(LEX 18)– Doctors, psychologists, and therapists say that they’re treating teenagers for depression and anxiety at a greater rate than ever before. With such a notable uptick, many wonder what is to blame for the increase?
LEX 18’s Angie Beavin talked to professionals in the mental health field to look into the issue.
“The teenage years are a time when kids work on finding their identity, developing independence from parents and so forth,” said Dr. Susan Slade.
Slade is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. She said that in recent years, the pressures teens face are more often leading to other problems.
“We have lots of teenagers struggling with anxiety, and then some develop depression,” she said. “I do think we are seeing more of it.”
Dr. Slade is not the only doctor noting an increase in teens facing these problems. In Psychologist Kellie Jones’ office, she says she’s seeing the same thing.
“Overwhelmingly, the children and the teenagers that I work with suffer from anxiety and depression,” said Jones.
Jones’ and Slade’s accounts reflect a nationwide trend.
A Pew Research Center study of 1,000 teens ages 13-17 found that an overwhelming 70% said that anxiety and depression is the most critical issue facing themselves or their peers. Compare that to the only 55% of them citing bullying as an issue, and even less concerning drugs and/or alcohol.
So, why are mental health professionals seeing more anxiety or depression in teens?
Pressures from school, college prep, and sports are one thing, but the pressure teens face socially may be the greatest. While they are more connected to their phones than ever before, some are more disconnected from people.
“Our kids are spending a great deal of time on screens, and not only does that disrupt their sleep, but it does not encourage to be involved in other things in their life, where they’re actually social, when they’re with other people,” said Jones.
While there are pressures with social media, Slade says there is also a biological component.
“You’ve got to combine the individual child, their individual life experiences, and then you certainly have the biological component, too. some families are more prone to having individuals developing anxiety and depression,” said Slade.
“Kids who already have a genetic tendency toward depression and anxiety have a real difficult time coping with some of those stressors that they’re facing now,” said Jones. “Sometimes it’s hard for them to function or even attend school, when it gets so severe.”
Slade said that the most important thing to note is that depression and anxiety in teens are treatable and often that treatment is successful.
“The most important thing we do when we get older like I am, and you realize, of all the things you could do in life, the most important thing you could do is to help raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids,” said Slade.
More cases of depression and anxiety, as well as other mental health disorders, may be diagnosed now because we are more aware of them and there is more willingness to talk about these problems.
Jones said that more and more teens and their families are taking mental illness seriously, and more teens are seeking treatment.
“Whenever it starts to get to the point where it’s interrupting their functioning, we really need to take it serious,” she said. “There’s really a push for kids to get identified and to be able to access services.”
Slade said that she’s seeing more awareness as well.
“There’s been a mental health stigma issue since, the beginning of time, I suppose. I do seem some element of more awareness and more willingness to talk about it,” said Slade.
Many parents wonder what they need to look out for.
“If your teenager isn’t participating in enjoyable things that they normally would participate in. If there are sleep patterns change. If their appetite changes. If they’re experiencing not only sad mood but irritable or angry moods. If they’re isolating and withdrawing,” said Jones.