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Teen anxiety and depression rates continue to rise, yet remarkably few teens are getting the help they need. Studies show that, despite improvements in the general public’s understanding of mental health issues and their prevalence, especially among younger generations, roughly 6 in 10 teens are getting help for their symptoms, and systemic reviews show that stigma remains rampant – both on the individual, internalized level, as well as widespread institutionalized stigma. 

Recognizing teen anxiety and depression is the first step to getting your teen friends or loved ones the help they need. Some of the signs and symptoms of teen anxiety and depression can be surprising or overwhelming, and it can be difficult to figure out when or where to get help. 

Common Signs of Teen Anxiety and Depression

Adolescence can be a difficult and confusing time, especially in the modern world. Teens today have access to more information and data than ever before. Furthermore, our understanding of mental health as a general public has improved, meaning more teens today are able to articulate and name their feelings, rather than living with an unnamed malaise or unease. 

But that hasn’t made dealing with or living with an anxiety disorder or a depressive disorder any easier. Whether through external stressors – such as social media, academic pressure, or world events – or internal stressors, anxiety-prone teens may find themselves struggling with their symptoms more and more as they transition toward adulthood. Now is the most crucial time to begin working on ways to manage and reduce those symptoms. 

1. Sleep Disturbances and Insomnia

It’s not unusual for teens to stay up a little late or pull the occasional one-nighter. But in addition to generally not sleeping enough, teens with anxiety problems or recurring episodes of depression are more likely to struggle with their sleeping schedule, sometimes experiencing long periods of sleeplessness or insomnia. 

This can become a vicious cycle. Sleep is crucial for both mental and physical well-being, and poor sleep correlates heavily to poorer mental health, as well as serious cognitive and physical deficits. 

2. Changes in Appetite and Weight

Changes in weight and appetite are normal for teens, especially as they go through puberty. But rapid and sudden weight gain or weight loss – often to an extreme degree – may be a sign of something else, especially in conjunction with other symptoms of stress or strange moods. 

3. Physical and Mental Fatigue

Being tired is one thing, but overwhelming fatigue is another. Teens with anxiety or depressive symptoms often struggle with both physical and mental malaise, such as brain fog, a loss of focus or an inability to concentrate, chronic procrastination, inability to remember things as well as before, and a seeming loss or lack of energy in most physical endeavors. It’s easy to blame this on teenage laziness, but research tells us that many instances of so-called laziness are often a sign of something else, instead. 

4. Irritability and Anger Issues

Anxiety and depression are associated with fear, apathy, or sadness – but they can also inspire episodes of anger, confusion, and restless frustration. If your teen is struggling with emotional control and experiencing episodes of frustration out of nowhere, there may be more behind-the-scenes than typical teenage mood changes. 

5. Unexplained Guilt and Sadness

Depression is often associated with heavy feelings of guilt, as well as a negative self-image, poor self-esteem, and the tendency to reflect on the past negatively – undervaluing or completely forgetting positive experiences and focusing solely on the bad. 

Learning to deal with these emotions can be extremely difficult, especially alone, and they can lead to a spiral of negative introspection. 

6. Recurring Fears and Blanketed Worries

It’s normal to be stressed out about school, relationships, societal expectations, or the challenges of growing into an adult. 

Even when asking other adults, it’s hard to change the fact that no two generations grow up in the same world, so your parents and grandparents don’t always have the answers you feel you need. 

But anxiety disorders are different from the usual fare of worries and fears. 

These are irrational and overwhelming symptoms of physical and emotional stress, sometimes for very specific and isolated reasons, and sometimes for absolutely no reason at all. Dealing with that anxiety when you can’t identify where it’s coming from – or when you can’t begin to address its origins – is terrifying and frustrating. 

7. Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are more severe and immediate forms of anxiety, usually involving severe physical symptoms such as sudden sweating, heart palpitations, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and hyperventilation. Panic attacks can be painful, and last several minutes. They can be triggered or occur out of the blue sometimes. If panic attacks occur frequently, they become a panic disorder. 

8. Thoughts of Self-Harm

Thoughts of self-harm can be motivated by suicidal ideation or exist entirely separately from any feelings of suicide (non-suicidal self-harm). Oftentimes, teens who engage in self-harm aren’t trying to die or punish themselves, but want to feel something, substituting a sense of pleasure or fulfillment with pain. Self-harm often coexists with feelings of depression or another mental health problem. 

Teen Anxiety and Depression Treatment

At our treatment facility, we are frequently asked about teen anxiety and depression. Parents, other family members, and friends want to know more about these conditions and how they affect their loved ones. 

A lot of people ask about triggers. Certain things can be “triggering”, in that they cause someone to feel uncomfortable, or anxious. But these triggers differ from one individual to the next. Think about how your teen responds to your words and actions and keep them in mind for the future. 

Lifestyle changes can help with certain cases of anxiety and depression, but they don’t replace a holistic treatment plan – they are one part of a greater, more effective whole. Unfortunately, suggesting that a single lifestyle change or lifestyle plan might end a teen’s depression is often condescending and unhelpful. 

Sometimes, parents and friends are worried about their involvement in the treatment process, and whether they can or should insert themselves in the treatment plan. There are many different forms of family therapy that are designed explicitly to help integrate the family into the treatment of a teen’s mental health issues, as well as addressing underlying family dynamics that might be affecting a teen negatively and promoting support within the family and community. 

Have you or a loved one been experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression? Do you want to learn more about treating teen anxiety and depression? Get in touch with us today at Visions Treatment Centers to talk with a qualified professional and navigate through your options for diagnosis and treatment.  


Seeking treatment while struggling with anxiety or depression may be less than straightforward; especially for teens feeling lost, unseen, and unheard. Learning to see the warning signs in your loved ones can be an important first step towards getting them the help they need. 

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