Anxiety & Depression in Children, Adolescents, and Teens

Children are not immune to anxiety and depression about 1 in 5 children will suffer from an anxiety disorder or depression by the time they are 18 years old.

Anxiety and depression can occur separately or coincide simultaneously. When severe they may interfere with a child’s functioning in school, relationships, and daily life.  Both conditions may increase the risk of developing into chronic mental health issues, or substance abuse if left unidentified or untreated.

Anxiety usually occurs in humans as a normal flight or fight survival response to perceived danger.  However severe anxiety may cause the child to fear going to school, being around people as well as the inability to sleep or even speak.  Anxiety may manifest differently depending on the age and predisposition of the child.

Some common anxiety symptoms include restlessness, clingy behavior, crying, excessive worry, shortness of breath, dry mouth, wringing of hands, racing pulse, clammy palms, butterflies in the stomach, complaints of a stomachache; feeling tense and nervous, poor concentration, and panic attacks. Some common anxiety disorders are diagnosed as general anxiety disorder, separation disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Depression

Depression is manifested by symptoms such as low mood, lack of interest, and hopelessness. It can be difficult to tell if a child is depressed, as the symptoms can vary from child to child. Some signs that may suggest that a child is struggling with depression include withdrawing from friends and family, becoming isolated, having trouble concentrating or completing tasks, experiencing frequent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, losing interest in activities that used to be enjoyable, changes in appetite, or sleep patterns.

Very young children may have physical complaints such as a tummy ache or headache.  Some children may exhibit acting-out, out-of-control, agitated and aggressive behavior as a manifestation of their depression. Some may even have thoughts of suicide.

The treatment for anxiety and depression may depend on the child’s age, as different therapies work better for specific age groups. Some of the most common treatments for anxiety and depression include individual therapy, family therapy, and medication.

If parents or guardians recognize significant changes in a child’s behavior and attitude whether due to known traumatic events or not the first course of action is to try to get the child to talk about his/her feelings and consult the child’s pediatrician and/or mental health professionals.