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Raising Awareness of Teen Anxiety and Depression

Raising Awareness: Teen Anxiety and Depression

Is Your Teen Struggling?

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When speaking about mental health disorders like teen anxiety and depression, “The most prevalent mental health disorders we see in adolescents are teen anxiety and depression,” says Kimberly O’Brien, a clinical social worker. Unfortunately, these disorders might be difficult for many parents to recognize. These mental issues among teens can take on very distinct forms compared to in adults and it’s essential to introduce teen anxiety and depression, their symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment to raise one’s awareness.

Recognizing Teen Anxiety

In life as a teenager, teen anxiety is virtually unavoidable. It is a period of emotional, physical, and social transformation that occurs simultaneously as the teenage brains change and hormones are at increased levels. Teenagers naturally want to discover and explore new things to gain more independence, but with this often comes social pressures and teen anxiety.

Is teen anxiety a significant teen mental health problem?

Is teen anxiety a significant teen mental health problem? Or is the media blowing things out of proportion? The answer is, yes—teen anxiety is a problem, and it’s not one that should be overstated.

In its most severe form, teenage anxiety can result in panic attacks and depression. But for most adolescents, stress and anxiety are just part of growing up. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), teens are more susceptible to emotional distress due to a “combination of hormonal changes and social pressures.” According to the NIMH, anxiety disorders are twice as common in teenagers as they are in adults, and they’re the leading cause of hospitalization among young people. The Office of Adolescent Health reports that adolescents with anxiety struggle with feelings of nervousness or fear almost every day for at least six months.

Several factors may contribute to increased teen anxiety. For one thing, teens are more likely than adults to grow up in single-parent households—which makes them more likely to experience family instability during their adolescence. They’re also more likely than other age groups to lack adult supervision after school hours and on weekends.

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When do a teenager’s anxiety and concern fade away?

When do teenagers become independent and learn to be self-sufficient? When do they become strong enough to face the world alone? The answer is: typically, when they graduate from high school, or have experienced an adequate amount of “anxiety barring” situations to learn from. The transition from childhood to adulthood is definitely a difficult one, and the process of growing up is experienced differently by everyone. Some people may grow up faster than others while some people may never fully reach adulthood.

Types of Teen Anxiety Disorders

  • Teen Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety is defined as a fear of being separated from or losing an attachment figure. It is commonly associated with babies and toddlers, but it can also affect teens. Thus, a separation anxiety disorder can affect both grade-schoolers and teenagers.

  • Teen Phobias

Adolescents with one or more phobias suffer anxiety when exposed to certain objects or events. Fears of animals, insects, blood, heights, enclosed places, and flying are common phobias.

  • Teen Anxiety about Social Situations

The best way to manage teen anxiety about social situations is to recognize it for what it is, and to try and become aware of it as it’s unfolding. This doesn’t mean ignoring what you’re feeling or trying to eliminate the feeling altogether—it simply means that you can’t allow your feelings to define how you act.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by excessive, uncontrollable, and often irrational worry about common life problems for at least six months. Those who have GAD usually have difficulty controlling the worry and tend to experience excessive anxiety in situations where most people would not—they often imagine worst-case scenarios, feel stressed out over things that most people would consider trivial, and may even start to avoid going to places or doing things they normally enjoy because of their fear of experiencing a panic attack.

Teen Anxiety Disorder

Teen Anxiety disorders are common among teens. An anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a person has excessive and irrational worry, fear, and related behavioral and physical symptoms. The intense fear can be triggered by situations that seem harmless or out of the ordinary. In some cases, people might not even be able to identify what is causing their anxiety.

What Are 3 Things That Cause Teen Anxiety?

Three things that cause teen anxiety are school, parents, and peers. School is a very stressful time for teens because they have to learn all the information to prepare them for their future, but also because they understand that their grades and performance will determine their future. Parents are also very stressful for teens because if parents have high expectations for their child then this can lead to continuous stress for the teen which eventually leads to an increase in anxiety. Peer pressure is also a major source of stress for teens because they not only have to fit into society but they have to fit in with the people around them.

Recognizing Teen Depression

Recognizing teen depression is tough. You might think that your depressed teenager is just lazy, or being cynical and moody, but there are important differences between teen depression and other causes of emotional distress in teens. Teens with depression may have a hard time functioning at school or at home, and their behavior can be erratic, intense, and unpredictable. It’s common for teens to feel down from time to time—it’s part of growing up—but when sadness becomes frequent and interferes with a teen’s ability to function normally, it’s time to consider that you may be dealing with something more serious. Depression in teens can be treated effectively by a professional who is able to identify the signs and symptoms of teen depression as well as the contributing factors that might be unique to your child.

