Anxiety Disorder in Teens

Anxiety is something that everybody experiences at one time or another. Typically, anxiety works in our favor. For example, if your teen has anxiety about an upcoming test, the anxiety can motivate her to take notes in class and study for the test. The result may be a good score on the test. There are many situations where it is normal for your teen to be anxious. Between school, work, friends, and family, your teen encounters multiple opportunities to experience anxiety. This is nothing to be concerned about, and it is to be expected. However, when anxiety starts interfering in your teens ability to function in a normal way, then it is time to be concerned.

Teens and Anxiety

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 8% of teens between the age of 13 and 18 suffers from anxiety. However, only about 18% of them get proper treatment. Anxiety can start for kids as early as 6. Females are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than males. For some people there could be a genetic proponent to anxiety, meaning if you suffer from anxiety then your child may be more likely to suffer.

The symptoms of anxiety may start gradually and eventually build up to where there is a problem. For some teens, the symptoms of anxiety will appear very quickly and suddenly. This is more likely when something happens to trigger the sudden onset of anxiety. It is common for a teen who suffers from depression to also have anxiety. There are different types of anxiety and it could have a variety of effects on your teen.

Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

Anxiety disrupts how a person’s brain identifies danger, both perceived and real danger. A person with GAD may sense that there is danger in a situation that really is’t dangerous. They worry obsessively about different things, including many things that are normal everyday occurrences. They aren’t able to control this worry and it can have many negative effects. They may experience serious emotional distress and this may cause problems in every area of their life.

They may struggle at home, at school and with relationships. A person with anxiety may have heightened responses to real or perceived fears. You may see your child avoiding social situation. Additionally, anxiety can manifest with physical symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, aches and pains, as well as shaking or trembling. Other physical symptoms can include things such as difficulty breathing or swallowing, trouble with concentrating or sleeping, easily startled and sweating or hot flashes.

Panic Attacks in Teens
A panic attack is accompanied by intense fear.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America ( estimates that about half of the people that suffer from depression also have serious struggle with anxiety. Panic Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It is characterized by having sudden attacks of very intense fear. Many of the symptoms described above become very intense.  These panic attacks can happen anywhere from seldom to as frequent as several times in an hour. If your teen suffers from panic attacks they may live in fear of when the next panic attack will occur. A panic attack may happen as a result of a trigger, such as hearing, seeing, or smelling something. It could be triggered by a specific location or they may think that they see somebody that has caused problems for them.

A person that is having a panic attack may feel frozen and can’t move. They may feel that everything is happening in slow motion, or they may have the sensation that they are watching their life happen. The panic attack may also cause your teen to flee. A panic attack can last for a few minutes or it could last for quite some time. Fearing that you could have a panic attack can make you feel that your life is out of control and add to the anxiety. Your teen may avoid going places where they have had a panic attack or places they associate with their panic attacks.

Social Anxiety in Teens

Another form of anxiety is Social Anxiety Disorder and is characterized by an extreme fear of being around other people. There are many feelings that can go along with this. Your teen may be fearful of being judged or doing something to embarrass themselves or may fear being rejected by those around them. This anxiety is typically not logical, and your teen may even know this, but is not able to control it. When a person suffers from social anxiety they will avoid going places. They may feel “safer” at home or other more familiar places. Your teen may go out of their way to avoid going somewhere. They may feel ill and the thought of going around people could cause a severe anxiety attack or even a panic attack.

Social Anxiety in School

A more rare form of anxiety, but one with potentially serious consequences, is an anxiety based school refusal. It is estimated at about 2 – 5% of children suffer from this type of anxiety. I am not talking about a child not wanting to go to school but the child whose anxiety gives them what can appear an aversion to school. This can be quite extreme. One of my daughters experiences this from an early age. Starting in 1st grade, the principal would regularly tell her that part of his job was to make sure nobody came to the school to hurt her. By the time she was in 4th grade she had a repertoire of ways to avoid being in school. At the time we didn’t understand what was going on, but in hindsight it is very clear. She would tell her teacher or the clinic aid that she threw up and that would result in a call for us to pick her up. When I made the rule that an adult had to see the vomit then this stopped. If she had to go to the restroom a teacher would have to monitor the hall because she would walk right out of the school and head home. There were times when we would carry her into the school kicking and screaming. As she got older she would get frequent headaches and migraines that would last for days. It is hard to know for certain, but I think that many of her migraines were a physiological response to the “need” to not be in school. She was very bright and the academic part of school was not a struggle for her. But the thought of being there was more than she could deal with on a daily basis.

What does this mean to you as a parent?

Treating anxiety in teens is not easy and can be very complicated. First, as always, I encourage  you to take your daughter to see their pediatrician or another doctor. If they are experiencing physiological symptoms then it is best to rule out medical problems. If there are no medical problems, or if there are and they have been treated, then it is easier to treat the anxiety.

Secondly, you may have to continually remind yourself that this is something that your child cannot control. I expect that your child is probably more frustrated than you are. Feeling extreme anxiety and the physiological symptoms can be frightening. Your child needs your love, support, encouragement and understanding to help them through this difficult time. I know firsthand how frustrating it is and how difficult it can be, especially when you can see the illogical nature of the anxiety.

Flexibility and Patience is Important

You will need to be flexible with your child. Try to stick to a normal routine but understand that it is not always possible. You may need to plan for extra time to accomplish something or to get somewhere. Your child may need to sit in the car in front of the school for a bit while they are gaining the courage to go in. Don’t say or do anything that will communicate disappointment in your child.

You may need to modify your expectations. Expect that it will be difficult for your child at school, even if your child is not suffering from the school refusal anxiety. Talk to your child’s school counselor or social worker about the difficulty your child is having. They can help you to come up with a plan for your child to help them get through the school day. This may include frequent breaks or the ability to spend time in a “safe” place. This could be in a particular teacher’s classroom during lunch or maybe the counselor’s office.

Don’t punish your child when the don’t accomplish something when you believe it is related to their anxiety. If they have a hard time concentrating in class or their anxiety makes it hard for them to be at school you can expect that their grades may not be as well as they potentially can be. Praise for small accomplishments. “I know it was really hard for you to go to school today and I am very proud of how hard you tried.”

Listen to the advice of your child’s mental health provider. Get your teen involved in their treatment. Controversial as it is, medication may be the right thing for your child if using other measures doesn’t help to control your child’s anxiety. Individual therapy can be helpful. Usually, the best approach is a combination of treatments.

What Can I do to Help?
  • Educate yourself – read about anxiety and talk with those who have experience
  • Get help – talk to your pediatrician, school counselor or mental health provider
  • Listen to your teen – be supportive and non-judgemental
  • Watch for unhealthy coping mechanisms or other warning signs
  • Talk to somebody about how it is effecting you


Self Harming In Teenagers

Having a teenager that is depressed can be very difficult. You can’t fix their problems and you can’t make their depression go away. But the one thing about depression is that everybody can relate on some level. Everybody has had at least a time when they were sad or feeling down. You may not understand why your teen is depressed, but you can understand some of the typical behaviors. If your teen has a hard time getting out of bed, or if they are very sad or cry, you can understand these behaviors. However, something that is very difficult for people to understand is self harming in teenagers. It is hard to understand why teens cut themselves or harm themselves in other ways. It doesn’t make sense to most people. Seeing fresh wounds or scars on a person can be very unsettling, especially when you realize that they voluntarily injured themselves.

Self Harming Behaviors In Teens

There are a lot of different ways that teens self harm. The one that we hear the most about is cutting. But you will find that a lot of teens self harm by head banging or hitting themselves. Burning is another commonself harm scars method of self harming. They may use a cigarette or lighter, or they may heat an object and press it on themselves. Some teens may go as far as intentionally breaking a bone. They may scratch themselves repeatedly or pinch themselves over and over. You may not think of it as such, but punching inanimate objects can be a way to self harm as well. Another way that somebody can self harm is by preventing a wound from healing by ripping out stitches or reopening wounds. Unfortunately the ways to self harm are many. You will find that many kids that self harm use more than one method.

Teen Self Harm Statistics

depressed teen girlAccording to Mental Health America, approximately 15% of teens self-harm. But graduating from high school and becoming an adult doesn’t mean a person will stop self harming. They also found that 17 – 35% of college students will self harm and about 4% of adults reported self harming behaviors. (1) This makes sense because during the college years there is a lot of pressure put on students. There is the decision of what to do with their life that may be mixed with a fear of adult responsibilities. reports that about 2 million cases of self harming is reported annually. This means that there are many more than that because many people hide their self harming behaviors. They found that approximately 60% of people that self harm are female with 1 in 5 teen girls and 1 in 7 teen boys reporting self harming behavior. Sadly about 50% of teens who self harm have been sexually abused in some manner. (2) Additionally, LBGTQ+ teens report a higher incidences of self harm as do those who are using substances.

Why Do Teenagers Cut Themselves

scarsThere isn’t any one reason why teens self harm and if you were to ask teens why they do it you would get a variety of answers. From what I have learned there are several more common answers that kids have given. I will share them here but keep in mind that there are many more reasons.

Self harming can give a person a sense of control. If there are so many things in their life that feels out of control, this is one thing that they can control. Self harming may be a distraction from intrusive thoughts. It could be feelings that are overwhelming them or they are replaying events in their mind. The pain that is caused from self harming oneself can pull their mind away from what is troubling them.

They may be experiencing a lot of tension from being overwhelmed or from expectations that are placed on themselves, either by them self or somebody else. There may be a lot of tension and emotion built up by financial or academic worries, or about relationship problems.

help meThey may feel guilty that somebody else is in pain or very sick and hurting themselves makes them feel better about that. If their feelings and emotions are too overwhelming they may not be able to verbally express how they are feeling. Additionally, emotional pain isn’t something that can be “seen” by others, but by self harming themselves it can help them to show others that they are in pain. It can also be a way to express that they need help for their problems but just don’t know how to explain it.

When a person self harms there may be a release of adrenaline or a sense of euphoria, however short lived it may be. This can be addicting, and when you don’t feel good about yourself or your world this can be a temporary fix.

When They Have Been Abused

One of the statistics I shared earlier is that about half of teens that report self harming behavior have also been sexually abused. Many others are abused physically, maybe by a parent or from bullying peers. When you have experienced trauma one of the things our mind does is replay it over and over. Self harm may be one way to stop those thoughts from flooding their mind temporarily.

Trauma can cause a person to feel numb or dissociate from their world.scars from self harm They may have the feeling that they are watching their life play out but not feel anything. They may long to feel something so hurting themselves helps because the physical pain can help them know that they can feel something.

If they were harshly punished or hurt because of something they did they may come to think that they deserve the pain. They associated their “failures” as something that needs to be punished. So when they let themselves down and feel they have made a mistake or bad choice they may feel they have to punish themselves.

Is Self Harming A Suicide Attempt

Typically the answer to that would be no, which can seem conflicting because if you kill yourself you definitely have harmed yourself. There may be some who self harm and leave it up to fate if they survive or not. It would be easy for someone to go to far with self harming and accidentally kill themselves. But most of the time the goal is to harm themselves and not kill themselves. It is possible too that when somebody self harms it becomes addicting and they don’t have the ability to stop doing it. They may see suicide as one way to stop.

Is Self Harm A Diagnosis

There is a diagnosis of Non Suicidal Self Injury. Typically if somebody has this diagnosis they also have a diagnosis of depression, PTSD, Bipolar or some other mental illness too.

