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Author: Dr Sabina DosaniConsultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

Depression with anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the UK and over half of people with anxiety will also have depression.

Whilst on the face of it the symptoms of anxiety and depression may seem quite different conditions, there are in fact many similarities. Research has shown that they can even cause each other1.

 1Cole, D., et al (1998)

What is the relationship between anxiety and depression?

Anxiety is an emotion closely linked to avoidance. Children with anxiety will often shy away from new situations and may not try out new activities, often because their anxiety can leave them feeling helpless.

Depression is a condition linked to withdrawal. Depressed children will feel hopeless and lack the motivation to engage in activities. Whilst avoidance and withdrawal are not exactly the same, they are very similar and can ‘feed’ from each other.

It makes sense that if you feel unable to partake in activities and are excessively worried about your performance or abilities, you may end up feeling depressed as you become more socially reclusive. Equally, if you are struggling with depression, feel emotionally numb and useless, you may end up suffering with feelings of anxiety, as you worry about everything you are not able to do or what people think about you.

Depression and anxiety is the most common mental healthcare condition for children


Depression and anxiety symptoms

The symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and teenagers can vary hugely – which makes it understandably difficult for parents to know what is going on and how they can best help.

Many of the symptoms of depression and anxiety combined are similar – tearfulness, irritability, becoming withdrawn and difficulties sleeping. Symptoms will vary with age as well, young children often do not have the language necessary to describe how they are feeling so may ‘act’ out through their behaviour.

Read more about the signs of depression here

An excellent service all round, the report we have goes into a lot of detail and her school has found this really helpful.

Shabnam, Leeds


How can I help my child with depression and anxiety?

Treating children and teenagers who have anxiety and depression can be complicated as for effective treatment to work, psychiatrists may need to assess which condition to treat first. The symptoms can also be indicative of other conditions such as ADHD or ODD.

As a first step, your child may benefit from an assessment with a psychiatrist – a doctor with expertise in mental health. Not only with this assessment look at the anxiety symptoms your child is experiencing, but will look at whether there are any other underlying factors or conditions that need to be considered, in order to find the most effective treatment.

Effective treatments for depression and anxiety include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), other talking therapies and, in some cases, medication such as antidepressants.

Read more about therapies for anxiety disorders here

We know that anxiety is often experienced by children and teenagers along with something else – the anxiety can be the primary or secondary disorder and an important part of your child’s assessment is looking for other conditions that your child might be experiencing.
MBBS, MSc, MRCPsych

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
London

Dr Sabina Dosani is a highly experienced Consultant Psychiatrist currently working for the Anna Freud Centre looking after Children and Adolescents. She has a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery as well as being a member of the Royal College...

 

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