Anxiety and depression are common in children and can occur at different times throughout their development. Symptoms are often confused with normal emotional reactions but can be a warning sign that it is time to seek child therapy.
If you suspect your child suffers from anxiety or depression, speak with a mental health professional, such as a school psychologist or counselor. This specialist can help you determine if your child is dealing with chronic anxiety, a temporary life stressor, or if they are showing typical behavior for their age.
1. Emotional Changes
Anxiety and depression symptoms can affect your child’s life in many ways. They can affect their relationships, academic goals, and self-image. They can also lead to substance abuse, trouble with school, and thoughts of suicide.
The onset of anxiety and depression can differ for each person, but generally, it is considered a normal part of the adolescent experience. It may come and go or last for a long time. It is important to get help when your child is experiencing these changes so that they can manage them.
Emotion regulation is a critical skill for healthy development and a key mental health component. It involves a set of strategies used to monitor, evaluate, and modify one’s emotional responses following the situation. This ability develops when you are very young, but it can take longer for some people to learn it completely.
When your child’s emotions are not regulated effectively, it can cause them to feel overwhelmed and overly anxious. This can make it difficult for them to focus and pay attention at school or home.
Researchers have found that children with a low level of emotion regulation tend to have higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms than those who are more able to regulate their feelings. This can be due to several factors, including genetics, biology, cognitive ability, temperament, and the environment in which they grow up.
To determine the developmental trajectory of anxiety and depression symptoms in children, we used growth mixture modeling (GMM) to assess 7499 primary caregivers’ reports of anxiety and depression symptoms in their children. Using GMM, we identified four distinct trajectories of anxiety and depression symptoms in our sample: low (82.4%), increasing (7.4%), decreasing (6.0%), and increasing symptoms up to age 6, followed by a decrease to age 10 (preschool-limited 4.2%). At age 10, children in the increasing and preschool-limited trajectories had diminished psychosocial outcomes and worse school-related functioning.
2. Changes in Sleep Patterns
Often, changes in sleep patterns are one of the first signs that a child feels anxious or depressed. They may be sleeping less or longer than normal, waking up early, or not wanting to sleep.
Children also tend to spend more time in the deep, restorative stages of sleep, known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, than adults do. This is thought to help with brain development, especially during the first six months of life.
However, some infants do not develop a neurological barrier that prevents muscles in their legs and arms from contracting during REM sleep or “acting out” their dreams. The resulting twitches and movements during this type of sleep are often strong enough to wake the infant up.
Researchers are looking into the link between changes in sleep and anxiety in children. They found that a recent pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19 has shifted young person’s sleep patterns, causing a shift to later bedtimes, delayed sleep onset, reduced nighttime sleep duration, and increased daytime napping.
The changes in sleep patterns could lead to increased stress, poor mental health, and self-destructive behavior in kids. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are common in youth, with almost 25% of girls and more than 10% of boys seriously considering suicide in 2019.
3. Loss of Interest
A loss of interest in something can signal you’re feeling down. This can happen for many reasons, including overwork or relationship issues. If you’re experiencing a long-term loss of interest, you may need to see your doctor. They will talk to you about your symptoms, examine and refer you to a mental health professional if needed. They can also write you a Mental Health Treatment Plan, which can provide you with Medicare rebates for appointments with certain mental health professionals, such as psychologists and counselors.
In this case, the underlying problem could be depression or another mental disorder. Loss of interest in things or people that used to give you pleasure is a common symptom of depression, so it’s important to seek professional help.
Children and adolescents with depression may have difficulty making decisions and are often irritable and sad. They may also be withdrawn from social activities and stop trying new things.
This can make it harder for them to do schoolwork and may cause them to get behind in their studies. They might be disinterested in activities that are supposed to teach them important skills.
If you notice your child has lost interest in school, it might be a sign that they are feeling depressed or anxious. This serious mental illness needs to be treated as soon as possible.
To uplift your child’s spirits, you can prioritize their motivation. This can be achieved by engaging in conversations about their emotions, providing a secure environment for them to confide in you, and identifying methods to offer encouragement. Additionally, you can seek updates from your child’s teacher regarding their development and well-being.
4. Changes in Eating Habits
When children are anxious, they often have an increased appetite. They may also eat more sugary or processed foods high in fats and carbohydrates. This is especially true during periods of stress or depression.
When depression is diagnosed in a child, they will likely have trouble sleeping and may start to act impulsively or angrily. They may also start to have physical symptoms like fatigue or headaches.
Anxiety and depression can be treated with medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination. If your child is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible.
One way to support your child’s emotional and mental health is by making healthy eating a priority. By making good food choices and educating your kids about how nutrition affects their mood, you can help them develop lifelong habits that promote good health and better grades in school.
In addition, nutrient-rich foods are linked to lower rates of depression and anxiety. Some nutrients that may decrease symptoms of anxiety or depression include magnesium, folate, zinc, and essential fatty acids.
Getting adequate amounts of these critical vitamins and minerals is important for all ages, but it’s particularly crucial for children growing rapidly. Moreover, adults with diets low in these nutrients are at higher risk for anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, naturopathic doctors know how to balance diets to improve mood and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. In most cases, a naturopathic doctor will use a combination of herbal, nutritional, and dietary therapy to address the underlying cause of the problem. Many of these drug-free therapies can improve a child’s quality of life.
5. Changes in Personality
People change throughout their lives, but sometimes these changes are dramatic. They might start to feel like a different person, and it can be difficult for loved ones and friends to understand why.
A sudden personality change is often a symptom of something more serious, such as a physical illness or injury. If you notice that a child suddenly starts to have strange behavior, call the doctor as soon as possible.
Personality is a complex, unique pattern of thoughts and feelings that reflects who you are at your core. It can be good for a person but can also cause stress and anxiety.
New research suggests that your personality can change over time. Many studies have found that some of the “Big Five” personality traits – conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion – can change significantly throughout a person’s life.
This research contradicts long-held theories that people’s personalities don’t change after age 30. For example, agreeableness – the trait associated with being warm and generous – continued to increase in people’s lives.
Other research suggests that people can change their personalities, but it requires sustained effort over weeks or months. This is called volitional personality change, which has been shown to work in several experiments.
These results are important because they show that a person’s personality can be changed in ways that are desirable for them. These changes can include a person changing how they act in social situations, how they interact with others, and the way they think about themselves and others.