parent or caretaker, you’re uncertain as to what you’re witnessing is teenage angst or just simple defiance. For a more comprehensive list of signs and symptoms, I turned to the Mayo Clinic, which provides a list that includes both emotional and behavioral changes to look out for.
These changes include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
- Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite, such as decreased appetite and weight loss, or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Use of alcohol or drugs
- Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches, which may include frequent visits to the school nurse
- Self-harm, such as cutting, burning, or excessive piercing or tattooing
- Physical or sexual assault
For a fuller list of symptoms from the Mayo Clinic, please click here.
In addition to the signs and symptoms laid out above and on the Mayo Clinic’s website, there are other societal factors to keep in mind that may contribute to anxiety and depression: bullying, stress due to the pressures teens put on themselves (and that is put on them) to do well in school and on tests. A little pressure is important and can be healthy, but extreme pressure that leads to an inability to complete assignments or panic attacks before test taking is a sign that something deeper is going on that needs to be addressed.
To help support teens with anxiety and depression, it is important to keep expectations at a level everyone feels comfortable with. Do not overstress and keep a high bar when a teen is suffering or working towards recovery. Encouragement and support are also helpful. The environment around someone suffering from anxiety or depression should be supportive, consistent, and as calm as possible (keep anger and frustrations in check). When possible, routines are also good. Keeping a modified routine (school, homework, free time) helps the mind stay focused and retains a sense of normalcy in a dark time.
If you believe the situation is dire and suicide is a very real factor, do not wait. Call 911 or an emergency 24-hour suicide prevention hotline like the (U.S.) National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.TALK to reach a counselor or the (U.K.): 0987 654 3210 For all other countries, visit: http://www.befrienders.org/directory and select your country for the pull down menu.
Copywritten by Jo Frost