When to worry and when to wait? When is a child, teenager or young adult experiencing normal sadness or anxiety and when is it tipping over to a serious problem that needs help?

It’s not always easy to tell, in particular, during the adolescent years, when emotional ups and downs are as much a part of teenage life as texting.

But it’s important to know that depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health issues parents and teachers need to be on the lookout for. About five percent of children and teenagers suffer from depression at any given point in time, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The Academy offers some signs of potentially serious depression:

  • Has a child or teen who is normally outgoing become socially withdrawn?
  • Has he/she lost interest in activities or hobbies that he/she once enjoyed?
  • Does he/she frequently complain of physical symptoms like stomach or headaches?
  • Does he/she have a major change in eating and/or sleeping patterns?

When to worry and when to wait? When is a child, teenager or young adult experiencing normal sadness or anxiety and when is it tipping over to a serious problem that needs help?

It’s not always easy to tell, in particular, during the adolescent years, when emotional ups and downs are as much a part of teenage life as texting.

It’s important to realize that not all signs of depression involve sadness. A depressed child, teen or young adult can be hostile or act out, such as ditching school or running away from home.

“Because the youngster may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression,” the Academy states.

So what to do? Get professional help as soon as possible from a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. Many schools have their own social workers and psychologists, who can either provide help themselves or refer to outside sources. Your pediatrician can also offer resources.

Serious anxiety is another illness that can be difficult to pinpoint.

“Anxiety becomes a disorder when it interferes with a child’s ability to handle everyday situations or prompts him or her to avoid things that most children in the same age group enjoy,” according to the Child Mind Institute, which provides information, resources and clinical care for children and teens struggling with psychiatric and learning disorders.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25 percent of 13-18 years olds have some kind of anxiety disorder, and almost six percent have severe anxiety disorders.

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