Each year, more than 60 million Americans suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders including our teens and children. These devastating mental health conditions affect every area of a person’s life and when the person struggling with the condition is a teenager, it can affect everything from their social development to their prospects for the future. The goal of National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week, which runs from May 4-10, is to help those with the conditions and their family members to get the help and support they need to treat the conditions and mitigate the impact.
Unfortunately, our adolescents are not immune from these pervasive mental health disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 8% of teenagers suffer from an anxiety disorder and about 11% suffer from a depressive disorder but the majority of teens in both groups never receive treatment. With such devastating, potentially long term impacts, we need to work harder to ensure that our teens are getting the help and support they need to learn to manage these disorders.
Fear and sadness are normal human responses that have helped us throughout human history to avoid danger and deal with loss. But when these normal responses go awry, our ability to use the emotional energy created is compromised. Those emotions can become overwhelming and overpowering and may feel as though they are taking over our lives. Without treatment or tools to effectively manage that experience, many of those dealing with anxiety and depression embrace unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with their day to day lives. When this happens, it only complicates the problem because now multiple disorders must be treated in order for the person to get back to a place of manageable mental health. The complications caused by co-existing conditions only underline the importance of treating anxiety and depression as early as possible.
The most common anxiety and depressive disorders experienced by teenagers are:
Anxiety is normal in all of us, even our teenagers. However, for some people, anxiety can become overwhelming, all-encompassing, and debilitating. When anxiety shifts from normal day to day worries to something more, an anxiety disorder may be to blame. For parents of teenagers with anxiety disorders, it can be as important to understand what makes things worse as it is to understand what makes it better.
Learn more about Panic Attacks (http://www.doorwaysarizona.com/7-things-make-anxiety-attacks-worse-teens/)
While fear and anxiety can be healthy responses, they can also expand beyond healthy to become unhealthy, hindering, and even harmful. When fear takes on a life of its own and expands to encompass things that are not actually a direct and immediate threat, that fear becomes a phobia. Phobias are fueled by fearful emotions that are severe, extreme, and persistent and can trip the fight or flight response even when there is no direct and immediate threat of harm. Anxiety can also expand beyond what is normal and helpful to become a phobia, an anxiety disorder, or and anxiety disorder tied to a phobia.
Learn more about Phobias
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is an anxiety disorder that can affect people of all ages, even teenagers. People with OCD experience excessive worry about specific things, called obsessions, which they cannot control and in an effort to manage their anxiety, they feel compelled to perform certain ritualistic behaviors. Teenagers with OCD may develop obsessions related to normal teenage worries like school or friends but their obsessions can be related to almost anything. Since it is normal for teenagers to experience anxiety, parents often wonder how to differentiate between normal anxiety and worry and OCD.
Learn more about OCD
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can affect anyone at any age, can be difficult to diagnose because there may be a lag between the start of symptoms and the triggering traumatic event. In fact, it is not uncommon for symptoms to start slowly and increase in frequency and/or severity over time. This is one reason that understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD is crucial for anyone who has experienced trauma or who has a loved one that has been through a traumatic event. The key to managing and overcoming the disorder is timely diagnosis and treatment which underlines the importance of knowing what to look for and knowing when it is time to seek help.
Learn more about PTSD
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Everyone worries about things, even children and teenagers. Whether the worry is over the upcoming history test, getting a date to the prom, or making the soccer team, anxiety is a normal part of everyday life. However, in some people, normal everyday worries can become excessive and everyday things can cause severe anxiety. This type of anxiety is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and it affects about 3% of the U.S. population each year, including one in eight children.
Learn more about GAD.
Depression in teenagers doesn’t always look the way we, as parents, expect it to. Sometimes the symptoms of depression can look a lot like normal teenage angst which means it goes undiagnosed. But getting teens who are dealing with depression the help they need is critical because depression impacts all areas of their life and if left untreated it can result in serious long-term problems. Here are some of the important facts about teenage depression that parents need to know in order to recognize the signs in their own child and to know what steps to take to get them the help they need.
Learn more about Depression
All of these disorders can be treated by qualified mental health providers and teenagers with these conditions can go on to live happy, healthy lives.
- How Do I Know if My Teenager Has OCD? (doorwaysarizona.com)
- 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About PTSD (doorwaysarizona.com)
- When Eating Disorders and Anxiety Disorders Coexist (doorwaysarizona.com)