Anxiety and depression are pretty tough mental health issues to deal with for anyone of any age. Whether it’s a kid who’s being bullied at school… a teenager who has just been left broken-hearted, or even an adult that’s encountering life’s chaotic moments and finding them way too much to handle, anxiety and depression can take hold without discriminating age, race, social status or gender.
Put into words: Anxiety is like an intrusive mind hog that tortures someone’s thoughts and motivation by consuming too much time and energy. It squeezes, surprises, and overwhelms the feelings of anyone who is suffering from it.
Sometimes anxiety and depression can look like the image below.. and people who aren’t comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings can end up feeling very alone and misunderstood.
Dealing with teenagers who suffer from anxiety and depression can be a particularly challenging task, especially if you’re going through the stage of where they are trying to distance themselves as is a normal stage of teen development.
Many teenagers hide their anxiety and depression behind fake smiles (or other moods!) because some are afraid of disappointing their parents; some are just not really good communicators, while some think that they will just cause more problems in their household if they tell their busy parents about it. Normal hormonal fluctuations and the expected teen moodiness can also disguise deeper problems like depression or anxiety.
Those teens who are good at self-awareness and expression, often become a voice for those suffering in silence unable to find the words to describe their moods and feelings.
The girl in the clip below who has suffered from anxiety and depression has written a song about how she truly feels and how her parents are addressing it. The lyrics to this song are really heartbreaking, but a positive is that her video has now had 2 million views and hopefully, some parents have been able to watch this too.
As a parent, you shouldn’t expect to be able to diagnose or cure depression and/or anxiety if your teen presents with it. But being aware of the possible signs and then seeking appropriate medical advice and support for your teen is an important step to take if you’re in anyway concerned.
Here are some common signs of how anxiety may present in teenagers:
- Doesn’t pay much attention
- Easily loses their focus to something that they are doing
- They easily panic
- They are acting so paranoid
- They try to divert their attention into something (night outs, playing video games and listening to music.)
- Easily hot-tempered
- Skin picking (dermatillomania)
- Pulling out hair (trichotillomania)
- Nail biting
- Avoidance of people or situations, even if they are things that would probably be fun
- Difficulties in sleeping
If you see any of the following signs in your teen, it could indicate depression:
- Low mood that continues for a period of 2 weeks or more
- Lethargy and lack of energy
- Extended bouts of teariness with no real explanation as to what’s wrong
- Unwillingness to socialise and spend time with friends
- Isolation from others and increasing amounts of time alone which is out of character
- Decreased appetite
- Change of sleep patterns – sleeping more than usual or not sleeping well due to upsetting thoughts
These signs are not a diagnosis of either anxiety or depression. But they are the most frequently seen signs of these conditions in teens and important for parents to be aware of in order to take action if concerned.
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Pay Close Attention To Your Teen
As parents, we can bet our parents’ instincts is pretty accurate 99% of the time…. Or close enough to that!
So, if you notice that your teen is not their usual self, pay close attention. This doesn’t mean being a creepy spy but simply acknowledging you’ve noticed they seem to be going through something and then asking some simple and thoughtful questions to see if there’s anything they could use some support with.
Make Them Feel You’re There and Available
The goal is not to eliminate their anxiety by trying so hard to fix things for them, but to help them understand, acknowledge, and manage it, with the help of a GP, counselor or mental health support person if needed.
Let’s be real… no parent ever wants to see their child unhappy and as much as we can, we’d do anything to make them happy and their life hassle-free. But truth is, we can’t always fix what’s going on for them so being there when they need us, is important.
Helping your teen to properly manage stressful and upsetting situations will stand them in good stead later on.
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Respect Their Feelings And Don’t Over Power Them
Everyone needs somebody to share their problems with and letting it all it out can make difficult situations less stressful and problems seem less isolating.
That’s why it’s important your teen understands it’s okay and normal to feel sad or worried. Let them know you understand what they’re experiencing and you know while it’s really painful it’s still manageable and things will be ok.
Once you help your teen understand how they’re feeling, little by little they’ll absorb it, talk things over with you or their friends, and have better self-awareness. They may wish to handle most situations on their own, but will appreciate knowing that if things get tougher you’re there and have their back.
Show How You Can Manage Anxiety The Healthy Way
As the saying goes by…. “Life does not come with a manual, it comes with a mother.”.
If your teen is showing signs of anxiety or depression, now’s the time to be their role model! Tell them real stories based on your experiences… how it was tough for you too, how you handled it, and what you have learned along the way. Guaranteed, this will help your teen believe you can really relate to them.
If this issue is something you’re dealing with or if you’ve got some experience you’d like to contribute, or maybe some other effective approaches to this, please don’t hesitate to jump on Facebook and share your thoughts.
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P.S. I also have upcoming programs and courses for parenting teenagers. You can also stay tuned and subscribe to be one of the first mums to know when it’s out. x