Emotional Health in Children and Teens
Children and teens have worries and fears of their own and might feel scared or hopeless occasionally. Although these feeling might be typical in children and teens, persistent or severe fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression conditions. In the following section some information are provided to you but please visit the Resources page for more information about children and teens behavioral health.
Fear and worrisome about unknowns and new experiences are part of any human’s life. When these normal feelings in children and teens become more often and sever that interfere with their school and everyday activities, anxiety disorder may be suspected. According to the CDC, examples of different types of anxiety disorders include:
- Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
- Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
- Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
- Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
- Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)
Anxiety could show itself in the forms of irritability and anger. Children and teens with anxiety could experience insomnia, fatigue, headaches or stomachache. Sometimes children hide their worries from others and show no apparent symptoms.
Depression is a serious mood disorder that can take the joy from a child’s life. It is normal for a child to be moody or sad from time to time. You can expect these feelings after the death of a pet or a move to a new city. But if these feelings last for weeks or months, they may be a sign of depression. Experts used to think that only adults could get depression. Now we know that even a young child can have depression that needs treatment to improve. As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens have serious depression (source). Still, many children don’t get the treatment they need. This is partly because it can be hard to tell the difference between depression and normal moodiness. Also, depression may not look the same in a child as in an adult. According to the CDC, some examples of behaviors often seen in children with depression include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
- Not wanting to do, or enjoy doing, fun things
- Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
- Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
- Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
- Having a hard time paying attention
- Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
- Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior
If you are worried about your child, learn more about the symptoms in children. Talk to your child to see how he or she is feeling. If you think your child is depressed, talk to your doctor or a counselor. The sooner a child gets treatment, the sooner he or she will start to feel better. Severe depression can lead youth and teen to think about suicide. According to the CDC, suicide is among the leading causes of death among youth ages 10-24 years.
Child Educational Resources
- CDC’s guideline about youth suicide prevention.
- Children’s mental health (CDC)
- Raising awareness of teen cyberbullying
- COVID-19 & Children’s Behavioral Health
- American College of Lifestyle Medicine: