We all get anxious from time to time – when we have to take an exam for example, or if we have to give a talk in public. This short-term type of anxiety is useful because it makes us feel more alert and improves our performance. But…if anxiety stays at a high level for a long time, it can make it difficult to get on with life.
Anxiety or feeling stressed out often happens before depression. It is defined by feelings of fear, unrest, agitation and insecurity. As anxiety increases so does the chance of depression. This is circular – as clinical depression increases the feelings of anxiety, which in turn shows itself more in a worrying, ruminative, obsessive state of mind.
Anxiety is the most common emotion we experience and the most common form of disorder in childhood and in adult years. At some stage in life everyone will feel anxious most commonly when faced with difficult or new situations. Everyone can relate to symptoms of anxiety or fear and experience symptoms such as breathing becoming shallow, sweating, heart beating faster, butterflies in their stomach and dry mouth.
All children and teenagers experience anxiety as part of their normal development and there are appropriate fears to feel at different developmental stages – e.g. a fear of the dark at three years old. Like depression, anxiety becomes a problem when it goes on for a long time and prevents the young person from enjoying their life. This is when anxiety can lapse into depression. About 25% 8 year old and 21.7% 17 year olds report with anxiety. It is more common in girls than boys.
Most people, including children and adults feel low occasionally. This is a normal reaction to events that are stressful or upsetting. It is even more common for teenagers to be affected by a range of moods, particularly feeling ‘blue’.
However, sometimes these feelings continue and become an illness, which will then start to affect your teenager negatively. This illness is depression. Depression can affect children as young as eleven although it is less common in the younger age group. Clinical depression, requiring appropriate treatment is thought to affect around every 5 out of 100 teenagers.