Depression isn’t something you can “snap out of” or “get over.” It’s a real medical illness that, if left untreated, can have a significant impact on a person’s life.

Around 3.2 million Americans aged 12 to 17 suffered at least one major depressive episode in 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Trusted Source. They account for 13.3% of all 12 to 17-year-olds in the United States.

Is Teen Depression a Serious Mental Health Issue?

Teen depression is a serious mental health issue, and it’s becoming more common. A study conducted at the University of Cincinnati in 2013 found that almost 12 percent of teens from grades 7 through 12 have depression or bipolar disorder. For the most part, depressive episodes are not beneficial to the teen. Some teens go on to develop anxiety disorders, substance abuse issues, and even suicidal thoughts. In fact, 30 percent of people who die by suicide suffer from depression. In addition to teens suffering from the mental health conditions themselves, their family members are also affected by these illnesses. Teens suffering from depression tend to have problems at home and in school. Depressed teens often turn to drugs and alcohol for relief. The key to preventing teen depression is to identify when it sets in earlier on in life. Early detection can lead to early treatment. If you know someone who seems depressed, take them seriously and get them help immediately before they hurt themselves or someone else.

Behavioral Signs of Depression Among Teens

All teens and adults experience times in their lives when they feel unhappy or hopeless and this is perfectly normal. However, when they lose interest in activities they used to enjoy, and feel persistently sad or hopeless, this can signal a more serious problem. There are some notable symptoms that are clues that normal sadness has turned into depression.

  • Consistent gloominess, despair, or feelings of annoyance
  • Abstinence or loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping patterns such as sleeping too much or too little Having fluctuating energy levels
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Feeling worthless, ineffective, or culpable
  • Self-harming and self-destructive behavior

Types of Depression

The signs and symptoms of serious depression differ from person to person. Your doctor may use one or more specifies to describe the sort of depression your teen is experiencing. Listed below are a few examples:

  • Anxious distress is a type of depression marked by unusual restlessness or worry about upcoming events, or a sense of loss of control.
  • Melancholic features include extreme depression, a lack of response to something that used to bring pleasure, early morning wakeup, a worsening mood in the morning, dramatic changes in appetite, and feelings of guilt, agitation, or sluggishness,
  • Atypical features include the ability to be briefly brightened by happy occurrences, increased appetite, an excessive need for sleep, rejection sensitivity, and a heavy feeling in the arms or legs.

Symptoms: Teen Depression and Anxiety

What determines adolescent depression?

The first symptom of adolescent depression is withdrawal, or when adolescents stop doing what they used to do.

Mood swings could be a noticeable change during the depression. A depressed teen may feel extreme sadness or annoyance. Some changes include eating patterns, energy level, sleep patterns, and academic performance. If your teen has several of these symptoms, be on the lookout for these signs of depression.

Two types of teenage depression

There are two kinds of depression among teenagers: major depressive disorder and dysthymic disorder. Dysthymic disorder, also known as persistent depressive disorder, is a mood disorder characterized by chronic depression and low self-esteem. This condition is described in the DSM-IV with symptoms that include low mood and a lack of interest in activities, but it is not accompanied by the periods of mania or hypomania that accompany many types of depression. This can make it easy to mistake for normal teenage moodiness, but dysthymic disorder can persist for years if left untreated.

Teenagers are often reluctant to seek help for mental health issues because they don’t want to be seen as different from their peers at school. But parents should keep an eye out for signs that something more may be going on with their child’s mental health, especially if their teen seems particularly withdrawn or unhappy. If you suspect your child may be suffering from dysthymic disorder, talk about your concern with them and encourage them to see a doctor for an evaluation.

Adolescent major depressive disorder is a mental illness that presents itself in the teenage years. It’s one of the most common mental illnesses among teens, but it’s also one of the most commonly undiagnosed. This is partially because of the stigma attached to mental illnesses, which means that many sufferers keep their depression secret, even from their loved ones. Depression can have an impact on every aspect of the sufferer’s life, such as school performance, work performance, and personal relationships.

