Is it a bad mood or something else?

What to do if your teen girl is depressed or anxious

All teenage girls have mood swings and have times when they are emotionally off-balance. But sometimes these mood swings become long-lasting and impede all aspects of a teen girl’s life. Depression and anxiety can be debilitating, but it can be easily treated if caught soon enough.    

Know the signs

What we tend to see with depression is a general withdrawal from activities they formerly enjoyed doing. For girls who are depressed, they tend to spend hours by themselves rather than with their family or peers. Long bouts of irritability and anger are also very common. In extreme cases, girls can develop eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia and they may also have suicidal or self-harming thoughts.

Anxiety disables the young girl from engaging in activities she would not usually struggle with—for instance, academic scenarios where there is a lot of stress, such as papers, tests and finals.

Anxiety can also present itself in ways that appear controlling on the girl’s part and can make it difficult for them to function in social and academic settings given their overwhelming feeling of failure. Many girls struggle with the need to be perfect in both academic and social settings, which makes it impossible to maintain a healthy perspective on learning, growing and developing their emotional and academic skills.

Often times, we see girls struggle with both depression and anxiety, as these disorders lend themselves to one another. Feeling sad and overwhelmed and not really knowing how to handle these feelings can lead to feeling anxious about their daily existence. Girls consequently feel anxious about every area in their lives and can feel an extreme sadness.

How to treat anxiety and depression in girls

Find a therapist that will work with your teenager using cognitive behavioral therapy. Most anxiety and depression disorders can be treated by talking through the feelings, understanding and recognizing their source, and working out ways to cope and handle them.

For adolescents, so much of what they do is for the first time, so they do not have a “bag of tricks” they can use to help them cope in difficult times. Therapists can help through validation and help them to process these issues.

It is important to find a therapist who not only specializes in adolescents, but also one who has a good rapport with your girl. Girls need to feel accepted, understood and validated, as many say they do not feel that way either at home or school when they are dealing with depression and anxiety.

In some cases, the symptoms are so debilitating that medication may be the best option. It is important parents seek out clinicians who work closely with psychiatrists so that if medication is necessary, the therapist and psychiatrist are working in tandem.

Most girls work through brief bouts of depression and anxiety, but it is important to recognize those times when the symptoms become long-lasting and impede their normal lives. We all know that adolescence is a difficult time, but it does not have to be absolutely miserable for them – or for you. 

Tracey Tucker is Executive Director of New Heights: Adventures for Teens and a licensed mental health counselor at Tradeport Counseling Associates in Portsmouth.


Categories: Raising Teens & Tweens