Mind Over Mood: How We Help Children With Anxiety and Depression

According to The National Institute Of Mental Health, 13.1% of children ages 8-15 have a diagnosable mental illness. Although, the majority of children studied, (8.6%), were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (more commonly known as ADHD), approximately 3.7% of those children were diagnosed with a mood disorder, such as Anxiety or Depression.

Symptoms of Depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

And in children, Depression can look like:

  • Drop in grades
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Trouble with friends
  • Substance abuse
  • Withdrawal from groups, after-school activities

Anxiety shares some of the symptoms of depression, but it usually comes with increased worry, and possibly fear of a specific situation or event. In children, it can bring increased irritability, acting-out, and headaches and/or stomach-aches.

Despite the prevalence of these disorders, it is thought that 80% of children with anxiety, and 60% of children with depression are not receiving treatment! This is a shame since these disorders are incredibly treatable. Most professionals agree that a combination of therapy and medication provide the best treatment for childhood mood disorders, however, depending on the severity of your child’s symptoms, medication may not be necessary.

The therapeutic component of treatment will likely be some form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps kids choose healthier thoughts and actions to help them feel better. Here’s an example of how this works: Let’s say your child, who we’ll call Bob, is plagued by thoughts of worthlessness and self-disgust. Using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, we would help your child identify the thoughts that he is having; thoughts like: “I’m bad at everything,” “No one likes me,” and “I can’t do anything right.” Next, we would help Bob come up with some better things to say to himself. Maybe he would tell himself that he is doing the best that he can, or that he is really great at remembering all of the story lines in Disney Movies. We would help Bob come up with phrases that make him feel good about himself, and the things that he can do.

Next, we might focus on behaviors. If Bob was having trouble falling asleep at night, we might teach him some mindfulness or meditation techniques, to help him drift off into dreamland. Whatever behaviors Bob was having trouble with, we’d offer possible solutions.
The best part is that CBT is backed by science, so you can be sure that your child is getting research evidenced treatment that works!

If you would like to learn more about how we help children with Mood Disorders and Anxiety, contact us. We are here for you!