Adolescence is a time filled with immense change. Whether biological, psychological, or physical, practically every aspect of adolescence is immersed in transformation. These internal and external shifts can be overwhelmingly challenging. Due to a teen’s impulsivity and inexperience in managing difficult emotions, these dynamic developmental shifts can become a potential precursor to destructive coping mechanisms. 
Known to be a time filled with discovery and disorientation, adolescents explore independence and identity in new ways. These topics of self-awareness impact every aspect of a teenager’s development: gender identity, substance use, education, relationships, sexual, among others. 
But what happens when the world’s pandemic environment demands isolation, impacting teens’ ability to actively explore vital developmental stages? COVID-19 closures remove the important social interactions that are critical to adolescent development, stirring up troublesome emotions and mental health concerns far deeper than the expected dips in energy and emotional variations often seen in teens. 
COVID-19 Impact on Adolescent Mental Health: Statistics
Teenagers face multiple lifestyle changes that have upended their standard daily routines. Being isolated, depleted social interaction, exposure to high parental stress, and feelings of fear all contribute to rising rates in mental health prevalence in teens. According to a release from the University of Michigan (Preidt, 2021), researchers found alarming statistics showing that teens struggling to cope during the pandemic are not alone. Here are their findings:
- 46% of parents observe signs of worsening mental health in teen children
- 64% of parents report the pandemic negatively impacting their connection to peers
- 36% of teen girls and 19% of teen boys express feelings of anxiety
- 31% of teen girls and 18% of teen express feelings of depression
- 24% of teen girls and 21% of teen boys have negative sleep changes
- 14% of teen girls and 13% of teen boys have withdrawn from family
- 8% of teen girls and 9% of teen boys show increased aggressive behavior
The researchers also share that 64% of teenagers are “texting, using social media (56%), online gaming (43%), and talking on the phone (35%) every day of almost every day” (Preidt, 2021). 
Signs of Depression and Anxiety in Adolescents
The enormous weight laid on the shoulders of teens by the COVID-19 pandemic is a rising cause of concern. If you feel your child may be experiencing negative mental health changes, there are a few signs and symptoms to look out for.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Teens:
- Decreased energy
- Lost interest in enjoyable activities
- Persistent oversleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Spending more time alone
- Excessive dieting
- Engaging in self-harm
- Using substances
- Expressed feelings of sadness, hopelessness, panic, or anxiety
- Heightened irritability
- Increased destructive behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts or discussion
- Changes in appearance
- Decreased academic interest and success
Adolescent depression and anxiety are associated with decreased quality of life, increased stress levels, and in the most severe cases, suicide.  If you or your child currently experience any of the above symptoms, please seek assistance as soon as possible. You are not alone, and we are ready and able to support you.
How to Support Adolescent Mental Health During Covid-19
If you have concerns about your teenage child’s mental health, do not ignore them. Supporting them and seeking help is paramount to their healing, as early intervention is crucial. Whether you’re looking for new ways to support your child, or don’t know where to start, here are a few ideas to consider:
- Consult Your Pediatrician: Keeping up to date with your pediatrician is crucial at any time, especially during the pandemic. Your pediatrician can help you find ways to better ease the impact of COVID-19 on your teen’s mental health. Ask for their recommendations the next time you visit and be sure to allow alone time between your child and their doctor. This will help your teen feel more comfortable opening up about what they’re feeling. 
- Encourage Social Interaction: It may not always feel like it, but it is possible to interact with others and remain within COVID-19 guidelines. Encourage your teenager to socialize with their peers in outdoor settings or in areas in which proper mask-wearing and social distancing can occur. 
- Communicate and Build Resilience: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends asking how your child feels and reminding them you are available to listen without judgment. This can help them overcome overwhelming emotions and build resilience. The AAP also states that because some adolescents may take longer to open up, utilizing different avenues of expression can be useful. Their additional recommendations are easing into difficult conversations, going on walks, painting, drawing, or allowing space to process. 
- Don’t Ignore Threats of Suicide: Everyone knows that melodrama can arguably be synonymous with adolescence. However, not brushing off threats or talk of suicide is paramount. Listen carefully without any expressed judgment if your child begins to make statements like, “I wish I could die,” or “everyone will be happier when I’m gone.” While learning your child may be experiencing suicidal thoughts is beyond alarming, consoling them in a calm, nonjudgmental manner will help them immensely. If you feel your child may be suicidal, seek help immediately. 
- Seek Professional Mental Health Support: If you have any concerns about your teenager’s mental health, seeking professional assistance as fast as possible is the best recommendation of all. The AAP says to not wait for your next pediatric visit and contact a local mental health provider instead. If you do not feel your child has an immediate risk of self-harm, have them evaluated to begin counseling as soon as possible. However, if your child is facing a crisis, go to the closest emergency room or contact a local response team right away.
New Dimensions Can Help!
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.
Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit www.mhthrive.com to learn more.