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How To Help A Child With Depression And Anxiety

Try To Model Healthy Ways Of Handling Anxiety

How to help children with anxiety and depression

There are multiple ways you can help kids handle anxiety by letting them see how you cope with anxiety yourself. Kids are perceptive, and theyre going to take it in if you keep complaining on the phone to a friend that you cant handle the stress or the anxiety. Im not saying to pretend that you dont have stress and anxiety, but let kids hear or see you managing it calmly, tolerating it, feeling good about getting through it.

Think Things Through With The Child

Sometimes it helps to talk through what would happen if a childs fear came truehow would they handle it? A child whos anxious about separating from their parents might worry about what would happen if a parent didnt come to pick them up. So we talk about that. If your mom doesnt come at the end of soccer practice, what would you do? Well I would tell the coach my moms not here. And what do you think the coach would do? Well he would call my mom. Or he would wait with me. A child whos afraid that a stranger might be sent to pick them up can have a code word from their parents that anyone they sent would know. For some kids, having a plan can reduce the uncertainty in a healthy, effective way.

What Should I Do If I Think My Child Is Depressed

If you think your child is depressed:

Talk with your child about sadness and depression. Kids might not know why they are so sad and why things seem so hard. Let them know you see that they’re going through a hard time and that you’re there to help. Listen, comfort, offer your support, and show love.

Set up a visit with your child’s doctor. Let your child’s doctor know if sad or bad moods seem to go on for a few weeks. By itself, this doesn’t always mean a child is depressed. Tell your child’s doctor if you have also noticed changes in your child’s sleep, eating, energy, or effort. Tell them if your child is dealing with a loss, a big stress, or hardship.

The doctor will do a physical exam. A full exam lets the doctor check for health issues that could cause your child’s symptoms. They can also check for depression. Your child’s doctor may refer you to a child therapist. The doctor’s office might have a child therapist on staff.

Set up a visit with a child therapist. A child therapist will spend time talking with you and your child. They will do an in-depth check for depression by asking questions and listening. The therapist can explain how therapy can help your child.

Take your child to therapy visits. The therapist may suggest a few visits, or more. Therapy can take time, but you will see progress along the way.

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Teach Children Coping Skills For Anxiety

The more anxious a child is, the more difficult it can be to use rational thinking to calm down. During these times, it’s important to use physical coping skills to decrease levels of anxiety.

Children can do things like taking deep breaths, counting backwards from 100 or going to a safe space in your home to relax. Work with your child to identify a place that makes them feel calm, like a bedroom or playroom. Set up the space so they have something tactile to touch or hold, such as a soft blanket, a favorite stuffed animal or a stress ball. Include activities to do in the space, whether reading, drawing a picture or watching a video. These physical actions can help reduce feelings of anxiety and allow you to talk more with your child about how they’re feeling as their anxiety goes down the scale.

What Does An Anxiety Disorder Look Like In Young Children

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Depending on the type of anxiety, there are a range of physical, psychological and behavioral indications. With toddlers and young children, parents may notice increased irritability, excessive crying, tantrums as well as more difficulty self-soothing or self-regulating. Young children may exhibit regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting or excessive clinginess. Children with anxiety disorders may experience stomach and headaches, frequent bathroom urges, rapid breathing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, muscle aches and tension and sleeping difficulties. Other indicators are: hypervigilance, frequent reassurance seeking, feeling overwhelmed by new experiences avoiding situations– school, people and places, events, social gatherings– pretty much anything that triggers or fuels their anxiety.

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Resources For Parents Of Anxious Children

Emerging Trends In Substance Misuse:

  • MethamphetamineIn 2019, NSDUH data show that approximately 2 million people used methamphetamine in the past year. Approximately 1 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder, which was higher than the percentage in 2016, but similar to the percentages in 2015 and 2018. The National Institute on Drug Abuse Data shows that overdose death rates involving methamphetamine have quadrupled from 2011 to 2017. Frequent meth use is associated with mood disturbances, hallucinations, and paranoia.
  • CocaineIn 2019, NSDUH data show an estimated 5.5 million people aged 12 or older were past users of cocaine, including about 778,000 users of crack. The CDC reports that overdose deaths involving have increased by one-third from 2016 to 2017. In the short term, cocaine use can result in increased blood pressure, restlessness, and irritability. In the long term, severe medical complications of cocaine use include heart attacks, seizures, and abdominal pain.
  • KratomIn 2019, NSDUH data show that about 825,000 people had used Kratom in the past month. Kratom is a tropical plant that grows naturally in Southeast Asia with leaves that can have psychotropic effects by affecting opioid brain receptors. It is currently unregulated and has risk of abuse and dependence. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that health effects of Kratom can include nausea, itching, seizures, and hallucinations.

Resources:

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How Can I Help My Child With Depression

Medication can have an important role in the treatment of depression in children and teenagers, and it is especially indicated for cases of severe depression. “If a child is too depressed to engage in therapy, medication can kick-start engagement and get them to better engage with therapy and benefit from it,” says Dr. Holland. However, parents may find it reassuring to know that medication is not always necessary when treating depression in children.

Studies have shown that in the majority of cases, therapy is as effective or more effective than medication alone when it comes to treating depression in children and adolescents. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is one common type of therapy that research has shown to be effective for childhood depression treatment. For very young children or those with limited language skills, research indicates that play therapy is the preferred approach.

