Teenage Depression and Anxiety

Depression

Depression in teenagers isn’t always easy to identify as parents because often they’ll hide away in there room and not express how they’re feeling. In fact, often the young person themselves doesn’t realised that they’re depressed.

Children and adolescents ages 7 to 17 and adults tend to show the following symptoms: depressed mood, inability to experience pleasure, fatigue, concentration problems, and sometimes thoughts like “life is not worth living”. Children and adolescents differ from adults with depression in showing more guilt but lower rates of early-morning wakefulness, early-morning depression, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

In general, depression occurs in less than 1 percent of preschoolers and in 2 to 3 percent of school-age children. By adolescence, rates of depression are around 6 percent for girls and 4 percent for boys.

Anxiety

Just about every teenager experiences fears and worries as part of the normal course of development. However, the seriousness of some adolescent anxiety problems should not be underestimated, especially if it is keeping them from school or engaging socially. Not only do young people suffer, as do adults, from the aversiveness of being anxious— simply put, anxiety doesn’t feel good — but their anxiety may also work against their acquisition of skills appropriate to various stages of their development. For example, a teenager who is painfully shy and finds interacting with peers virtually intolerable is unlikely to learn important social skills. This deficit may persist as the adolescent grows older and will form the foundation of still further social difficulties. Then, whether in the workplace or at university, the adolescent’s worst fear—“people will dislike and reject me”—may be realised as his or her awkward, even off-putting, behavior toward others produces rejecting and avoiding responses.

Treatment for anxiety in teenagers

How are teenage fears overcome? Some simply dissipate with time and maturation but if they’ve been impacting your daughter or son for more than a few months, treatment is warranted.  At it’s core, treatment aims to eventually help the young person be able to tolerate whatever it is that they’re fearing (i.e. school, homework, social interaction). Treatment can sometimes involve working with both the child and the parent. “Graded exposure” may also be helpful, which is gradually exposing them to the feared event and teaching them coping skills and building their confidence in their ability to cope. Beyond exposure, treatment includes  psychoeducation, cognitive restructuring, modeling, skills training, and relapse prevention.

Such therapies have been found to be effective for social anxiety disorder, phobias, generalised anxiety disorder, childhood PTSD, school refusal and more.

Dr Ben Buchanan,  Dr Zac Elizabeth Buchanan and Dr Rebecca Kam have professional interests adolescent psychology, and would be pleased to help.