Self Harm Advice For Parents

As I already mentioned, it is very difficult to be the parent of a teen that self harms. It can be hard to see wounds, such as cuts or burns, that your child intentionally inflicted upon themselves. As a parent you want to do whatever you can to help your child. There are several things that you should or shouldn’t do to help your child.

First and foremost – DON’T JUDGE – which is a very hard thing to do. And don’t assume that you understand how they are feeling or why they have this behavior. It may be easier to ignore the behavior in hopes that they will stop but don’t ignore this behavior.

Mother embracing and soothes depressed daughterDO let them know that you are worried and that you want to help them in whatever way you can. Be honest with them – it’s ok for them to know you are upset about it. Be willing to just listen. Encourage them to talk to a therapist or other mental health professional, or to call a hotline. It is important to make sure your teen understands that you love them and that their self-harming behavior does not change that.

As a parent we want to keep our child safe and when they are self harming that goes against your parental instinct. But remember that it is not your responsibility to make them stop. You can do whatever you can to keep them safe but if they want to self harm, they will.

You may experience a variety of feelings. You may be angry that your teen is self-harming themselves. You may feel like you are failing your child because of their unhealthy coping mechanism. You may be sad or scared by this behavior that you don’t fully understand. You may be concerned that you will be judged by other parents whose kids don’t “have problems” like your child’s problem. Don’t keep your feelings to yourself, find somebody that you can trust to talk to confidentially. It is very important to make sure your concerns are kept confidential. You can call a hotline to talk with somebody. They can provide you with support and may be able to make some suggestions. You may even want to consider finding a counselor for yourself.

Here are a few resources that you or your child can use.

self harm has a lot of great resources.


I hope that this information has been helpful. I certainly don’t consider myself an expert. If you have any suggestions or want to share your experiences please leave a comment. It is important to know that there are others out there like you and we can all learn from each other.



Review – The Official ESA Registration Of America – One-Stop-Shop for Registration and Supplies

The Official ESA Registration Of America 
Review Rating
4 and a half
Price: Professional ESA Certification Kit $54.95 (other products available)

Introduction to Official ESA Registration of America

This is a great website that educates you about Emotional Support Animals, provides an opportunity to register an animal as an Emotional Support Animal and buy supplies.

If you have an emotional disability you may benefit from an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). An ESA is an animal that provides therapeutic support that is prescribed by a mental health professional as a treatment of your emotional disability. It isn’t necessary to register an Emotional Support Animal, however it may be helpful and necessary in some situations. I registered my Emotional Support Animal through The Official ESA Registration of America.

Emotional Support Animal Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects every person with a legal disability – whether you can see the disability or not. Because of this there are laws that support a person’s right to have an ESA. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires that an emotional support animal be allowed to live in pet-free housing without incurring any costs to the owner. Additionally, the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) allows an ESA to fly with the disabled person. However, the owner will need to provide legal documentation.

Enter: The Official ESA Registration Of America

This organization provides everything that you need to certify your animal in one place. You can register your animal and receive an Emotional emotional support animalSupport Animal Certificate. You can also receive an evaluation by a Licensed Mental Health Professional to see if you meet the qualifications to be prescribed an Emotional Support Animal. If you do qualify, they will write the letter for you. You can also buy supplies, such as an Emotional Support Animal Vest or Collar Tag.

What Will You Find Here

Evaluation and Emotional Support Animal Letter – Housing letter, Flying letter or a combination letter    assess

Registration and Certificates – Register your animal here and order certificates, and IDs         

ESA Supplies – You can purchase ESA vests, collars, leashes or patches. They also have some great Kits that combine several products at an amazing discount.    shop for supplies

Education –  You can learn facts about ESAs, such as definitions, laws and other explanations.     learn

ID Search – This is great because anybody can look up your ESAs ID and see that they are registered as an Emotional Support Animal.     Search for SEO ID

  • Instantly download your registration certificate
  • Everything you may need in one location
  • Fast shipping
  • Individualization of some products
  • Kits with discounted prices

I have not found any Cons so far. I saw some complaints but nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, I have found far more positive comments about the organization.

