Teen Mental Health Awareness: Signs of Anxiety and Depression

Did you know that one in five children has been diagnosed with anxiety? Additionally, one in four children has been diagnosed with depression. Rates of depression and anxiety in teens and children continue to rise at an alarming rate. 

While mood swings are normal for teenagers, it's essential to know the signs of when those shifts mean something more. Teen mental health awareness is key to identifying the warning signs in your teen and getting them the proper treatment. Depression and anxiety in teens can affect their physical and emotional health. 

This guide will discuss the top signs of teen anxiety and depression. We'll also discuss ways you can help your teen find mental health help. 

Signs of Teen Depression 

Teens experiencing depression will exhibit a significant change in their behavior and thinking. The most common sign is sadness without a direct cause. Your teen might become withdrawn and not have any motivation to do the things they used to love. 

Teens with depression might change their eating habits, sleep accessibly, or exhibit criminal behaviors. You might also notice the below signs of teen depression:

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Apathy
  • Inappropriate or excessive guilt
  • Irresponsible behavior
  • Memory loss
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Helplessness
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Unexplained crying

Signs of Teen Anxiety

There are many common symptoms between teen depression and anxiety. Many signs are overlooked because teens typically hide their feelings and thoughts. Some of the signs of teen anxiety include:

  • Irritability
  • Recurring fears
  • Extreme sensitivity to criticism
  • Self-consciousness
  • Substance use
  • Sleep problems
  • Chronic complaints of headaches or stomachaches
  • Avoidance of new or difficult situations 

What Are the Causes of Teen Depression and Anxiety?

There are many causes of depression and anxiety in teens. These mental health conditions are often linked to a decreased quality of life, high-stress levels, and teen suicide. 


Teens with a history of trauma might have an increased chance of experiencing depression and anxiety. Traumatic events that might cause depression or anxiety include:

  • Violence
  • Previous accident
  • Sexual, physical, or emotional abuse


Depression and anxiety can run in families. Many teens who experience these mental health problems have a family history of them. 


A teen's home, school, and social environments impact their mental health. Various challenges can contribute to anxiety or depression. These challenges can include:

  • Family divorce
  • Neglect and abuse
  • Poverty
  • Bullying
  • Learning disabilities 

Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thought patterns might be connected to teen anxiety and depression. If teens are exposed to negative thinking, they might develop a negative outlook. Negative thinking often comes from those the teen is closest to, like their parents. 

Brain Differences 

A teenage brain is structured differently than an adult one is. Teens that have anxiety and depression might have different neurotransmitter levels.

Neurotransmitters can include norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. These work to regulate a teen's behavior and mood. 

How Are Depression and Anxiety Diagnosed?

A physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist can diagnose anxiety or depression in a teen. Medical problems, like substance use or thyroid disorders, can mimic depression and anxiety. That's why it's crucial to rule out those problems through a diagnosis. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over 12 receive a universal depression screening. During the screening, a healthcare provider will ask a teen about their thoughts, moods, and behaviors. They'll also review the teen's school performance, relationships, and family. 

What Are the Treatment Options?

A teen's anxiety, depression, or both will be treated based on severity. It's often recommended that a teen receive talk therapy or medication. Sometimes a healthcare provider might recommend both. 

A combination of medication and talk therapy is effective at treating anxiety and depression. Antidepressants can work to correct the brain's chemical imbalance. Talk therapy is effective at combating negative behaviors and thought patterns. 

Keep in mind that some antidepressants have adverse side effects. These side effects can include suicidal thoughts. 

Other Ways to Combat Anxiety and Depression

While medications and talk therapy can effectively treat depression and anxiety, there are other ways your teen can experience relief. Some healthy lifestyle changes they can make to their daily routine include:

  • Spending time with their loved ones
  • Staying active
  • Eating healthily
  • Getting help 
  • Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule
  • Breaking up overwhelming tasks into smaller ones

Sometimes teens find support groups helpful when managing their anxiety and depression. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

It can be challenging to comprehend anxiety and depression in teens fully. Let's discuss some of the most commonly asked questions on the topic. 

Is Anxiety Normal?

It's normal for teens to feel worried or nervous at times. They might feel anxious when they have a big test coming up. A teen might also feel concerned if one of their friends is sick. 

Anxious feelings trigger our body's flight or fight reaction. During this reaction, hormones get released. We can then gather the energy we need to face a threat or challenge. 

However, some people feel very intense anxiety. Their fears or worries take up all of their energy and time. Some teens might start to avoid things that give them anxious feelings. 

How Do I Know It's Not a Mood Swing?

It's normal to feel sad or run down now and then. Depression is when those feelings last all of the time. Those feelings start to get in the way of your teen living a happy and fulfilled life. 

You should be concerned if your teen is experiencing depression regularly. Mood swings don't last as long as depression does.  

Learn More About Teen Mental Health Awareness

Teen mental health awareness is vital to diagnosing and treating depression and anxiety correctly. Raising awareness around these mental health problems is key to suicide prevention. 

At Southwest Pediatric and Family Care, we believe that mental health for teens is essential. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to schedule an appointment.

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