If you’re concerned that your child may be experiencing symptoms of depression, consider the following steps to help:

Making A Support Plan

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If your child is experiencing depression and needs ongoing support, it can be helpful to create a support plan together with the professionals around your child so that you know exactly what help is available and how your child can access it. This could include things like:

  • agreements with their GP, or their key worker if they are being treated by CAMHS, about when they will next check-in
  • whether any referrals can be made to other services, and a list of the services available locally that might be able to support them
  • what your childs school can offer including a staff member who they can speak to when theyre struggling.
  • people your child trusts and can talk to when they need to, including family and friends.

You can find out more about speaking to GPs, finding a counsellor or therapist, accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services , getting help from your childs school and finding local services on our guide to getting help.

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What Are The Treatment Options

Treatment options for children with depression are similar to those for adults, including psychotherapy and medication. Your child’s doctor may suggest psychotherapy first and consider antidepressant medicine as an option if there is no significant improvement. The best studies to date show that a combination of psychotherapy and medication is most effective at treating depression.

But studies do show that the antidepressant fluoxetine is effective in treating depression in children and teens. The drug is officially recognized by the FDA for treatment of children ages 8 to 18 with depression.

Most medications used to treat depression in children have a black box warning about the possibility of increasing suicidal thoughts. It is important to start and monitor these medications under the care of a trained professional and talk with them about the potential risks and benefits for your child.

Treating children who have bipolar disorder

Children with bipolar disorder are usually treated with psychotherapy and a combination of medicines, usually an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer.

Antidepressants need to be used with caution, as they can trigger bouts of manic or hyperactive behavior in children with bipolar disorder. Managing a child’s medication must be part of an overall care plan that includes therapy and routine primary care appointments.

Learn More About Depression In Children

Children’s Health offers one of the most comprehensive specialty programs available for children and teens who need mental health services, staffed by experts with access to the latest research and treatments for depression and other mood disorders. Learn more about our Pediatric Psychiatry and Psychology services.

You can also access emotional care and support from the comfort of your home with Virtual Visit Behavioral Health. With a behavioral health care appointment, you can speak to a board-certified psychiatrist or licensed therapist using video technology. Learn more about Virtual Visit Behavioral Health.

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Helping A Child With Anxiety Or Depression

Realising that your child may be struggling with their mental health and experiencing anxiety or depression can be hard to accept. Sometimes parents can feel like its their fault or want to know why their child is struggling with a mental health problem. This is completely understandable, but the most important thing you can do is to reassure your child and not judge them for how theyre feeling.Ways to help a child whos struggling include:

    • letting them know youre there for them and are on their side
    • try talking to them over text or on the phone if they dont feel able to talk in person
    • being patient and staying calm and approachable, even if their behaviour upsets you
    • recognising that their feelings are valid and letting them know its okay for them to be honest about what its like for them to feel this way
    • thinking of healthy ways to cope you could do together, like yoga, breathing exercises or mindfulness
    • encouraging them to talk to their GP, someone at their school or Childline. Especially if theyre finding it hard to talk at home.
    • take care of yourself and get support if you need to. Try not to blame yourself for whats happening and to stay hopeful about your childs recovery.

Listen And Provide Emotional Support

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Try not to ask too many questions, come up with quick solutions or gloss over their sadness. Empathise with how theyre feeling and remember theyve taken a risk in opening up to you let them know they can talk to you as often and for as long as they need to.

Try not take it personally if youre on the receiving end of anger, frustration and sadness, as its often a sign of how much your child trusts you when they can express these feelings with you. However, it is completely understandable if this sometimes becomes too much for you to manage as a parent – and if that happens, it’s a good idea to seek professional help and advice.

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What Are Risk Factors For Childhood Depression

It’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the risk factors for depression in children, which can include anxiety, family history of mental disorders, hormonal changes in puberty and life stressors.

“Chronic anxiety is one of the most common risk factors we see for depression in children,” explains Alice Ann Holland, Ph.D., ABPP, Research Director of the Neuropsychology Service at Children’s Health and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern. “This is anxiety that hasn’t been properly diagnosed or treated for anywhere from months to years, which wears children down emotionally over time.”

Risk factors for childhood depression can include life stressors such as:

  • Changing to a new school
  • Conflict in the home
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Starting school

In addition to the above life stressors, adolescents and teens may also deal with the following situations that can trigger depression:

  • Academic stress, especially related to college admissions
  • Athletic performance pressure
  • Dating relationships, including negative relationships and breakups
  • Sleep deprivation

How I’ve Learned What To Say To My Adult Daughter With Anxiety And Depression

My 22-year-old daughter is truly wonderful. She is bright and beautiful and kind and considerate all of those qualities I prayed for in a daughter. I am a lucky mom. She has recently moved out to a nearby city, and she is succeeding in a job she trained for in college. Perfect, right?

Well, not really.

Since she was 17 or so, my daughter has experienced extreme periods of self-doubt and anguish, partnered with contrasting episodes of extreme determination and competitiveness. It is a continuous roller coaster well, two roller coasters if you can imagine it, running side by side. When one climbs the other dips, sometimes simultaneously. Thats what its like for her, what her life is like. And because I am her mother and I love her, my life is like that too.

I really believe that a mothers first instinct is to help her child. And along with that we try to take away their pain. And we will do or say anything to try and help our children reach a conclusion or a solution, a compromise or even reconciliation. We want them to feel better. As babies they receive a cuddle and a spoonful of medicine. As adults they get advice and soothing words. And maybe we offer a distraction.

For a long time I didnt know this. And I failed miserably.

My point is, listen to your child. They can tell you how to be. And thats helpful because, even though we always think we know better, we dont.

Listen. And believe. And care. And stay on track.

Thinkstock photo by nautiluz56

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