The causes of teen major depressive disorder are almost as varied as the people who suffer from it. Many factors can contribute to its development, including family history of depression and traumatic or stressful events happening in the teenage years. Because it’s not completely understood how depression develops, there isn’t a specific thing that triggers it in each individual case. However, researchers have discovered many risk factors for teen major depressive disorder including issues with family structure and dynamics; difficult or traumatic life events; genetic predisposition; chemical imbalances in the brain; poor communication skills or lack of communication in families; substance abuse; and lack of exercise.

What’s The Best Way To Treat Teen Anxiety?

Treating teen anxiety is not a simple task. Anxiety in teenagers is one of the most common mental health issues, and can be very challenging to treat. Some kids respond well to antidepressants and/or talk therapy—a combination that offers the best chance at long-term results for most people who suffer from anxiety. But it can be hard to get teenagers to commit to therapy, even when it’s in their best interests.

You have several options for getting your teenager into therapy if he or she is reluctant:

Ask the school counselor to meet with them (it’s usually free) and see if they can refer them to a therapist or teen anxiety treatment program.

Encourage the teen to see a therapist on his/her own—this might be a good idea if they’re self-motivated, or if they’ve already shown some interest in seeing one. A self-referral also shows you that they’re taking their condition seriously and want to do something about it

Put them on a wait list for an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist—this option might take months, though, so prepare yourself for the reality of your continued frustration while you wait

Causes: Teen Depression and Anxiety 

Common causes of depression and anxiety among adolescents vary greatly. Here are some points worth noting.

  • Genes:Teens are more likely to be abnormally anxious and depressed if there’s a family background of such disorders.
  • Traumatic events:Teenagers who have experienced trauma in the past, such as sexual abuse, violence, or being involved in an accident, are more prone to suffer from anxiety and depression.
  • Brain structure:The brains of teenagers and adults are structurally different. Changes in the brain circuits associated with danger and reward responses might lead to an increase in stress levels in teenagers. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine may be at varying levels in teenagers’ brains with depression and anxiety. These have an impact on mood and behavior management.
  • Negative influence: This factor can be in the form of negative thoughts. Teenagers may develop a negative worldview if they are regularly exposed to negative thinking, which commonly comes from their parents. Thus, the role of parents is essential to creating a positive environment for teenagers.
  • Stress from school: Many teenagers experience stress at school, either because the workload is too much or because they have trouble fitting in socially with their classmates.
  • Peer Pressures: peer pressure increases as teens become more aware of their peers’ opinions, which may cause them to worry more frequently about making mistakes or being judged negatively by others. Being peer pressured as a teenager can lead to anxiety and depression – especially if the peer pressured situation didn’t go well.

Red Flags for Teenage Suicide

Suicide among teenagers is an alarmingly big issue. Teenage suicide is the second largest cause of mortality among teens and young adults in the United States. Every year, an estimated 500,000 teenagers attempt suicide, with 5,000 being successful.

Anxiety and depression might be triggered by family problems, the death of a loved one, or failures at school or in relationships. Teen depression and anxiety can make difficulties appear impossible to manage, and the agony connected with them becomes intolerable. As a result, suicide becomes their desperate act to flee from the jail of this agony.

To raise awareness about these serious mental health issues, here are the common red flags one must be vigilant for to detect potential suicide risks among teens.

  • Manifesting a sense of hopelessness about life
  • Giving up on oneself and acting as if no one else is interested
  • Making a will, preparing for death, composing goodbye notes, and so on
  • Misused drugs and alcohol to ease one’s emotions and sleep.
  • Abrasive behavior
  • Verbal threats or jokes about  committing suicide

Diagnosis: Teen Depression and Anxiety 

It is necessary to impose a full clinical diagnosis for patients to treat depression and anxiety.

Universal depression screening guideline: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorses this standard for patients aged 12 years. It is a useful teen anxiety and depression test for detecting depression and determining the severity of its behavioral manifestations.

  • Psychological evaluation: A psychological evaluation of the adolescent will be conducted by a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, who will ask a series of questions concerning the adolescent’s behaviors, feelings, and ideas. They’ll also consider the adolescent’s family history, peer relationships, and academic success. To be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, an adolescent must meet the criteria established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. We offer free and confidential psychological evaluations for teenagers.

Understanding Teen Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and Depression in Teens Vary

It is important to understand that anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, depending on the individual. Just because one person has experienced something does not mean everyone experiences it in the same way. Some of the most common types of anxiety are panic disorder, specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. Anxiety can be caused by stress, fatigue or perfectionism. Some of these conditions are chronic but manageable; others may be brief but intense while some may cause teens to retreat while others will cause them to become angry. Teens who experience this condition often feel guilt – yes actual guilt – as well as imagined guilt. Girls are more likely than boys to acknowledge having an anxiety problem and seek help for it.

