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Anxiety Depression

How to Cope with Anxiety and Depression (Advice for Teens)

If you experience the debilitating symptoms of anxiety or depression, you may be interested in learning how to cope with anxiety and depression.

Do you have a hard time concentrating? Do you sometimes struggle with unexplained aches and pains? Does your mind keep repeating things to put you down, such as negative memories, self-deprecating comments, or self-loathing thoughts? Do you find yourself anxious and worried about everything, yet nothing in particular – or something in particular, but all the time, even when it’s irrelevant? 

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health diagnoses in the world. Nearly one in five Americans struggles with an anxiety disorder, and about one in ten struggle with depression. Among people with anxiety, as many as 60 percent may have depressive thoughts. Finally, the most common onset for these mental health issues is adolescence, an already complicated time in our lives to begin with. 

Teenage anxiety and depression are still on a rise, and while teens need to learn ways to cope with their fears and thoughts, it’s important to realize that this is always a team effort. Whether you’re a teen, a friend, or a parent, learning more about how to overcome anxiety and depression is crucial, as is knowing how and when to provide support. 

In this article, you will learn how to cope with anxiety and depression.

How are Anxiety and Depression Linked?

The link between anxiety and depression is far more than tangential. These are often comorbid conditions, meaning that they frequently co-occur in patients. 

Comorbidity matters because the way these conditions affect each other can affect treatment – and it can affect the ideal treatment strategy, including certain coping strategies. 

Comorbid mental illnesses are particularly poorly understood because there isn’t as much research on them as physical comorbidities, and they can be harder to identify as it’s tricky to try and attribute each symptom to one or the other condition(s). 

But as far as mental health comorbidities go, anxiety and depression are still the most researched. We know that specialized treatment plans can be implemented to address both diagnoses, and we know that when anxiety and depression symptoms present themselves together, they can reinforce one another, so concurrent treatment – meaning addressing both anxiety and depression at once – is critical.

The elements that tie anxiety and depression together are multifaceted. For one, there may be a genetic component. Teens with both anxiety and depression may have a genetic predisposition towards either or both. 

The primary symptom of anxiety and depression is also very similar, in that both can be defined by negative or maladaptive thinking. A person with a mood disorder will additionally have a low mood and may have a much harder time cheering up. 

Environmental factors matter as well. Both depression and anxiety are common in high-stress environments, especially during childhood. People with post-traumatic stress disorder, a form of anxiety, are more likely to be depressed as well. 

These conditions feed themselves in a cyclical fashion. Anxious thoughts can trigger an irrational response to an insurmountable or uncontrollable problem, leading to inevitable failure and the inability to fulfill unrealistic expectations, which can trigger self-loathing, guilt, and depression. Similarly, depressive thinking can lead to more negative and worrying thoughts, and that fear feeds anxiety. 

Identifying Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression have multiple hallmark characteristics, as well as more obscure symptoms. 

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Oversleeping
  • Low energy levels
  • Physical response to stress (rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, abdominal pain)
  • Persistent low mood
  • Repeated comments on suicide and self-harm
  • Unexplained pain
  • Sudden change in appetite (both gain and loss)
  • Sudden loss of interest in hobbies
  • Irrational fear

It can be difficult to differentiate between disordered behavior and normal stress response. Not every period of sadness is a depression, and not every pre-exam stress-related rant is an anxiety attack. 

Keep in mind that an important defining characteristic for disordered thinking or behavior is that it plays an active role in disrupting a teen’s day-to-day life, causing havoc on their responsibilities, interests, and relationships over the course of multiple weeks. If you’re not sure, it always helps to talk to your teen and bring up the idea of visiting a professional together. 

Identifying Useful Coping Skills for Teens

Coping skills are tools teenagers can utilize to reduce the impact that life’s stressors can have on them, and reduce the severity of their symptoms. Coping skills are not necessarily a replacement for therapy and treatment. They’re a supplemental tool to help improve a teen’s quality of life and resilience. Most coping skills revolve around: 

  • Helping teens build up confidence and self-esteem
  • Helping teens vent their emotions and thoughts in a healthy way
  • Helping teens have fun and feel better

Effective coping skills include: 

  • Journaling
  • Crafts and art projects
  • Drawing and painting
  • Walks in nature
  • Exercise
  • Social activities

An effective treatment plan for both depression and anxiety utilizes coping skills as a way to teach teens that they can affect their mental health in the long-term, in coordination with important treatment modalities such as: 

Can You Cope Alone?

There are a lot of topics surrounding mental healthcare and self-care, and it’s important not to misunderstand this trend as meaning that we all need to take sole responsibility for our mental health. 

Yes, how you feel and what you do obviously plays the largest role in your mental health.

But support is crucial. Many people fail to seek out the help they need without a push or intervention from their loved ones. Many fail to adhere to treatment schedules without their loved ones. And at the end of the day, whether or not we struggle with anxiety or depression, we all need friends and family to be around. 

You shouldn’t feel pressured to take the matter of treatment into your own hands, at all. Seek help. Talk to an adult. Get to a counselor. Schedule a therapist. Or, ask your parents or teachers to help you navigate available resources and do these things with you.

Coping skills are the same way. They aren’t necessarily a means for you to be self-reliant in treatment. They play a role in helping you reduce the impact of the stressors around you and improve your quality of life by reducing the severity of your symptoms. They might, but don’t necessarily need to replace therapy and medication.