Anxiety & Depression
What is Anxiety?
A child may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder when he or she does not outgrow typical fears evident in small children.
Anxiety can interfere with a child’s ability to function successfully at school, home, or other activities due to emotional symptoms (excessive fear or worrying, irritability and anger) or physical symptoms (insomnia, fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches).
Different categories of anxiety include separation anxiety, phobias, social anxiety, general anxiety, and panic disorder. Anxiety can also be coupled with depression.
What is Depression?
Feelings of excessive sadness, helplessness or hopelessness are the main markers of depression, and may appear along with anxiety.
Some clues that may indicate depression in a child are irritability; eating and/or sleeping significantly more or less than usual; unusual fatigue or sluggishness; restlessness; difficulty paying attention; expressing feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, or guilt; and evidence of physical self-injury or self-destructive behaviors.
It is important to contact your pediatrician if you suspect your child may be depressed, since severe depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and planning for suicide.
How Do They Test for Anxiety & Depression?
A careful evaluation from a pediatrician or mental health specialist is the first step. These physicians implement a variety of strategies to evaluate children, like interviewing the child and his or her parents and teachers; self-reporting questionnaires completed by the child; rating scales completed by parents and teachers; and behavioral observations.
Management: What You Can Do to Help Your Child
Your physician can build a treatment plan for your child that may include:
Behavior Therapy. Individual and/or family behavior therapy can help by reinforcing positive behaviors that lessen depression and anxiety while discouraging unwanted behaviors that negatively impact your child’s mental health.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. A cognitive-behavioral therapist will help your child develop mental tools that change negative thoughts into more positive ways of thinking as well as strategies for coping with and managing symptoms.
Medication. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for children since they are non-addictive and have relatively few side effects. They work by increasing the brain chemical serotonin, a natural mood stabilizer. Closely monitor your child when taking any type of medication.
School Accommodations: A child with anxiety and/or depression has the legal right to educational accommodations under a 504 Plan or, for children who qualify for special education services, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Below is a list of some classroom accommodations that help provide educational equity in the classroom:
- Providing Seating Where the Student is Most Comfortable
- Allowing Breaks (taking a walk or completing coloring pages)
- Breaking Down Longer Assignments into Smaller Pieces
- Modifying Tests and Homework
Interventions at Home:
- Hire a One-on-One Tutor. An experienced tutor like ours here at TestingMom.com can meet with your child regularly to help manage school assignments that may seem overwhelming; tutor in educational skills and concepts he or she needs a little more time to master; and reinforce organizational skills and routines that lessen stress by creating and helping your child maintain checklists. Contact Testing Mom today! Call (813) 544-3833 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For younger children, Social Emotional Gifted Learning Flashcards from Testing Mom can be extremely helpful in talking through difficult social and emotional situations, identifying feelings, calming themselves and handling their feelings. These are available on Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Gifted-Learning-Flash-Cards-Kindergarten/dp/B07DV16N48?ref_=ast_sto_dp
- Provide a Healthy Lifestyle. Children will feel better mentally and physically if they eat nutritious, healthy food; participate in regular physical activities; and get a sufficient amount of sleep each night.
- Establish Predictable Routines. Create and maintain routines for snacks, homework, free time, dinner, school backpack organization, bedtime, etc., to reduce stress.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) website for more information, including risk factors for anxiety and depression and helpful resources for parents: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html
Some information contained here was sourced from the CDC and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI):
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Anxiety and Depression in Children. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (2022). Assessing and Treating Child Anxiety in Schools. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5538375/