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Recognizing the Signs of Anxiety and Depression in Children

​​​It is estimated that nearly 5 million people in the United States alone suffer from some type of serious mental illness. Children are not immune with an estimated 3.2% of all American children and adolescents suffering from depression. Anxiety also ranks a close second to depression in kids ages 12-17.

According to Bridget Barnes, Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® expert, untreated depression and anxiety in kids can become serious problems in adult life. That is why it is so important for parents to recognize the signs and help their kids to work through it.

“Parents often ask me, what causes today's kids to be so depressed and anxious," said Barnes. “The reasons are as different as the kids themselves, but we do notice similar triggers." 

According to Barnes, some of  the most common triggers include:

  • Excessive use of social media
  • Feeling left out
  • Feeling stressed out
  • Difficulty coping with loss or death
  • Violence in today's world

The important first step in helping your kids to deal with these issues is to be aware of the signs.

Signs of Depression

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of engagement
  • Reduced energy
  • Isolating – staying away from others

Signs of Anxiety

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not sleeping well or having bad dreams
  • Not eating properly
  • Outbursts
  • Worried and tense
  • Negative thoughts

“Every child is different, and some kids show virtually no signs," said Barnes. “That makes it hard, but as parents you know your kids best and if something doesn't seem quite right, be sure to have a conversation. Also, if your child tells you that they feel either depressed or anxious, act on it immediately and get them the help that they need."

A good place to start when seeking help for your child is with your pediatrician or the behavior specialist at your child's school. Another helpful tip is to teach your child grounding techniques to use when they feel anxious or depressed like taking deep breaths or getting some exercise.

If you have confirmed that your child is depressed or suffering from anxiety, Boys Town can provide many valuable resources to help you including our Common Sense Parenting classes and parenting guides, articles, videos, tools and quick tips on a variety of subjects. The Boys Town National Hotline® at (800-448-3000), is a 24/7 crisis line, staffed by specially trained Crisis Counselors who listen, provide support and offer additional resources nationwide when needed.  For more information, visit