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Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health disorders. Although they're different, they often occur together and have similar treatments. But, sadly, they're not only found among adults but children as well.
Anxiety disorders and depression can be lifelong, but getting the right support from an early age helps the individual attain an optimal quality of life regardless.
The good thing is that it's pretty easy to detect anxiety and depression in children.
So, before discussing how to treat these mental health conditions, let's highlight how to know when your child is experiencing anxiety or depression.
Many children have fears and worries. It could be about losing a parent, being left alone in the bedroom, or having a phobia of dark rooms and insects. These things are normal. But when a child doesn't outgrow their typical childhood fears, instead the fears become more persistent and interfere with their activities and school; it could be a sign of anxiety disorder.
The following are examples of anxiety disorders in children:
It's common for anxiety to present itself as fear and worry, but it may also cause the child to become irritable. Fatigue, stomach aches, and sleeping problems are also symptoms of anxiety in children. Remember that a child can keep their worries to themselves, so you should watch out for these other physical symptoms.
Feeling sad and hopeless is something we have all experienced at some point. The problem is when that feeling becomes persistent and detracts from your ability to enjoy the good things of life.
When a child becomes persistently sad, uninterested in activities they once enjoyed, and start feeling hopeless, they may be experiencing depression.
A child with depression may behave in the following ways:
It's worthy of note that your child may be averse to talking about their problems. They may keep all their feelings of hopelessness, shame, and guilt to themselves, making their depression go unnoticed. But you won't fail to notice their lack of motivation, lethargy, and apathy for fun activities. These should be tell-tale signs that your child needs help.
The first step to treating a child with anxiety and depression is to discuss it with a mental health care provider or your child's GP. That's the best you can do as a parent because you can't treat your child's anxiety and depression by yourself.
It's also common for your child's anxiety or depressive symptoms to result from an underlying condition such as trauma or ADHD. Only a mental health specialist can dig deep enough to diagnose and treat the root cause of your child's condition.
Notably, parental support is key to treating anxiety and depression in children. So you'll have to get involved.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often an effective treatment for older children with anxiety and depression. It can help change the child's negative thoughts to more positive ones, giving them a positive outlook on life. This will help them see that not all their fears or imaginations will happen, at least not anytime soon. Careful assessment will also help determine if medication should be a part of the treatment.
Good food with lots of vitamins and breathing exercises can also help your child combat their anxieties. Make this your responsibility as their parent.