You are currently viewing Anxiety/depression in children and teenagers: listen to them carefully

Anxiety/depression in children and teenagers: listen to them carefully

Psychological distress refers to a range of experiences and symptoms that maybe viewed as troubling, confusing or out of the ordinary. According to the World Health Organization report, one in every four children in the age range of 13 to 15 suffer from depression in India and two-third parents either miss or fail to recognize these signs of depression. In a study done on high school students in Kolkata, it was found out that academic stress and parental pressure is a potential factor in developing psychiatric illnesses in individuals. The signs of depression can manifest in several ways such as an unhealthy preoccupation with depressive thoughts, persistent low mood, diminished interest in academic and extracurricular activities, lack of appetite and subsequent weight loss, lethargy, inattention, easy distractibility and low concentration. Since depression can have a deterring impact on the child’s academic record and social interactions, it might further isolate the individual and hamper their mental health to a greater extent

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Anxiety is a negative emotion that can persistently affect one’s health and lead to physical ailments. If a child cannot cope with daily and academic stressors, the anxiety can be crippling, gradually pushing one towards a nervous breakdown. It is to be noted that according to 2015 data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 8934 (6.7% of all suicides) students are committing suicide every year in India, which amounts to the death of one student every hour.

Anxiety can reflect in one’s behaviour in several ways, such as restlessness, fatigue, sleep disturbance. The child may be avoidant of stepping out of the house or consistently fail to speak in specific social situations. Anxiety in stepping out of one’s comfort zone can abruptly bring forth an episode of panic attack which is characterized by physical uneasiness, such as shortness of breath, sweating, shaking, choking, nausea and unsteadiness. These red flags in the behaviour mean that a child requires psychological counselling and professional help. Anxiety regarding the future in the current economic and environmental scenario is a legitimate concern and the awareness about the same is the most crucial step towards helping children in mitigating such negative emotions.

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The clinical mental health practitioner’s major concern is that several other mental disorders co-occur with both depression and anxiety such as eating disorder, conduct disorder and neuro developmental disorder. Therefore, addressing these issues at an early stage is necessary to treat and help build resilience in dealing with the same as well as boosting emotional stability and confidence. Counselling provides the child a safe-space to identify, address and work through the conflicts and crises one is facing without the fear of prejudgment. The therapist is an unbiased and impartial presence in whom the child can confide. Once their problems are recognized, through motivational training and stress management, children can uncover insights into their problems, and maintain their habit of solution-focused problem solving as well as effective emotional regulation in the face of difficult emotional demands.

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Additionally, in the cutting-edge generation of the young minds getting bombarded with a torrent of information, the fear of missing out also creates significant level of anxiety and peer-pressure to prove one’s capabilities. In a counselling set-up, the therapist can bring to the knowledge of the child the various avenues of self-exploration, upliftment and growth, thereby enabling the child to make well-informed decisions. Counselling also helps with identifying key challenges to self-agency, academic difficulties, and time management and learning effective strategies to solving them. Besides psychological counselling, career counselling can help students find their calling and this effectively engages one’s mind, thus reduces the trauma of continuing a career dispassionately. The expert clinical eye of a therapist does not miss minute details and can probe into deeper problems the child might face in school, such as bullying and torture. Through projective tests and psychological assessments an accurate and holistic picture of the personality attributes, psychological functioning and intellectual abilities can be gauged to help the individual and provide necessary social support or psychiatric referral.

With the exponential growth of mental health burden on the world economy, there is greater need for having open discussions regarding the opinions of young individuals, their romantic interests, academic aspirations and imparting sex education to children and young adolescents at a very young age. In that context, a viable source of change and satisfactory resolution is the attitude of the parents and the home environment the child is exposed to. Thus, active involvement of the parents in the counselling process helps to bring to the knowledge of the therapist the potential stressors for the child as well as brainstorming ideas of reducing the same. In most households with both parents being involved in an occupation outside the house, the time for attending to the queries and complaints of the child becomes hard to balance with professional demands to cater to. Hence, besides child counselling, family counselling helps bring on board the seminal topics that are ignored or overlooked at the domestic level. Failing to do so can escalate to greater problems such as severe separation anxiety, trust issues, substance abuse, and excessive obsession with perfection, suicidal thoughts in the adolescent and even the onset of psychotic disorders.

Therefore, parents should always encourage their children to engage in frank conversations about their feelings and not shy away from seeking a psychologist’s help in case that is deemed essential for the mental stability and wholesome development of the child. Given that depression is a difficult and sensitive issue to discuss with parents and the limited ability of children to express such intense emotions, parents need to be more conscious and well-aware of the early signs of depression in their children. Hence, the need to psycho-educate parents is crucial, so that they are open to accept and acknowledge the need of therapeutic intervention.

In conclusion, it must be reiterated and emphasized upon that childhood depression and academic anxiety are not negligible issues and must be given the importance it deserves. A healthy mind will ensure a healthier future and psychological counselling provides an edge towards that goal. If you know anyone who needs help kindly contact us on +919073372300 for the best child counsellor in Kolkata


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