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 a Depressed Friend

Depression and anxiety are common. However, as common as they are, a majority of the people don’t know what to do when someone their care for is struggling through depression or anxiety.

Here are a few tips on how to help and support a depressed friend:

Educate Yourself

The first thing that you can do to support your friend going through depression is not disregard and dismiss what they’re feeling because you’re uninformed. Study, seek guidance and help, and educate yourself in order to distinguish between regular sadness and depression. You don’t have to become a psychotherapist and know everything – even the most basic knowledge about the condition might help you be more understanding and empathetic towards your friend.

Be Present

It’s easy to lose touch with a depressed friend because more often than not, they don’t have the strength to hang out and are unlikely to initiate contact. Be present for your friend so that they know you’re available, should they need help.

Be Mindful Of Conversations

People struggling with depression are rarely in the mood to talk and discuss their depression or difficult things. You don’t have to be pushy or continue talking just to keep a conversation going. If you do have to broach a potentially sensitive topic, try to do so at a time where they’re feeling relaxed and are receptive to your discussion.


If you’re friend is willing to talk, be patient and let them speak.  Encourage them to open up to you and discuss their feelings and thoughts. Acknowledge and validate them instead of dismissing them as inconsequential or talking over them.

Encourage Acceptance

Depression is not a condition that goes away on its own. It needs to be acknowledged and people need to actively seek professional help in order to get better. As a friend, to support your loved one going through depression, you need to encourage them to work with a therapist that can help them cope with depression. Encourage them to accept themselves and to reach out to an experienced professional. If they’re hesitant to do so on their own, offer to go with them to provide extra support.

Therapy in Burbank can be a step to help your loved one find new ways of coping with their depression.