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The Pandemic and Teenage Mental Health: How to Help Your Teen Cope

Being a teenager can feel overwhelming, stressful, and downright hard – even in the best of times. But the COVID-19 pandemic has piled on a whole slew of never-before-seen challenges and pressure for today’s teens.

 

The disconnection, uncertainty, fear, and disruption of normal day-to-day life have weighed heavily on many teens – creating a massive surge in teens struggling with pandemic-related depression and anxiety. With an alarming number of young people grappling with their mental health, many teens and parents are struggling, unsure of how to cope and move forward.

 

In this blog post, we’re going to explore this surge in pandemic-related teen anxiety and depression, and most importantly, we’ll cover some crucial steps you can take to address these life-disrupting mental health challenges. 

How Has COVID Affected Teenage Mental Health?

Lockdowns, quarantines, isolation, and closures turned many people’s worlds upside down. But for teenagers, these shut-downs and separation from the outside world occurred during some of their most formative years – creating a unique set of struggles such as:

 

 

So it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a massive surge in teenagers struggling with their mental health.

Youth Depression and Anxiety During the Pandemic

Teens' growing brains are much more vulnerable to stress and traumatic events. Teen brains are simply biologically wired to be less resilient than adult brains. Throughout the pandemic, and as we begin to transition back to “normal” life, many teens report an increase in feelings of:

 

 

While it’s difficult to know the true extent of the pandemic on teen mental health, it’s evident that the stress and transitions of the pandemic have eroded the mental well-being of many teenagers. And with a growing number of teens being diagnosed with post-pandemic anxiety and depression, it’s important to understand exactly what these conditions entail and how to spot them. 

 

So, let’s explore teen depression and anxiety a little more in-depth.

What Does Depression Do to the Teenage Brain?

During adolescence, the teenage brain is still under construction. This means teen brains are structurally different from adults and depression can have an even more pronounced impact. Some of the changes that take place in the brain during depression include:1,2,3

 

 

These changes in the brain can result in symptoms like:4

 

 

Now let’s explore another mental health challenge a number of teens are facing – anxiety disorders.

What Are the Signs of Anxiety In a Teenager?

The hallmark of any anxiety disorder is a feeling of nervousness or fear that just doesn’t seem to go away. Teens are particularly vulnerable to anxiety disorders because their brains' neural structures and connections are still developing. This makes it much harder for teen brains to process emotions and manage intense feelings of stress and fear.

 

But as a teen or the parent of a teen, it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between the normal emotional changes that come with adolescence and when it's time to seek help. All teens struggle with feeling nervous about an upcoming event or worry about fitting in with their peers. But sometimes these feelings tip the scale and become a concern. 

 

Exactly how anxiety presents itself and what triggers these intense feelings of discomfort can vary significantly and may include:5,6

 

 

Sometimes anxiety and depression can present on their own and other times teens may experience both. So what can we do to help teens cope with and recover from anxiety and depression?

How Do You Help a Teenager With Anxiety and Depression?

The good news is, there are a plethora of ways to help teens that are grappling with depression, anxiety, or both. Oftentimes, if you visit your general practitioner, conventional treatment for both depression and anxiety will include behavior therapy, and in some cases, medication. 

 

Behavioral therapy is a type of therapy led by a mental health professional that can help teens:

 

 

Prescribed medications may include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or a combination of both. While these treatment options can certainly be a good place to start, sometimes they simply aren’t enough. And in some cases, teens and parents may be hesitant about ongoing medications and how they can impact developing brains.

 

Fortunately, there are some additional steps you can take that can have a potent impact on beating teen depression and anxiety.

How Else Can Teens Cope With Anxiety and Depression?

It's Important to remember that both anxiety and depression are treatable conditions. It may take some trial and error paired with some time and effort. But with the right strategies and tools, managing and overcoming teen anxiety and depression is entirely possible.

 

Some additional strategies and coping skills that can have a monumental impact on teen depression and anxiety include:

Lifestyle Modifications and Addressing Underlying Imbalances

Mental health is not separate from overall health. Some things that can majorly impact mental health and trigger or exacerbate the symptoms of depression and anxiety include:

 

 

Taking a big-picture, holistic approach and addressing any underlying imbalances can make a world of difference in managing mental health issues. Partnering with a practitioner that specializes in functional medicine can help identify any underlying imbalances and help create a personalized plan to address teen depression and anxiety.

 

To learn more about the functional medicine approach, visit our Functional Medicine Q and A page.

Ketamine Infusion Therapy for Teen Depression

Ketamine infusion therapy has been found to be a safe and powerfully effective treatment for teen depression. In fact, it’s been found that a single infusion of ketamine can significantly reduce depressive symptoms within 24 hours of administration.7 

 

Ketamine infusion therapy works to treat depression in both the long term and the short term by stimulating what’s known as synaptic plasticity – the promotion of new neural connections in the brain. Ketamine's impressive ability to encourage new connections in the brain enhances communication amongst brain cells, improves brain function, and minimizes inflammation. 

 

To learn more about exactly how ketamine infusion therapy works to treat and even reverse the underlying cause of depression, head over and read the article How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Can Help Depression: What You Need to Know.

Stellate Ganglion Block for Teen Anxiety

A stellate ganglion block, also referred to as SGB, is a local anesthetic that can be injected into a collection of nerves known as the stellate ganglion. The injection of local anesthetic into this bundle of nerves is able to block the nerve impulses that create feelings of fear and anxiety in your body. This essentially calms the nervous system and dramatically reduces feelings of panic, worry, and fear that accompany anxiety disorders.8,9 

 

To learn more about stellate ganglion blocks and how they can be an integral part of treating anxiety disorders you can read through our Stellate Ganglion Block Q and A. 

Mindfulness, Meditation, and Breathwork 

The intentional practice of controlling your emotions and emotional responses can help “rewire” your brain – essentially training the brain to more easily access states of peace and calm. Some ways to reset and rewire these neural pathways include regularly practicing:

 

 

To learn more about breathwork and how it can help with feelings of anxiety and depression, click right here. 

Are You A Teen or the Parent of A Teenager Struggling With Depression or Anxiety?

The pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental health of teenagers across the country. Depression and anxiety can feel overwhelming and all-consuming – to not only teens but the whole family. If you’re a teen or the parent of a teenager concerned about depression or anxiety and searching for answers, don’t go at it alone.

 

Having guidance and the right tools can make a world of difference in navigating the challenges of any mental health obstacles. Our board-certified physicians and medical staff at Strive MD Wellness and Ketamine are well-versed in helping teens struggling with anxiety and/or depression. So if you’re ready to take the next step in overcoming post-pandemic depression or anxiety, please reach out and make an appointment.

"We see patients in the following locations: Skokie, Illinois, Chicago, Illinois, Miami Beach, Florida, Miami Florida, Frisco, Texas, Dallas, Texas, and surrounding areas of Illinois, Florida, and Texas. Call us to book your appointment today."

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