By Stanley Clark
Growing children (teenagers 13 to 18 years old) often go through many changes. During this period, they may also experience mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
Treating such conditions with antidepressants may interfere with the normal development of a young brain(1). Because of these risks, most parents look for the best alternative treatments for children with anxiety and depression.
More than just a melancholic mood, depression is a serious health disorder that may impact every aspect of a teenager’s life. Here are some of the best alternative treatments for depression and anxiety.
1. Understand the Signs and Symptoms
It is important to understand whether your child is going through the normal teenage growing pains or experiencing the symptoms of anxiety or depression.
During the teenage years, occasional bad moods or “acting out” are to be expected. However, unhealthy behaviors or rebellious attitudes may be indications of depression.
These are some of the signs your child may be dealing with emotional pain(2):
- Poor attendance in school, difficulty concentrating in their studies, low grades, or frustration with schoolwork
- Low self-esteem and feelings of shame, ugliness, unworthiness, and failure
- Substance abuse
- Dangerous behaviors, including binge drinking, reckless driving, or unsafe sex
- Excessive use of smartphone and internet
- Aggressive and violent behaviors
- Running away from home
Learning what teenage depression looks like will help parents provide their children with the support they need. Below are the common symptoms of teen depression(3):
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Frequent crying
- Anger or hostility
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Lack of motivation and enthusiasm
- Agitation or restlessness
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Unexplained body aches and pain
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
2. Communicate With Your Teenager
If you think your teen may be suffering from anxiety or depression, talk to them in a loving, non-judgmental way.
Open up a dialogue with your child and ask them to share what they are going through. Let them express their thoughts, emotions, and worries freely.
Show your teenager that you are ready and willing to listen and hold back from asking them many questions. Focus on understanding what they have to say instead of lecturing or criticizing them.
Teenagers can have a hard time communicating their feelings. Emphasize your concern, while learning how to respect your child’s comfort level.
Once your child has opened up, it is important to acknowledge their emotions. Make them feel heard, understood, and supported.
3. Prioritize Their Physical Health
Research has shown that physical activity positively impacts an individual’s mental health(4). As a parent, you can support a balanced mind and body for your teen by establishing healthy habits at home.
Staying active is essential to mental health, so encourage your teen to get at least an hour of physical activity four to five times a week.
You can make exercising fun by riding a bike, skateboarding, dancing, walking the dog, playing sports, or going for a hike.
Make sure your teen is getting enough nutrition by feeding them healthy and balanced meals at home. Teach them how to make healthy food choices.
Give them healthier snack alternatives and limit their junk food consumption. Sugary or starchy foods often have a negative effect on children’s mood and energy(5).
Ensure that your teens are getting much-needed rest. Teenagers need up to eight to ten hours of sleep per night to function optimally(6).
You may also set limits on your teen’s screen time to make sure they will not stay up late.
4. Seek Professional Help
Encouraging lifestyle changes for your teen may not always be enough. When their anxiety or depression becomes severe, it is better to seek help from a mental health professional.
Explore and discuss your teen’s treatment options with a specialist. For mild to moderate cases of depression, therapy is often the initial treatment.
When choosing a treatment option, involve your teen and consider their preferences. You may seek another option if your teen feels uncomfortable or does not connect with a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Antidepressant medications may be included in your teen’s treatment plan. However, these medications come with side effects and risks.
During this trying time, it is essential to be patient and support your teen throughout their recovery.
If you or your teen is struggling with a mental health disorder, contact Amatus Recovery Centers at 410-593-0005. Learn about our wide range of treatment options and find the right program for anxiety or depression.
- Gaffrey, M. S., Shenoy, R., & Luby, J. L. (2011). Effects of stimulants and SSRIs on brain function in children: emerging clues from fMRI studies. Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology News, 16(5), 3-5.
- HelpGuide.org. Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/parents-guide-to-teen-depression.htm
- MayoClinic.org. Teen depression. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/teen-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20350985
- Paluska, S. A., & Schwenk, T. L. (2000). Physical activity and mental health. Sports medicine, 29(3), 167-180.
- Mantantzis, K., Schlaghecken, F., Sünram-Lea, S. I., & Maylor, E. A. (2019). Sugar rush or sugar crash? A meta-analysis of carbohydrate effects on mood. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 101, 45-67.
- Sleep Foundation.org. (August 2020). Sleep for Teenagers. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep