Parent's Guide to Spotting Teen Depression and Anxiety

A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health revealed the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adolescents aged 13 to 18, with more than 8% suffering from severe impairment. Depression is becoming more prevalent, too, with more than 13% of the country’s teens experiencing at least one major depressive episode in their lives. This can be really alarming for parents, especially since it’s not easy to spot the symptoms and indicators of anxiety and depression in teens.  

Mother puts hand on shoulder of depressed teenager.

The situation is even more serious when you consider the lack of support in educational institutions. There is a growing demand for more psychologists in schools as there is currently a huge shortage. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one psychologist for every 500 -700 students. In Polk County, there is one school psychologist for every 2,200 students. And this is common across the country. To deal with the shortage, schools are looking for psychologists that can relate to students and what they’re going through. Maryville University claims that the connection between psychology and education is leading to a growing demand for specialists who can understand this correlation. If the need for more support isn’t met, the number of depressed and anxious teens that don’t receive help will only continue to increase.

 A parent reading this will find it very distressing. However, you can help. If you’re wondering if your children are suffering from anxiety and depression, here are some of the things you need to look out for:

Constant Fear and Nervousness

The Conversation notes that one of the most obvious signs of anxiety disorders is a fear and nervousness that doesn’t go away. It can be really challenging to differentiate between the normal emotional challenges that come with puberty and signs of anxiety. If you’re seeing a lot of fearfulness, secretive behaviors, constant worrying, and nervousness in your teens, you can ask them if it’s something they experience on a daily basis. Everyday worrying is normal, but if it’s already causing your teen to miss out on important opportunities, it may be a symptom of anxiety and depression.

Loss of Interest in Activities and Hobbies

If your teen suddenly loses interest in their favorite pastimes and hobbies, it may be a sign that they’re suffering from depression or anxiety. They will most likely withdraw from friends and activities, and show a lack of enthusiasm, energy, and motivation. You may also notice that they are performing poorly at school. Although not all teens show all of these symptoms, you will still notice a change in their social activities.

Prolonged Feelings of Hopelessness

This usually manifests through a change in your child’s sleeping and eating patterns. Either they will oversleep or eat excessively, or find it hard to sleep and have a loss of appetite. You will also notice that your kids often look sad, contemplative, and a bit withdrawn. They might even talk about or show signs of feeling worthless, useless, or even guilty. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that in some cases your teens may not appear sad, but they might make trouble, act out, feel a lot of rage, or show a lack of motivation towards trivial things. In the worst case scenario, you might have already seen self-destructive behaviors or even visible marks of self-harm. If this is happening you need to take your child to see medical professionals immediately.

Here on Hope Therapy Center we provided some of the simplest things you can do to help your teens, including offering reassurance and listening with focus and without judgment. Practicing deep breathing exercises can also help them deal with their fears and worries as it allows them to respond rather than react to outside stimuli.

How to Help an Anxious Teen?

Anxiety in teens is more common than you would have thought. One in every 8 children suffers from some form of anxiety, and that’s just in the United States. As tumultuous and difficult as anxiety disorders are for adults, they are considerably tougher for young children and teenagers who are already struggling with emotional and physical changes.

Dealing with an anxious teen and effectively comforting them in order to alleviate their anxiety is something that most parents have difficulty with on a regular basis. However, there are a number of ways in which parents, counselors, and mentors can help calm an anxious teen. They include:


The first step towards helping an anxious teen is providing them with the reassurance that everything is alright. Anxiety is essentially a storm of unnecessary worrying thoughts that bring a teen’s fears to life.  While verbal reassurance is necessary, in order to effectively reassure an anxious teen you have to use your actions together with your words. Make the effort to practice deep breathing with your child so that they physically calm down, and then provide the verbal reassurance necessary.


Once you have managed to successfully reassure your child that they are in a safe environment, encourage and gently coax them to discuss the problems that plague them. Resist the urge to lecture, coach, and teach- rather persuade them to talk about their fears by withholding judgment. Be persistent in your willingness and availability to listen and do exactly that- focus on the listening instead of you talking.


When a teen shows willingness to open up and discuss the issues that worry them – and it can take a considerable amount to time for them to do so, take the opportunity to inform and teach them about anxiety. It’s important for a teenager to know that the thing which seemingly alienates them is in fact, quite common, and normal even. It is not harmful, nor is it dangerous to their well-being. Rather anxiety helps teens prepare their mind and body for the possibility of real threat. When we let our bodies react as it would when threatened in the absence of any real plausible danger, that’s when things get troublesome – and that’s what needs to be taught to an anxious teen to help them overcome their anxiety.

A Burbank therapist that specializes in working with teens struggling with anxiety can be the next step to helping your teen.  Call our office today to learn more about Burbank therapy for anxiety.