Let’s face it, 2020 was a difficult year for everyone; regardless of age, gender or race. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic (which is still in full swing) have been wide-reaching and devastating. However, whilst government-mandated restrictions and CDC guidance kept so many of us safe, and helped us to keep others safe too, the effects on mental health have often been forgotten.
No more so does that ring true than for adolescents. Unlike older members of the citizenry, young adolescents were affected by the coronavirus in almost all aspects of their lives. Not to downplay the effects on your average citizen, but whilst many people were sent home from the office to work from home, or furloughed until further notice, it was generally accepted that these measures were for the greater good. For a teenager who is learning to find their feet in the world, having no school to go to, no place to socialize with friends and being asked to stay in the home all day every day, can be particularly damaging. As a result, young people need particular attention, and guardians should watch out for changes in their behavior.
Recognize The Symptoms
Depression and anxiety disorders are egregious mental health issues that plague people of all ages, and teen depression is on the rise. It’s not uncommon for young people to battle symptoms of mental illness, and with the right approach they can be helped early. However, symptoms of depression, particularly teen depression, are especially hard to spot. As sad as it is to admit, there is still a stigma around depression and anxiety disorders that prevent sufferers from speaking up and “admitting” that they’re living with such an issue; often equating that admission with one of defeat.
Yet teen anxiety and depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and that is the principal message that needs to be communicated to young adults on an almost daily basis. Many simply hide their depression symptoms, often trying to deal with their anxiety disorder or mood disorder without knowing truly what it is nor what to do about it themselves. It could be argued that at least the pandemic is helping those more subtle low mood symptoms into the spotlight.
A Slippery Slope
A common misconception with mood disorders is that they lead to only one outcome: suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies. Whilst that is indeed a potential outcome, and one that must be avoided at all costs, it is not the only one. Self-destructive behavior comes in many forms. Some teenagers and young adults start to engage with vices such as smoking, drinking or—worse—taking drugs.
It’s easy to go the other way with this thought process. Many adults have admitted to experimentation with softer drugs or limited drinking in their teenage years. Though it is an issue that should be looked out for, for most, these experiments are rarely a serious problem and shouldn’t be demonized as such. When experimentation starts to become addiction, one needs to look into the emotional issues in areas of life that aren’t being addressed. Again, taking a punitive stance and stigmatizing the action over the cause will not be helpful.
Looking For a Cause May Not Yield Results
There isn’t necessarily one or even any specific underlying causes to teen depression or anxiety disorder. There can be signs of depression after a traumatic incident, but by-and-large most mood disorders are a result of how a person thinks. Medication can help, but there is a growing concern by psychotherapists that there is too much of a reliance on pharmaceuticals to fix a problem that can be dealt with by way of therapy.
Look at the environment around your teen and ask yourself, is it particularly positive for their mental health? Are there ways to make it even more so, or are there other issues that need to be addressed that have transferred to the young adult and have now presented itself as symptoms of anxiety? Perhaps some couple’s therapy is in order in tandem with individual mental health therapy.
Small things will help lesson the impact of anxiety and depression. Physical activity, better connectivity with a close friend and encouraging more freedoms go a long way to help a teenager with concerns.