Children and Adolescents

Any person, at any age, can present with a unique set of challenges.

Children can develop anxiety at an early age. Signs of separation anxiety can be seen as early as six months of age, into the childhood years where there is a fear of being separated from an attachment figure, usually a parent. Around age five, children may display a form of social anxiety known as selective mutism, where they are observed to avoid speaking in social situations, even though the speak normally in other situations. By age seven onward, specific phobias may be noticed, such as the free of specific objects or situations that is out of proportion to any real risk. Common specific phobias involve the fear of specific things in one’s environment such as birds, insects, water, blood or specific situations such as going to the doctor, getting needles, being in confined spaces or being exposed to certain sounds. Around age eight and into the teen years, further forms of social anxiety can develop, where the child or teen fears being negatively perceived by others, embarrassed, humiliated or rejected, or fears offending others, to the extent that they avoid social interactions. This often continues into adulthood and can result in dropping out of school, avoiding applying for a job, certain jobs or a promotion within one’s place of employment, reduced income and reduced enjoyment of life due to avoidance of social interactions. Social anxiety may be very specific, such as the fear of eating infont of others or speaking infront of others.

Even specific situations, such as bullying, can lead to anxiety at any age.

Many of the anxieties and maladaptive behaviours that children experience can continue into adolescence or can appear for the first time during the adolescent years of life.

Adolescence is a challenging period in life where young people are struggling to find some semblance of self, identity, personal image, social status (including social media status), financial responsibility, academic and career direction, friendship, love, etc.  

Adolescents can experience a wide range of mental health issues. When multiple issues are combined, activities of daily life, school or work and social engagement can seem exceedingly difficult, and in some cases, even impossible.

Any form of anxiety, depression or psychological disorder can increase your child or teen’s struggle with many day-to-day aspects of life.  Whether they are struggling with self-awareness, self-esteem, body image, social issues, ineffective behaviours, lack of motivation, family conflict or psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, OCD, fears or phobias, it is important for them to learn skills to maximize their mental wellness.

Supporting adolescents in developing awareness of their maladaptive behaviours and positive coping skills is important for their future mental health outcomes. A study published in BMC Psychiatry in 2019[1] investigated outcomes in over 23,000 adolescents reporting anxiety between the ages of 15 and 21.  The researchers reported that adolescents who reported anxiety had a 29% risk for a future psychiatric outcome, 40% or greater risk for developing an anxiety disorder and 38% or greater risk for developing depressive disorders.  Often, mental health disorders co-exist. Jafferany et al. (2019) found that adolescents with body dysmorphic disorder were more likely to experience comorbid psychiatric issues including anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and substance abuse[2]. Family history is also important.  Wickersham et al. (2020) found an association between adolescent depression and anxiety and the mental health of either their mothers or their fathers, in equal measure[3]. A study of 862 adolescent girls who reported feeling depressed or anxious found that these feelings were related to their perception of their parents’ psychopathology (Raising et al., 2015)[4].

It’s natural for parents to have a hard time accepting that their child has a mental health issue.  

Sometimes, parents think their child or adolescent is acting out to get attention. Other times, parents feel the symptoms will simply go away. However, it is important to acknowledge and address mental health issues of children and adolescents as early as possible.  Research in the United States indicates that depression and anxiety affects 20% of children and adolescents, and that many of them do not receive treatment (Melnyk, 2020)[5].  The author reported a cost of $14,262 per hospitalization related to untreated anxiety or depression, but it is not possible to measure the personal and emotional cost when you or your loved ones are struggling with mental health issues. 

Take steps today to help your child or teen develop effective coping skills, self-awareness and strategies for maximizing their mental wellness.  Contact us for a confidential phone consultation to discuss how our services can help you and your family.

[1] Doering, S., Lichtenstein, P., Gillberg, C. et al. Anxiety at age 15 predicts psychiatric diagnoses and suicidal ideation in late adolescence and young adulthood: results from two longitudinal studies. BMC Psychiatry 19, 363 (2019) doi:10.1186/s12888-019-2349-3

[2] Jafferany M, Osuagwu FC, Khalid Z, Oberbarnscheidt T, Roy N. Prevalence and clinical characteristics of body dysmorphic disorder in adolescent inpatient psychiatric patients-a pilot study. Nord J Psychiatry. 2019 May – Jul;73(4-5):244-247. doi: 10.1080/08039488.2019.1612943. Epub 2019 May 10.

[3] Wickersham, A., Leightley, D., Archer, M., & Fear, N. T. (2020). The association between paternal psychopathology and adolescent depression and anxiety: A systematic review. Journal of Adolescence, 79, 232–246. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2020.01.007

[4] Rasing, S. P. A., Creemers, D. H. M., Janssens, J. M. A. M., & Scholte, R. H. J. (2015). The association between perceived maternal and paternal psychopathology and depression and anxiety symptoms in adolescent girls. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00963

[5] Melnyk, B. M. (2020). Reducing Healthcare Costs for Mental Health Hospitalizations With the Evidence-based COPE Program for Child and Adolescent Depression and Anxiety: A Cost Analysis. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 34(2), 117–121. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2019.08.002