Teenage onset of anxiety and depression typically occurs close to the age of 13, but younger children, including those under the age of 8, also suffer, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Symptoms can be so severe that they make a significant, negative impact on daily life, both socially and educationally.

For the health and well being of our nation’s young people, it’s important that we communicate the reality of depression and anxiety disorders and end the stigmas that are associated with them. And ultimately, the goal is to communicate that these conditions are certainly treatable.

A closer look

“Emotional changes in teenagers are expected and normal,” says Anne Marie Albano, Ph.D., ABOO, Columbia Psychiatry. Albano discusses the importance of focusing on child development when considering treatment of anxiety and depression. For example, mood swings in twelve to fifteen-year-olds are typical and often normal.

But it’s “cognitive maturation that sets the stage for understanding responsibility and consequences,” says Albano. It’s this recognition of increased levels of responsibility and also the risk of entering negative situations that could potentially trigger an increased number of emotional reactions, making development a key player in treating teen depression and anxiety.

“Milestones occur and have to occur through the course of development.”

Checking in

To track a child or teenager’s development, Albano reminds us that milestones are crucial in infant development (first visit to the pediatrician, teething, etc.) but are lost on teens. “Milestones occur and have to occur through the course of development,” says Albano. Some of which include emotional independence from parents, responsible money management, maintaining long-term friendships and personal self-care.

Some methods to support children and teens that appear to be struggling more significantly than their peers is to promote problem solving and social skills, as well as encourage skills in self soothing and positive health, among others.