Recognising Childhood Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are often regarded as adult disorders, but children can and do get them as well.
In fact, although mental health disorders are still less common in kids than they are in adults, depression, and anxiety are on the rise in children and teens.
However, these disorders are still under-diagnosed, and many children aren’t getting the help they need.
Many parents don’t spot the signs of mental health disorders in their kids because they don’t realize children get these disorders.
But it’s important to know what anxious and depressive behaviour looks like in kids and teens because these disorders don’t go away on their own.
If your child has one of these mental health disorders, they will probably need professional help to feel better.
Risk Factors for Mental Health Disorders in Childhood
Anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems can be caused by a variety of distinct factors, and no two cases are exactly alike.
Because of this, it’s often hard to pinpoint where a child’s anxiety or depression is coming from.
However, there are some common risk factors that increase a child’s likelihood of developing one or both disorders.
Anxiety can be caused by genetic factors, environmental factors, or both.
Researchers are in the process of discovering which genes make a person more likely to develop anxiety.
Children with naturally nervous temperaments seem to be more prone to developing chronic anxiety, and girls are at higher risk than boys.
Children with a depressed or anxious parent have much higher rates of anxiety themselves, though it’s not clear whether this is due to the genetic link or the parent’s behaviour.
Anxiety is the single biggest risk factor for whether a child will develop depression. Other factors that can cause depression in kids and teens include low self-esteem, peer rejection, poor social skills, and poor problem-solving skills.
It’s important to note that even children with no apparent risk factors can become anxious or depressed. If your child or teen develops one of these conditions, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong as a parent.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Children?
Anxiety and depression in kids can easily be mixed up with other disorders, including schizophrenia. If your child has symptoms of these disorders, it’s a good idea to take them to the doctor for a mental health evaluation.
You can check online for the symptoms, including a schizophrenia test you can take yourself, but just take your child to the doctor so they can get the right kind of treatment.
And don’t just take the opinion of one doctor. In the end, we’re all human, we all make mistakes. It’s better to have the opinion of more than just one medical professional.
Symptoms of anxiety in kids can take many forms, but in general, an anxious child will display excessive fear and worry. Other signs of anxiety include:
- Reluctance to go to school or participate in activities
- Extreme shyness or quietness
- Intense fear of specific places or situations
- Headaches, stomachaches, or sleep problems
- Difficulty being away from parents
Symptoms of depression in kids and teens are like symptoms in adults. Signs that your child may be depressed include:
- Persistently low mood or frequent crying spells
- Expressions of worthlessness or guilt
- Loss of interest in favourite activities
- Loss of interest in spending time with friends
- Physical problems like loss of appetite or insomnia
- Anger or irritability
How to Talk to Your Child about Mental Health
If you think your child may be anxious or depressed, it’s important to talk to them sooner rather than later. Don’t assume it’s just a phase.
Depression and anxiety often get progressively worse if they’re not treated.
Sit down with your child when you’re not likely to be interrupted. Instead of asking them if they think they’re depressed or anxious, which they may deny, ask some gentle questions.
An opportune conversation opener is, “You’ve seemed a little down lately. Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about anything?”
Don’t press your child for information. Just let them know you’re available and concerned about their well-being.
Getting Help for Your Child
If you think your child or teen may be anxious or depressed, take them to their doctor to rule out any physical causes for their behaviour. Then make an appointment with a mental health doctor, who will be able to diagnose anxiety or depression and provide a treatment plan.
Once your child has a treatment plan, help them follow it closely.
Depression and Anxiety: Not the Whole Story
If your child or teen has anxiety, depression, or both, it’s important for them to know that these disorders don’t define them as a person. With the right treatment, they can recover a healthy sense of self-esteem and take back control over their life.
Many inspirational people struggled with depression and anxiety but managed to overcome these conditions.
From studying his letters, psychologists believe that Abraham Lincoln, one of the most respected presidents of the United States, had severe depression and anxiety episodes at certain points in his life.
Renowned poet Emily Dickinson is also believed to have struggled with mental health disorders, but rather than letting them consume her, she turned them into art with her poetry.
Remind your child that their anxiety or depression doesn’t have to turn into a handicap if they manage it well.
Anxiety and depression don’t have to hold your child or teen back. With the right treatment, especially cognitive and behavioural, these disorders are highly manageable.
Learn to recognize the symptoms, so you can get your child the help they need if they develop one of these conditions.