Depression in Children and Teens

By: Stuart Porter, NP


Mental health conditions can occur at any age — adults aren’t the only ones who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. In fact, 13.3% of c hildren in the U.S. aged 12 to 17 have had at least one major depressive episode, and 4.4 million children i n the U.S. aged three to 17 have been diagnosed with clinical depression.  

Clearly, anxiety and depression in teens and children are not uncommon. However, children and adolescents who are experiencing the symptoms may not understand what’s happening and may be embarrassed or afraid to ask for help.  

In this blog, we will discuss the symptoms of anxiety and depression in children and teens and what their options for treatment are.  

Depression in Children and Teens 

Clinical depression is a severe form o f depression, causing more severe symptoms than situational depression, which may be caused by grief, or depression caused by another medical condition such as a hormone imbalance or thyroid disorder. So if your child is experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression, it’s not your fault, and you can help them feel better.  

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Teens and Children 

The first step towards helping your child who is experiencing depression is to recognize the symptoms. There are many signs of depression in children and teens, including:  

  • Loss of interest  
  • Difficulty sleeping  
  • Fatigue  
  • Irritability  
  • Feeling hopeless  
  • Intense emotions and mood swings  
  • Changes in appetite  
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide  
  • Self-harm 

If you notice these behaviors in your child, consider talking to their doctor about what your options for treatment are.  

Anxiety in Children and Teens 

While anyone can experience anxiety from time to time, some people experience it constantly. An anxiety disorder can make day-to-day living harder than it should be. Anxiety can affect how a person behaves or deals with emotions; it can also cause physical symptoms like G.I. issues, rashes, and other ailments. Anxiety typically starts at an early age, so it’s important to recognize the signs in your young children. 

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Teens and Children  

There are plenty of warning signs that may help you determine whether your child is struggling with the symptoms of anxiety: 

  • Worrying  
  • Anxiety attacks or panic attacks 
  • Restlessness  
  • Fatigue  
  • Difficulty focusing  
  • Irritability  
  • Difficulty sleeping  
  • Irrational fears  

The symptoms of depression and anxiety can be similar. Interestingly enough, 73.8% of children diagnosed with depression also have anxiety. Another common condition among children is ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD are also sometimes very similar to depression and anxiety, which is why it is important to pay close attention to your child’s mood and behavior and seek professional guidance from a psychiatrist.   

Supporting Teens and Children With Depression and Anxiety 

Once you’ve recognized the signs of depression and anxiety and your child has been diagnosed, you will still need to learn how to best support them. There are many things you as a parent can do to help your child. Here are some examples: 

  • Help them develop coping skills — coping skills are designed to help people with depression and anxiety. Some of these coping skills can be distractions as well as tools to help them process their emotions. 
  • Create a treatment plan — having emotional support at home or from friends is not always enough to help someone struggling with depression. Seek professional help and work with a psychiatrist come up with a plan for treatment. 
  • Make sure their environment is safe — make sure your child does not have access to things to hurt themselves with as well as making sure the environment does not cause stress. 
  • Promote healthy habits — promote habits such as proper eating or create a schedule for your child to follow. 
  • Listen to them — Listening to your child and acknowledging how they’re feeling is very important. It is also important to not dismiss their problems, they are not just being lazy, they are struggling. 
  • Encourage social interaction — having friends or a support system outside of family is healthy. 

You may find it difficult to support your child, especially if you haven’t experienced depression or anxiety yourself. So remember that you’re not alone. Your psychiatrist can provide you with resources to help your child deal with their symptoms in a healthy way. The most important thing is to love them and make sure they feel your support.  

Treatment Options for Depression in Children and Teens 

There are many treatment options for anxiety and depression in teens and children. Some of the most common treatment methods include:  

  • Medication — Antidepressants are used to treat both anxiety and depression in children and teens. Psychiatrists may also prescribe anti-anxiety medications and/or sleeping medications depending on the age of your child.  
  • Ketamine — ketamine is an off-label depression and anxiety treatment that is usually used in difficult-to-treat cases. Ketamine is primarily used on adults, but if you have a teen who is experiencing severe, treatment-resistant symptoms, ketamine may be a solution.  
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS treatment) — TMS therapy is an FDA approved treatment for depression and OCD. Like ketamine, TMS is primarily used on treatment-resistant adults. However, your teen may benefit from this treatment.  
  • Therapy — therapy is a great option for children and teens with depression and anxiety, especially when therapy is paired with medication or another treatment. Professional counselors can help children understand their emotions and develop coping skills.  
  • Lifestyle changes — for example, exercise, proper nutrition, proper sleep, social support, reducing stress 

If your child is struggling with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental condition, know that you have options. Contact us  at Serenity Mental Health Centers to discuss your concerns and schedule an appointment with a qualified professional. 

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.