The teenage years are never easy. Those among us who have been through them already probably remember more than a few anxious and unsure moments. We may remember terrible days full of sadness and fear. But we likely also remember the good moments—those happy times with friends and family that let us feel young and content even in the midst of those confusing and troubling teenage years.
Not everyone is so lucky. For some, being a teen is a source of constant stress and sadness. Some teens suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues—and there may be more of them than you realize.
Teenage Depression and Anxiety
While we can liken the experience of teenage depression and anxiety to our own teenage fears, worries, and sadnesses, it’s important to remember that these things aren’t completely analogous. Depression is more than just being sad; in fact, it is often characterized by boredom, a lack of energy, and a lack of emotion. That’s hardly the same thing as being grief-stricken or “sad” all of the time. Anxiety, for its part, can include panic attacks and other symptoms that are far more serious than just “worrying.” And both conditions are characterized by ongoing issues: Neither will just pass with time, as bouts of sadness or worry will in the mind of a mentally healthy person.
Understanding the true nature of these mental illnesses can be difficult, especially when it comes to teens. Parents are quick to associate teenage depression and anxiety with typical teenage moodiness—but that’s a mistake. Depression and anxiety are mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, these mental illnesses are also alarmingly common in teens. One out of every five people aged 10-24 is suffering from a mental illness or a learning disability. Depression is the third leading cause of death among those aged 10-24.
Treating Teenage Depression and Anxiety
Addressing depression or anxiety begins with realizing that something is going on. Parents and teens alike should look for symptoms of depression and anxiety—and should not be so quick to dismiss such symptoms as typical of the teenage years. If a parent or teen suspects the presence of a teenage mental illness, the next step is to seek treatment.
Tragically, far too few teens seek treatment, explain experts who run adolescent residential treatment centers for depression. Parents and teens should remember that depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are just that: illnesses. Most people would not avoid the doctor’s office if they were physically ill, and everyone should apply that same logic to mental health issues.
That means that teens who may be suffering from mental health issues should pay a visit to a trained mental health professional. Working with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or another qualified mental health expert, a teen and their family can develop a treatment plan that may include inpatient treatment, medication, talk therapy, and/or specific treatments for individual and interrelated mental health issues (such as substance abuse).
Medication and over-the-counter supplements can be immensely helpful to teens. While some have a natural aversion to the use of medication, it’s important to remember that many things that we now take for granted—from Tylenol to multivitamins—were once new and unfamiliar. While a teen should never take any substance for its mental health effects without the approval of a mental health professional, many prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements can play a key role in mental health treatment.
Take CBD, for example. CBD is derived from the marijuana plant, but—unlike marijuana itself— it is non-psychoactive. That means that it won’t get anyone “high.” Still, CBD is believed by many to be beneficial to teens and adults suffering from anxiety issues. The calming effects of CBD can make a big difference to stressed-out teens. CBD is easy to obtain and easy to ingest: Teens can use CBD gummies, CBD tinctures, or CBD topical creams, to name a few options.
The Fight to Move Forward
Being a teenager is tough even without mental health issues. Now that we know that so many teens are suffering from depression, anxiety, and other issues, it’s up to all of us to address the problem. For teens and parents, that means looking out for mental health problems and addressing them in a professional setting.