Treatment: Teen Depression and Anxiety

Teen anxiety treatment for these mental issues is always an option, as healthcare support from professionals is a great first step. Then, an evaluation should follow to decide on the correct diagnosis and best treatment. A consultation with a healthcare provider can assist in determining whether medication should be utilized in the treatment process. A teen mental health expert can create a therapy plan tailored to the teen’s needs and those of their family.

After a consultation, the healthcare expert will treat a teenager’s depression, anxiety, or both depending on the severity of the condition. They may recommend psychotherapy (talk therapy), individual, group and often times family therapy, medication, or a combination of all. Treatments may involve a range of therapy and methods to help the teens feel less stressed and more in control. These include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapyis a type of treatment used for anxiety and depression. It assists the patients in transforming negative thoughts into more positive and effective ways of thinking, which leads to more effective behavior. One part of behavior therapy for anxiety is helping teens cope with and regulate anxiety symptoms while gradually exposing them to their fears so that they learn that terrible things do not always happen.
  • Teen yoga therapyis a therapy method that promotes healing, health, and total well-being by addressing the physical, mental, and spiritual components of life. Teen yoga therapy, like conventional yoga, is based on a combination of yoga ideals and a Western understanding of the human mind.

One of the most significant advantages of teen yoga therapy is stress reduction. It aids in the reduction of stress and anxiety, two variables that contribute to mental health issues. Yoga exercises help the brain release dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter that makes individuals feel good, relaxes them and helps with various health issues.

  • Individual teen therapyRecovery from teen drug misuse requires individual teen counseling. When dealing with the complex emotions of rehabilitation, having someone to talk to is crucial. A teen addiction counselor can assist teens in dealing with those emotions, identifying self-defeating behaviors that may have led to drug use, and teaching them coping and relapse prevention techniques.
  • Teen music therapyCombining teen treatment with music playing and listening as part of teen music therapy for healing reasons has been around for a long time. Different body regions correspond to different vibrations, just like in yoga. The musical harmony will interact with the body to mediate energy flow, which can help with emotional recovery.

Hence, musical notes can evoke a wide range of memories and feelings in people. It is one of the primary reasons why music therapy has become popular in mental health and addiction treatment.

  • Teen art therapyis a therapeutic approach that focuses on improving a person’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and spiritual well-being via the creative process of making art. Many people have heard of “therapy,” but not everyone has heard of “art therapy.”

Teen art therapy is an excellent approach to assist teenagers in managing their emotions and dealing with their feelings. It can also help kids learn new things by igniting their imagination. Teens might benefit from art therapy to find their artistic voice and express their emotions.

  • Teen exercise therapyT is a type of therapy that uses exercise to assist teens with mental health, behavioral, and substance misuse concerns. This exercise treatment focuses on physical activity at its most fundamental level. There are activities for every fitness level, from simple yoga poses to hard strength training sessions to plyometric training for running and jumping. Choosing a workout that you enjoy and can do regularly is critical.
  • Teen spiritual therapy is a mindfulness-based therapy aimed at improving the well-being of teenagers. It is a kind of therapy that helps a person’s soul, mind, and physical well-being. It taps into a person’s psyche and teaches them how to use it to overcome obstacles in life.

Teen spiritual therapy combines regular approaches with spiritual norms and beliefs without any religious preaching. Teen spiritual therapy differs from standard therapy in that it employs therapeutic strategies to assist a person in experiencing spiritual uplift, insight, calm, intimacy, and self-awareness.

  • Outpatient teen treatmentTeens and young adults battling substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral disorders can benefit from outpatient drug rehab and mental health treatment.
  • Teen partial hospitalization treatment program (PHP)is an 8-hour-per-day, five-day-per-week structured and intensive treatment program. PHP for teenagers is typically 3–4 weeks long and provides a higher degree of care than Teen IOP. This program provides integrated multidisciplinary clinical treatment to adolescents who can operate at a minimally suitable level and do not pose a risk to themselves or others.

Adolescents in the teen partial hospitalization treatment program finish the program at the end of the day. It is far different from residential clients who sleep in the facility. For graduates of a residential treatment program, PHP for teens is the recommended next step. However, an adolescent does not need to complete the residential program to enroll in partial hospitalization.

