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Supporting Adolescents Struggling with Anxiety and Depression During COVID-19

Teenagers right now are experiencing a unique set of challenges that may be minimized. Adolescence is a developmental stage in which your social life and peer relationships are most influenced. This pandemic requires restrictions and adjustments that are out of the teenager's control, therefore it is important to recognize that this change is a loss of normalcy and expectations. This is a loss of the typical and expected social life, norms of engaging and achieving milestones that signify transitions such as attending proms, graduation ceremonies, and relocating to attend college.

It is not surprising that symptoms of depression and anxiety are increasing in this age group as adolescence is defined by individual growth, seeking independence, transitions affecting self-esteem and social connectivity and inclusivity. The absence of such avenues to achieve these developmental milestones can be a difficult adjustment.

Signs to be aware of:

Parents/caregivers should be aware of some of the typical signs indicating depression and anxiety including but not limited to teens displaying: increased frequency of isolation, irritability, frequent comments regarding sadness, negative statements, self-critical statements, overthinking, withdrawing, trouble focusing, lack of motivation, lack of energy, increased or decreased sleep, changes in appetite, hyperactivity, feeling tensed or keyed up, heart palpitations and trouble breathing.

Addressing your concerns:

It is important to cultivate a safe space for your teen to express their feelings, wants and concerns. Ask your teen to describe what they are experiencing, how they are feeling, how are their current experiences different from what they felt this same time last year or how they are adjusting to this pandemic. Ask your teen what do they miss the most and what do they feel like they need right now. Actively listen to your teen to understand, not to dismiss what they share with you. Avoid using minimizing language like "things could be worse." Understand that this pandemic represents a loss that does require grieving; help your teen feel validated in their feelings and process this loss with them.

Finding help:

Seek referrals from primary care physicians/pediatricians, insurance companies, personal referrals from friends/family or databases such as

If you are worried about your teen's immediate health and safety, contact 9-1-1, or take your teen to the nearest emergency room to be screened by licensed professionals.

Tips for continued support:

  • Engage in physical activity with your teen (going on walks, home workouts)

  • Engage in social activity (scheduling movie nights, cooking together, art projects, etc.)

  • Frequently check-in

  • Recognize that this is a tough time for them

  • Ask them how you can support them

  • Allow them space

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