While it is perfectly legal and acceptable to get an ESA letter through an organization like this, you may have a more difficult time with people believing that your animal is an Emotional Support Animal. Whenever possible, I would recommend you get your letter from a mental health professional that knows you and has some history with you.

Products Available:
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  • ESA Support Animal Harness
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More information about Emotional Support Animals






Can Music Help With Depression?

When my kids were babies we had a CD with classic music lullabies on it that I played in their room as I was putting them to bed. I also had a copy in my van and I would pop it in if we were out and it was nap time or bedtime. I remember glancing in my rear view mirror at my twins. When I sleeping in the car seatwould put the CD in they would instantly lean their head off to the side and close their eyes. They could be crying, but as soon as the music started they would usually calm down and go to sleep. It was like a Pavlovian response. But what was it about the music that calmed them so quickly and helped them to go to sleep? Was it the familiarity or association with their bed and sleeping? That was probably part of it. But I also think it had to do with the effect that music has on our brain.

How Does Music Effect your Brain?

Music can slow down your heart rate – or speed it up – depending on theheart music music. Classical music slows your heart rate and regulates your breathing. Sitting quietly and listening to classical music can be very calming. If you think about it there is a lot of rhythm in your life. You walk or jog with a rhythm. Jumping or chewing gum are two other examples of rhythm. I bet you can think of several other examples. Ideally, your heart rate and breathing are also a rhythm. The rhythm in music can help regulate your breathing or your heart rate as your mind falls in sync with the music. That was probably part of what helped my babies fall asleep.

Studies have shown positive effects on the brain as a result of listening to classical music. The “Mozart Effect” theorizes that listening to classical music improves memory. A lot of money was made from the results of this study. Music Cds and DVDs were made for babies and toddlers that were supposed to help with brain development. There is controversy over whether this is really effective or not.

listening to musicWhat we do know is that listening to music can release dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is referred to by some as a feel good chemical. When you experience something positive, such as eating food you like, being close to somebody you love or remembering happy times, your brain releases dopamine. When you listen to music you can feel a rush of dopamine. Not only can this make you feel happy but it can motivate you to act on the good feelings.

The Words in Songs Can Help With Your Depression

Listening to music provides opportunities to change negative thought patterns. If the song you are listening to has a positive message then singing along to the music can be like an affirmation. As you sing, whether it is in your mind or out loud, you are doing a form of positive Self-Talk, which is something that your therapist or other mental healthmake a playlist professional may encourage you to do. It can help to replace the negative though patterns that are so common when you are depressed. Since the tunes to songs are catchy you may find them running through your mind when you aren’t even thinking about it. The brain is good at doing that – so if you can provide your brain positive thoughts then that is great! If you have some particularly troubling thoughts that you are struggling with it may be helpful to try and find songs that can counteract those thoughts. Download them on your phone or tablet and make a playlist. When your mind is flooded with negative thoughts you already have a way to fight those thoughts. This is especially helpful because when you are drowning in negative thoughts it is hard to just stop.

Music Helps Us Express Emotions

If you have ever experienced depression you will know that sometimes you are sad and you don’t know why. Other times you can’t find the words to express how you feel. It may be too exhausting or overwhelming. Have you ever listened to a song that made you cry, either happy or sad tears? Maybe you could relate to what the song was about or it may have made you remember something. The same thing can happen with your reflect on the musicdepression. Listening to certain songs or music may allow you to feel certain things that you were not able to feel, or were scared to feel. The words may express feelings that you wish you had or remind you of how you used to feel about something. You may sing loudly with the music or dance until you can barely stand any longer. Once when I was really depressed my therapist pointed out that I may be preventing myself to feel happy because if I felt the good feelings I would have to feel the bad feelings too. She was right. It was easier to suppress the good feelings to make sure I didn’t have to experience the bad feelings. You may find that once you allow yourself to feel the emotions that a song brings up you are able to feel a lot of other emotions.

