- Anxiety and Depression in Children | CDC
- Treatment for anxiety and depression
- Get help finding treatment
- Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy
- Prevention of anxiety and depression
- 10 Ways To Reduce Your Anxiety And Relax
- 1. Remember to breathe
- 2. Take a mental step back
- 3. Follow the 3-3-3 rule
- 4. Meditate
- 5. Reach out
- 6. Physical activity
- 7. Music
- 8. Be kind to yourself
- 9. Laughter
- 10. Creativity
Anxiety and Depression in Children | CDC
Many children have fears and worries, and may feel sad and hopeless from time to time. Strong fears may appear at different times during development.
For example, toddlers are often very distressed about being away from their parents, even if they are safe and cared for. Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression.
Because the symptoms primarily involve thoughts and feelings, they are sometimes called internalizing disorders.
When a child does not outgrow the fears and worries that are typical in young children, or when there are so many fears and worries that they interfere with school, home, or play activities, the child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include
- Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
- Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
- Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
- Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
- Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)
Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed.
Related conditions include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Learn more about anxiety in childrenexternal icon
Occasionally being sad or feeling hopeless is a part of every child’s life. However, some children feel sad or uninterested in things that they used to enjoy, or feel helpless or hopeless in situations they are able to change. When children feel persistent sadness and hopelessness, they may be diagnosed with depression.
Examples of behaviors often seen in children with depression include
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
- Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
- Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
- Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
- Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
- Having a hard time paying attention
- Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
- Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior
Extreme depression can lead a child to think about suicide or plan for suicide. For youth ages 10-24 years, suicide is among the leading causes of death. Read about youth suicide prevention.external icon
Some children may not talk about their helpless and hopeless thoughts, and may not appear sad. Depression might also cause a child to make trouble or act unmotivated, causing others not to notice that the child is depressed or to incorrectly label the child as a trouble-maker or lazy.
Learn more about depression in childrenexternal icon
Treatment for anxiety and depression
The first step to treatment is to talk with a healthcare provider such as your child’s primary care provider, or a mental health specialist, about getting an evaluation. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) recommends that healthcare providers routinely screen children for behavioral and mental health concerns.
pdf icon[217 KB, 13 pages]external icon Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as trauma. Specific symptoms having a hard time focusing could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is important to get a careful evaluation to get the best diagnosis and treatment.
Consultation with a health provider can help determine if medication should be part of the treatment. A mental health professional can develop a therapy plan that works best for the child and family. Behavior therapy includes child therapy, family therapy, or a combination of both. The school can also be included in the treatment plan.
For very young children, involving parents in treatment is key. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one form of therapy that is used to treat anxiety or depression, particularly in older children. It helps the child change negative thoughts into more positive, effective ways of thinking, leading to more effective behavior.
Behavior therapy for anxiety may involve helping children cope with and manage anxiety symptoms while gradually exposing them to their fears so as to help them learn that bad things do not occur.
Treatments can also include a variety of ways to help the child feel less stressed and be healthier nutritious food, physical activity, sufficient sleep, predictable routines, and social support.
Get help finding treatment
Here are tools to find a healthcare provider familiar with treatment options:
Managing Symptoms: Staying Healthy
Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with depression or anxiety. In addition to getting the right treatment, leading a healthy lifestyle can play a role in managing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:
Prevention of anxiety and depression
It is not known exactly why some children develop anxiety or depression. Many factors may play a role, including biology and temperament.
But it is also known that some children are more ly to develop anxiety or depression when they experience trauma or stress, when they are maltreated, when they are bullied or rejected by other children, or when their own parents have anxiety or depression.
Although these factors appear to increase the risk for anxiety or depression, there are ways to decrease the chance that children experience them. Learn about public health approaches to prevent these risks:
10 Ways To Reduce Your Anxiety And Relax
We all feel anxious from time to time. When faced with an important test, or a major life change, anxiety may be a perfectly normal response.
For a person suffering from an anxiety disorder, however, anxiety is more than an occasional worry. Severe or chronic anxiety may affect your relationships, school performance, or job.
Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder are among the most common anxiety disorders.
Approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. (18%) are affected by an anxiety disorder. In fact, it is the most common mental health problem in the U.S. Children and teens are also affected and most people begin experiencing symptoms before age 21.
While each form of anxiety disorder has distinct symptoms, they also may share common symptoms.
Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms may include:
- Excessive or uncontrolled worry
- Feeling edgy or restless
- Problems focusing or concentrating on a task
- Unusual fatigue
- Muscle tension or headaches
- Frequent sleep problems
Treatment for anxiety disorders may involve a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. But there are many simple techniques that have proven effective for those in the midst of an anxiety attack.
Here are ten ways to quickly reduce your anxiety and relax:
1. Remember to breathe
Stop for a moment and focus on breathing deeply.
Sit up straight, then take a long breath through your nose, hold it for the count of three, then exhale slowly, while relaxing the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and abdominal area.
This will help slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Practice your deep breathing from time to time so that it becomes second nature to do it when under stress.
2. Take a mental step back
Anxiety tends to be focused on the future, so instead, try to focus on the present. Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself from Anxiety, suggests that you ask yourself what is happening and what, if anything, needs to be done right now. If nothing needs to be done now, make a conscious decision to revisit the situation later in the day, when you are calmer.
3. Follow the 3-3-3 rule
This is a simple way to change your focus. Start by looking around you and naming three things you can see. Then listen. What three sounds do you hear? Next, move three parts of your body, such as your fingers, toes, or clench and release your shoulders.
Research shows that practicing mindful meditation can reduce anxiety and other psychological stresses. We are all capable of mindfulness, but it is easier to do when we have practiced and made it a habit.
If you are new to the practice, you may wish to try guided meditation with the assistance of audiotapes or a phone app. It is not difficult or exotic, but just learning to pay attention to the present. Just sit up straight with your feet on the floor.
Close your eyes and recite, either out loud or to yourself, a mantra. The mantra can be any positive statement or sound you choose. Try to sync the mantra with your breaths. If your mind drifts to distracting thoughts, don’t get frustrated. Just refocus and continue.
Try to practice a few minutes each day and it will be an easy and accessible tool for your anti-anxiety toolkit.
5. Reach out
Telling a trusted friend or family member how you are feeling is a very personal decision, but those who are close to you can be a tremendous resource for handling anxiety.
Talking to someone else, preferably in person, or by phone can offer a new perspective on your situation. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. If you need someone to go with you to a movie, or for a walk, or just to sit with you for a time, speak up.
No matter what, it is always comforting to talk to someone who cares about you.
6. Physical activity
Not a long distance runner or athlete? This is probably not the moment to start extreme training. Remember though, that all forms of exercise are good for you and help ease the symptoms of anxiety.
Even gentle forms of exercise, such as walking, yoga, or tai chi, release those feel-good chemicals.
If you are not able to do those immediately, do some stretching exercises at your desk, or take a short walk outside during lunch.
According to a 2015 study, people with mild or severe anxiety benefit from listening to soothing music. Music has been proven to lower the heart rate and blood pressure.
Keep music available so that you can easily listen to your favorite songs or even nature sounds. Create playlists so that you can listen and get quick relief from symptoms.
Research also shows that singing releases endorphins and oxytocin, which alleviates anxiety. Apparently, you don’t even have to be good. Just sing.
8. Be kind to yourself
Sometimes you just need to do something to help you feel better. That may mean getting a massage, or a soothing facial. To relax quickly, put a warmed heat wrap around your neck and shoulders.
Close your eyes and relax the muscles in your face and neck. Sometimes it helps to simply disconnect from the noise of the world.
Even if you only have five minutes, turn off your phone, computer, television and let the world turn without you for a little while. Silent time is soothing.
Anxiety is certainly no joke, but laughter has some surprising benefits. Similar to deep breathing, the act of laughing increases oxygen levels and helps with muscle relaxation. Laughter just feels good and lightens and shifts our focus. Watch a comedy or call that friend who always makes you laugh. You’ll be glad you did.
If you have a creative streak, use it. The arts offer an outlook for all of those anxious feelings. If you are artistic, take a few minutes to draw or paint how you are feeling.
Keep a soothing picture of a beach or your “happy place” where you can look at it and take a mental vacation. Expressive writing has been shown to help with anxiety and depression.
Keeping a gratitude journal reduces negative thoughts and helps you remember all the good things in your life. Try writing in your gratitude journal at bedtime. It may help you sleep better.
You may wish to make a short list of helpful tips which have worked for you so that you can refer to it when you are overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms. Remember, we are here to help you understand and deal with your anxiety. For further information or to make an appointment with a counselor, contact us.