Adolescence is a plethora of changes, trials, and moments of growth. We are influenced by our peers, family, and social media, as we attempt to discover more about who we are, what we want, and what we will become. These questions are hard enough by themselves, but, as many teens are unfortunately discovering, their difficulty can increase ten-fold in the midst of a universal pandemic.
The trauma of change and uncertainty
Your teen was likely pulled out of public school in lieu of a quarantined, online classroom in late March. Everyday activities like going to the movies or hanging out with friends became dangerous, even lethal. A dependence on electronics became greater than ever seen before, as, for many still, the internet is their strongest tie to the social world. Email, FaceBook, or Twitter are the means by which you and your child learned of increasing cases, increasing hazards, and increasingly cancelled activities. With all these cancellations naturally come feelings of disappointment and grief.
Further than that, we are also in an era of confusion for what comes next – a graduated senior may be wondering if it’s worth going away to college if they have to spend their freshman year taking class in an overpriced dorm room. Those still in high school may be afraid of what going back to school will look like and what kind of risk they will be taking if they are forced to jeopardize their health for a minimal amount of social contact and in-person learning. There has been a loss of freedom, dreams, and plans for the future. We simply do not know what that looks like anymore.
The pandemic is affecting anyone and everyone, but for teens who are developing their identities in the middle of a storm, it can have an even greater negative influence. In an article from NPR, psychiatrist Dr. Ludmila De faria points out that many of the cancelled events are “developmental milestones,” and when these events are missed, “[teens] are forced to regress a little bit, or at least not progress as expected on their developmental milestone.”
With this comes feelings of a lack of control and being held back that pile on top of the grief, and in American society, where everything is fast-paced and some are shamed for falling behind, these emotions can be a lot to process. They may result in a lack of motivation, or overall hopelessness.
Stress, Grief, and Fear are Key Triggers for Anxiety and Depression
The CDC notes that the pandemic can increase stressors, reminding us just how important it is to take care of mental health at this time. Specifically with the influences of grief and fear, the COVID-19 pandemic may be a trigger for anxiety or depression in anyone – including your teen.
So, what are some signs and symptoms you may watch for in your adolescent?
- Are they irritable?
- Are they spending more and more time alone?
- Do you notice them losing interest in things they typically enjoy?
- Do they seem constantly fatigued?
- Are their physical movements slower than usual?
- Have their eating and sleeping habits changed?
These are some signs that are commonly observed for depression.
Internally, they may feel hopeless, worthless, unmotivated, sad, empty, restless, or have suicidal thoughts.
- Are they tired and easily annoyed?
- Are they restless?
- Do they have trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating?
- Are they experiencing emotions of intense, uncontrollable worry?
These are some of the symptoms of anxiety.
Further Reading: Depression, Anxiety
For a full list of the criteria for depression and anxiety, you can visit the website of the National Institute of Mental Health (Teen Depression and Anxiety Disorders). If you are concerned and see some of these signs and symptoms of adolescent depression and teen anxiety, please reach out to us at Health and Healing Therapy so we can be a resource for you and your family.
In noticing these potential symptoms in your child, communication is key. You may assume things are much worse than they actually are, or you may not find any signs while your child is greatly suffering inside. Be open with your teen and ask them how they are doing – they may not always been willing to talk about their emotions, but show them they have your support by being kind and showing interest in their wellbeing.
Talk to your Teen
If you find they are feeling anxious or depressed, ask them about how you can best help so things can improve. Whether it means eliminating stressors, like turning off a TV always broadcasting bad news, getting melatonin to help with sleep, or seeing a therapist, let them know they have options so they can feel and be their best.
Ask for Help
If you and/or your teen believe that talking to someone could help, one of our counselors who specialize in teen and adolescent issues at Health and Healing Therapy would be happy to work with you and your family. You can reach out by calling or completing our online form.
Also, know that your adolescent’s “best” right now may look different from before, as might yours and the “bests” of those around you. Try your best to be patient with your teen, and hold onto realizing they are doing their best, as we all are. Prioritize and remember that other things can and may need to wait until your teen is feeling better.