Making Music Can Be Beneficial

If listening to music is helpful imagine how you can benefit from actually girl playing guitar making the music. Of course you already have to possess the talent. If you play the piano or guitar or another instrument take some time to make music. In addition to the benefits of just listening or singing, you also gain a sense of accomplishment. When you are depressed it can feel like you don’t do anything worthwhile. Actively producing music will give you more of the benefit than just singing or listening to music. It produces adrenaline and can help to release serotonin – the neurotransmitter that makes us feel good.

Music Can Help You Sleep

sleepingListening to music can be a healthy distraction that keeps your mind from focusing on all the things that keep you from sleeping. When you are depressed it is very common to have a difficult time with sleep. Some people have a hard time going to sleep and will lay in bed for hours waiting for sleep to come. Other people fall asleep but then wake during the night and can’t sleep. I know some people experience both. While you are lying in bed hoping to sleep it is easy for your mind to dwell on all sorts of things. The longer you lay there, the more you think about and then the harder it is to sleep. Listening to music can distract your mind from all of those thoughts and help you fall asleep.

I don’t think that there is any particular type of music that is best for this. Maybe loud and busy music helps drown everything out for you. Classical music, as I have already discussed, is calming. I personally have found that music without words has been the most beneficial for me. Sometimes drowsinessI have listened to classical music. I focus on listening to the music and it makes it easier for my mind to let go of all the competing thoughts trying to run through my brain. Similarly, I like to listen to recordings of nature sounds, either with music or just alone. The sound of a waterfall or rain can help calm my mind and keep it from wandering. I like to have either the music or the nature sounds playing softly – not too loud because that can be a distraction. If I wake up at night I immediately focus on the sound and it can help me to drift back to sleep.

Music Therapy Can Be Helpful For Depression

Music and lyrics are stored in a different part of your brain than speech. so singing or listening to music involves additional parts of your brain. Music therapy can reduce depression symptoms and can help improve self-esteem. Music therapy can involve singing, playing music, dancing,listening to music is relaxing listening to music, or really anything that involves music. A Music Therapist may “prescribe” listening to music for a certain amount of time each day, or may assign you to find the music that is going to help you. Teenagers are very engaged with music, so if your child is struggling with depression and isn’t engaged in or benefiting from talk therapy, you may want to consider music therapy.

Involve Music In Your Daily Life

You don’t have to engage in official music therapy to help your depression. You can involve yourself in any of the ways that I have already discussed. involve music in your lifeSing, dance, listen or reflect on the music. By integrating music into your life you may just find that you see a little improvement in your depression. Even if it is just a brief improvement it is beneficial. Come up with a playlist of songs for different situations. A playlist with a fast beat is good for walking or jogging. Soothing songs can help you relax as you take a shower or bath or to sleep. Music can be a very helpful part in the recovery from depression.




Foods That Help With Depression

eat healthy to be healthyIt is a generally accepted idea that what we eat can affect almost every aspect of our life. But have you stopped to think that there are foods that help depression? This is one area of your teen’s life which you can make an impact, which is nice since there are so many other aspects of their life you can’t do much about. And during the summer there are a lot of fresh foods available, and that makes the food even better.

How Does Food Help Depression?

In order to understand that you will need a quick science lesson. Serotonin serotoninis a neurotransmitter that is found in your brain and your digestive tract. It has important functions in the digestive system, cardiovascular and respiratory system and, in the brain, it effects your mood. As a neurotransmitter, it moves impulses between nerves. When serotonin is released in the brain it has a calming effect over the central nervous system. It is known that there is a correlation between low levels of serotonin and depression. What isn’t known yet is if low levels of serotonin cause depression, or if depression causes a suppression of serotonin. Either way, anything that you can do to help with the production of serotonin in your child’s brain can be beneficial.

