At least once a week, a parent confesses to me that his or her teen is suffering with anxiety or depression. I’m not sure if it’s become an national epidemic but it sure feels like one. I remember checking in my son (14 years old at the time) at a three-week summer camp in New York and waiting in line to turn his anxiety meds over to a nurse. The line of teens waiting to do the same was so long that it startled me. It was the first time I realized the scope of mental health concerns and how many teens were on meds of one kind or another — whether for anxiety, depression or attention disorders.
So, when our guest blogger approached us about a post on mindfulness, I felt eager to learn more about it and how it could help our teens today. The author, Dr. Aristou Aminzadeh, is co-founder of BNI Treatment Centers, a mental health residential Teen Treatment Center for depression and anxiety. I think he offers some great insight.
According to the American Psychological Association, members of Gen Z are
significantly more likely to rate their mental health as fair or poor. The APA’s recent results from their “Stress in America” report revealed just how much current events or other stressors affect them. According to the report, 91% of Gen Z participants reported to have experienced at least one symptom of depression, and only half of the respondents felt they do not adequately manage their stress levels.
So, how teens can better process their thoughts, behaviors, and responses to stress in their daily lives?
Two of the most potent therapies for treating depression and anxiety are increasingly utilized in tandem. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps the teen recognize thought-behavior patterns that are causing negative consequences in their life and helps them shift toward more positive and constructive messaging, and Mindfulness Meditation, the purposeful centering of focus on the present moment. Now, they are merged to create mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MCBT), a type of psychotherapy that is very effective in treating teens with depression or anxiety disorders. By combining these two powerful elements, the resulting may revoke the need for medication for many teens.
How Mindfulness-CBT Helps Teens With Depression and Anxiety
When these two activities are combined the clinical results can be impressive. The mindfulness component of this therapy teaches the teen to become more aware of their thoughts getting away from them, and how that results in their symptoms of anxiety or depression. Mindfulness training can provide lifelong skills, taught and reinforced at a young age, that can be accessed throughout life as challenges emerge.
Combining the mindfulness with CBT shows the teen in real time how to gain control over runaway fears and shift the focus toward the present, where positive affirmations and relaxed breathing can help them bypass using any self-destructive means to manage triggers or stressors. Once the teen is equipped with MCBT skills, they can access these techniques at any time and in any place to bring about a more tranquil state of mind.
What Are the Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety Disorders
Teens who struggle with these common mental health disorders might exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Persistent sadness, low mood, feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Weight gain or loss
- Sleep problems
- Loss of interest in social activities, hobbies
- Problems concentration or making decisions
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Slowed cognitive or motor activity
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Excessive worry
- Muscle tension
- Sleep problems
How Can You Help Your Teen?
Once a teen is under the care of a physician or psychiatrist, there is a good chance that they will be provided with the means to manage the symptoms of anxiety or depression, and that stability will ensue. However, for some teens, this outpatient intervention is not adequate, as the symptoms continue to escalate and their quality of life deteriorates. Residential treatment centers for teens are designed for more severe cases and can be an ideal level of care to provide stabilization. An initial assessment over the phone or in person can help guide clinicians what level of care might be the best option.
Dr. Aristou Aminzadeh is a triple board certified physician in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and addiction medicine, and is the co-founder of BNI Treatment Centers in Southern California.