It is an evidence-based teen drug treatment program that surrounds teens with professionals and a multidisciplinary care team dedicated to helping them get and remain well. Substance abuse treatment, family therapy, recovery programs, educational help, and a team to educate youth on drugs are among the services provided.

Final Thoughts 

A variety of factors can cause depression and anxiety in teenagers. Genetics, trauma, their surroundings, peer pressure, school pressures, changes in the brain, substance abuse, puberty stress, and negative thought patterns are among them.

Low energy, a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, poor sleep, and dismal thoughts are signs of melancholy and anxiety among teenagers. The most effective treatment for depression and anxiety is usually a combination of talk therapy and sometimes medication. Aside from medical treatment, teenagers may be able to alleviate their symptoms by exercising, breaking down heavy jobs, socializing, keeping a consistent sleep routine, and asking for help. Getting less screen time on cell phones can also help put a teenagers mind at ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can teenage hormones cause anxiety?

Yes. When combined with external stimuli, hormonal imbalances can cause the brain to malfunction. This raises the levels of stress hormone receptors while lowering the levels of relaxation hormone receptors and can lead to long-term anxiety issues in teenagers.

  • Can puberty cause anxiety and depression?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 2% of children under ten suffer from depression. However, depression rates grow from 5% to 8% between the ages of 10 and 14, the average age at which puberty starts. Surrounding factors to increase mental issues include hormones, physical changes, and stressful life events.

  • Can you have anxiety and depression for no reason?

We live on a stress-filled planet. As a result, possible causes and reasons for stress and depression rely entirely on how one manages the stressors. It is impossible to have anxiety and depression for no reason. If someone has peace of mind, anxiety and depression can no longer penetrate one’s personal life.

  • What are the adolescent anxiety and depression screening tools?

There are teen anxiety and depression screening tools on hand that anyone can use to determine their mental health status. These instruments include the following:

  • Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale (DASS21): The DASS21 is a 21-item questionnaire used to assess depression, anxiety, and tension/stress.

Patients read each line and assign a number to it based on how much it applies to them in the previous week. This is a shortened version of the DASS, which is a 42-item questionnaire that is freely available. Although further research is needed, data suggests that when administered shortly after detoxification, the DASS-21 may be suitable for depression screening in substance use disorder clients.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7): This is a self-administered questionnaire that is used by mental health and primary care clinicians to screen for and assess the severity of the most known anxiety disorders.
  • Major Depression Inventory (MDI): The World Health Organization administers this self-report mood questionnaire. Obtaining an ICD-10 or DSM-IV diagnosis of clinical depression is beneficial. It determines how severe a person’s depression is. It inquires about the clients’ sentiments and emotions throughout the last two weeks.
  • The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9: This is a single module of the Patient Health Questionnaire that is concerned with depression. It’s a tool for assessing and diagnosing depression. In primary and mental health settings, it also determines the degree of symptoms. Each of the nine DSM-IV depression criteria is given a score between 0 and 3 on this self-administered questionnaire.
  • Is your adolescent experiencing anxiety or depression?

Because untreated anxiety disorders in children are one of the leading indicators of depression in adolescents and young adults, most teens and parents are unaware of it. Because anxiety is the most common mental health complaint among teenagers, it’s no surprise that depression rates are rising.

  • Do anxiety and depression treatments work for teenagers?

However, as we will see, most therapies are effective for both anxiety and sadness. Apart from using statistics to reassure kids that anxiety and sadness are common, talking about mental illness and other emotional disorders as ordinary experiences in a fallen world is one of the best ways to “normalize” these challenges.

  • What is the distinction between teen anxiety and stress?

Most typical anxiety and tension pass rapidly, within a day or a few hours. Anxiety becomes a growing issue when anxious sensations are particularly powerful, last for weeks, months, or even longer, and interfere with a teenager’s learning, engaging in-home/school/work situations, and enjoying daily life. 

  • When are teens most prone to experience anxiety and stress?

New experiences, possibilities, and difficulties abound during the teenage years. Teenagers’ minds are also evolving during this time, and they crave more independence and autonomy. There are numerous stressors at this time. Teenagers may be concerned about starting secondary school, looking a certain way, fitting in with friends, final exams/schoolwork, performing in school plays, or attending school formals. Teenagers are more concerned than ever about political issues, the pandemic, and social media, to name a few.

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