Anxiety and Depression in Teenage Girls

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

Both the mother and father had noticed that their teenage daughter had slowly been withdrawing from various activities that she had enjoyed. First she quit the soccer team and now the academic team. She no longer asked to go out with her friends on the weekend and it was all her parents could do to get her out of the house.

When her parents asked her about it or tried to encourage her to go out, their daughter would get angry and yell at them. They were getting worried about what was happening to their daughter. However, her parents thought that it can be normal for teenagers to experience some depressed mood from time to time. They wondered at what point should they intervene.

In this case, the parents’ worry is warranted as their daughter is likely experiencing depression. As girls enter adolescence, their risk of developing depression or anxiety rises. While only 3-5% of children develop depression or anxiety, adolescent girls’ rate increases to 14-20%. This is close to the adult rate for these disorders. This means parents need to be vigilant for signs of these disorders.

One of the first signs of depression can be the withdrawal from activities the teenager previously enjoyed. Other changes in mood can be evident such as increased sadness or irritability. This was seen when the daughter got angry with her parents and yelled at them.

In depression, there are also distinctive behavioral changes. These include changes in appetite, energy level, academic performance, and sleep patterns. For example, a teenager might go from a normal appetite to eating either too much or too little. They also might start sleeping excessively or hardly sleeping at all. The important part for parents is whether these changes are different from the teenager’s normal behavior.

Anxiety is another disorder to be concerned about. It is a naturally occurring response by the body when it is in under threat and some anxiety is to be expected as a teenager. Yet some teenagers’ reactions to threats are out of proportion with the actual threat. This can start to interfere with the teens’ day to day functioning as they begin to withdraw due to fear or anxiety surrounding a situation. These fears continue despite parental reassurances.

After a while, the teenagers’ anxiety can start to shape their life and those around them. The teenagers will base what activities they do and what friends they are comfortable with around their anxieties. Friends and families will slowly accommodate and change to their behaviors too. However, this is not a good way to live as the world becomes smaller and smaller the longer the anxieties and fear are allowed fester.

When parents begin to suspect that their teenage daughter has depression or anxiety, then early intervention is essential. The longer symptoms continue, the more difficult the disorders can become to treat.

In addition, depression and anxiety significantly interfere with teenagers’ development. It can put them behind both academically and socially as other teens continue to develop their skills. This can lead to lifelong issues. If your teenager has signs of depression or anxiety, contact a mental health professional such as a psychologist or counselor to start therapy. These professionals can provide teenagers skills to help them combat the symptoms and feeling better.

This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on March 25, 2016.

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