When helping your child through anxiety and depression, don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance and support- for your child and for yourself.
Approximately 20 percent of American adolescents, ages 13-17, struggle with anxiety and/or depression. Determining the difference between teen angst and teens with anxiety and depression can be a fine line, but there are some significant cues and symptoms that are tell-tale signs.
Signs and Symptoms of Teen Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are frightening for both you and your child. Confronting the issues as early as possible can eliminate prolonged pain and sadness. And remember that finding your way through the unknown takes patience and perseverance for both of you.
Some signs of anxiety and depression that you can look for include: loss of interest in activities that would be otherwise found favorable and fulfilling, in addition to extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness and guilt. Other symptoms and signs to look for in your teen include:
Unexplained aches and pains
Withdrawal from friends and family
Poor school performance
Irritability, anger, or hostility
Tearfulness or frequent crying
Restlessness and agitation
Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
Thoughts of death or suicide
Teens struggling with anxiety and depression may “act out” to try to cope with the pain that they cannot otherwise explain. Some of these coping mechanisms include substance and alcohol abuse, talking about or running away from home and violent and reckless behaviors.
Listen and Communicate
If your child comes to you and tells you how they are feeling, listen. Often times they do not know how to verbalize what they are feeling, so it may sound like “normal teen angst.”
Encourage your child to come to you, no matter how they are feeling or if they have questions. The feelings that they are having are scary and overwhelming, and feeling that “no-one else feels like this” is a lonely and desolate place to be. Let your child know that they should talk to you about questions or concerns that they may be having. Reassure them that although they may feel embarrassed or scared to talk about it, the only way that you can really help them is to know how they are feeling.
Ask Questions and Seek Answers
When talking to your child, ask him or her what they can tell you about their worries. Can they describe the actual physical feelings that accompany their moments of anxiety? And know that they may not know how to describe their feelings, so you can suggest drawing what they are feeling or writing in a journal. If your child is asking you questions that you do not know the answers to, it is comforting to let them know that although you do not have the answer at that moment, you will find the answer out so both of you can understand and work through it together.
It is pertinent for you to stay centered and take steps to lessen the pressure that you are putting on yourself. Talk to your pediatrician. Seek out a therapist. If your child’s anxiety and depression is affecting them in school, speak to the school nurse and/or the guidance counselor. While you cannot “fix” the issues, you can be their greatest support and their biggest advocate.
If you have a child that is anxious and depressed, do not blame yourself and do not dismiss your child. Seek help immediately for them right away and find assistance and support for yourself. Don’t be embarrassed to reach out to others who have a child who struggles with anxiety and depression. There is, indeed, strength in numbers.
Lori Hunter, LMFT specializes in working with families, co-parenting and those high conflict couples struggling with relationships. She helps couples build intimacy, teaching effective emotional processing techniques that directly improve thoughts and behaviors.