Guide to Teen Anxiety and Depression

By Parkway 2023-05-06 14:14:34

Parkway helps parents guide their children through tough times.

After experiencing online classes, lockdown, and social isolation, children’s mental health has also experienced challenges. Moods of depression and anxiety are not uncommon. A psychological readjustment is required to adapt to the pressure brought about by schoolwork and social interaction. At this time, it is especially important for parents to maintain concern and support for their children’s mental health.

Common mental disorders among adolescents are depression and anxiety. Look out for changes in mood including depressed mood, inability to be happy, becoming irritable, easily agitated, emotionally vulnerable, or prone to crying.

Depressive Disorder

A depressive disorder is characterized by frequent mood changes, or a different mood state that has persisted for at least two weeks.

Changes in BEHAVIOR:

1. Decreased interest and motivation in doing things, unwilling to talk, shutting oneself in a room, unwilling to go out. Even the things that they were interested in in the past are not exciting now, and the interest is dull.

2. Decreased appetite, which may lead to significant weight loss in a short period of time. Some may show the opposite and overeat.

3. Increased time in bed or asleep, and drowsiness in class during the day. Some manifest as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, shallow sleep, easy to wake up in the middle of the night, or waking up early.

4. Alcohol consumption. Some teens will try to drink alcohol or increase the amount of alcohol used to relax or numb the painful emotions. Escaping from reality is their way of “healing” themselves, but it will bring more problems.

5. Excessive addiction to the Internet. Spending too much time in the virtual world of the Internet, social media, online games, even if it affects other aspects of life, such as not eating on time, sleeping, and not completing schoolwork.

6. Self-injury behavior. When children’s painful emotions accumulate for a long time, some children will use the form of self-harm, such as cutting their own body skin with a knife (especially on arms and thighs) to release these emotions, trying to use the body’s pain to replace mental pain; or feel emotionally numb for a long time, use pain to awaken senses and emotions, and experience the feeling of being truly alive. Severe cases even have suicidal thoughts, plans or behavior attempts.


Dizziness, headache, fatigue, upset stomach, indigestion, constipation, etc. may occur. If the disease of the organ itself is ruled out after examination, it is necessary to consider whether it is caused by a bad psychological state.

COGNITIVE changes:

Compared with the past there is difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, pessimism, hopelessness, excessive and inappropriate sense of self-blame and guilt.

Anxiety Disorder

Changes in MOOD:

Nervousness, panic, fear, excessive worry especially in adolescents, concerns about academic performance, peer relationships, how others view you, self-image, irritability, tantrums, hypervigilance.


Dizziness, headache, palpitation, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, body shaking, muscle aches, frequent urination, changes in sleeping and eating.

Changes in BEHAVIOR:

Increased aggression, procrastination, avoidance such as not going to school.

Tips for Parents

The Right Response: Listen First, Not Teach

Many parents are anxious to solve their child’s problems as soon as possible. But they tend to focus too much on the problem itself and directly teach the child what to do, and even deem the child’s behavior as immature and criticize them. In reality, doing so can easily backfire.

When children open up to their parents about their emotions, it is often emotional understanding and support, not guidance, that they crave most. They want their feelings to be heard, seen, understood, and empathized with. This will make them feel that they are not alone and have emotional support. Therefore, parents need to listen patiently first with an accepting attitude, respond to understand what they heard, and recognize the rationality of their child’s emotions, without judging or preventing them from expressing.

When the child’s emotions are revealed, if the time is right, you can discuss with the child how to actively deal with these emotions, including trying to discuss what is reasonable in the thoughts behind the emotions, and which thoughts can be adjusted more positively. Explore what behavioral coping options are available. Encourage your child to try to cope and give positive feedback in a timely manner.

Be a Positive Role Model

Parents’ ability to effectively manage their emotions, maintain emotional stability, and provide a supportive home environment can have a profound impact on a child’s psychological state. Children can’t help but imitate how their parents deal with stress and emotions.

Parents need to take care of their own mental state first: healthy life schedule, good eating habits, regular exercise, maintain an optimistic and positive attitude, be brave to face their true feelings, and avoid projecting their own anxiety onto their children.

Practice Relaxation Skills with Your Child

You can do exercises such as breathing relaxation and meditation with your children to better anchor your attention in the present moment and experience life in every present moment more fully without getting too involved in the mental world of worries, pessimistic thoughts, and stressful patterns.

Exercise is also a very effective and easy way to improve the mood. Try doing yoga, running, walking, cycling, or ball games. Studies have shown that more than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise with a certain intensity can effectively activate the parasympathetic nerves, decrease blood pressure and heart rate, and have a physical and mental relaxation effect.

When to Seek Professional Help

When the child has tried self-psychological adjustment by himself or with his parents, but still suffers from emotional distress, and affects daily life, schoolwork, and social interaction, it is recommended to seek professional psychological help. Assessment, diagnosis, psychological intervention and, if necessary, drug treatment is performed by professionals.

Dr. Helen Wang

Department of Psychiatry of Parkway


Tel: 400 819 6622