Omega 3 foodsOmega 3, one the essential fatty acids, is important for healthy brain function because it helps with the production of brain cells and with memory and mood. Omega 3 isn’t produced by the body so we have to get it through what we eat. There are minerals and vitamins that also have a direct effect on our mood.

So you can see that by choosing the right foods, you can make an impact on depression.

The Foods That Help Depression

Let’s look at foods that help with Serotonin production, since people with depression tend to not have enough of it in their brain. Most of the bodies’ serotonin is produced in other parts of the body and ONLY the serotonin produced by the brain can effect mood. I will also discuss foods that contain other important nutrients that impact depression.

Salmon is one kind of fish high in Omega 3

Fish oil is one of the biggest sources of Omega 3 amino acids. Mackerel contains the highest level, but it is also in salmon and other fish. The Omega 3 found in the fish is absorbed most easily by the body in comparison to non-meat sources. Flax seed oil is a good source of Omega 3 and is a good alternative for those that don’t eat fish. It is also found in walnuts and pumpkin seeds. You can find some Omega 3 in olive oil, canola oil and soy bean oil.

pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds have both Omega 3 and Tryptophan

Tryptophan is another essential amino acid that stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain. Tryptophan can be found in many foods that you eat everyday. You hear a lot about tryptophan being found in turkey, but it is also found in chicken. A close second is shrimp and it is in some other types of seafood as well. Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds and cashews are great snack foods that contain a decent dose of tryptophan.

Dairy or Alternative Milks
Both dairy and non-dairy milks are a good source of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for healthy brain function and it has been found that low levels of Vitamin D could result in depression. Dairy is the most notable food that contains Vitamin D and you can find it in fortified juice and alternative milks, such as almond milk, soy milk or rice milk. Mackerel and salmon are good sources of Vitamin D as well as egg yolks. Portobella or shitake mushrooms that have been grown outside or under ultraviolet light contains Vitamin D.

green leafy vegetables have folate
Romaine lettuce is full of folate, a B Vitamin

Vitamin B 12 (and other B Vitamins) are important for healthy brain function. One way is that they support the production of serotonin. Some studies have found that people who are deficient in Vitamin B 12 have a higher incidence of depression. So eating Vitamin B rich foods can help. Poultry, fish and eggs contain Vitamin B 12. You can also get B vitamins from green leafy vegetables such as spinach or romaine lettuce.


Oatmeal and berries are a great combination

Eating High Fiber Carbohydrates can help release serotonin in the brain. This can be found in whole grains, such as oatmeal, and sweet potatoes. The key is to find foods that are high in fiber – such as berries, avocados, beans, grains and seeds. Some vegetables and nuts have high fiber as well.


Dark chocolate releases serotonin in the brain

Here are some other foods that help. Green tea has theanine, which helps with relaxation. Foods rich in beta-carotene are orange vegetables, such as orange bell peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes. Dark chocolate helps release serotonin as does foods containing magnesium, such as almonds and pumpkin seeds. The spice turmeric and lycopene are anti-inflammatory agents in the body. Watermelon is a good source of lycopene.

Putting It Together
fresh vegetables
Take advantage of farmer’s markets.

Take advantage of summer and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables. Many towns have farmer’s markets during the summer so that may be a good option for you. One advantage of purchasing your food at a farmer’s market is that you know it is fresh and often it may be organic as well. Here are a few ideas I have come up with. At the end I have a couple of suggestions for cookbooks that are not only educational but have great recipes to help with depression.

Breakfast ideas

fresh fruit in a smoothie

Try making a smoothie for breakfast. Using yogurt and milk, either dairy or non-dairy, provides a good source of calcium and Vitamin D and protein. Add fresh fruit, such as berries or bananas, which are good high fiber foods and they provide antioxidants as well. Add some chia seeds or wheat germ for some Omega 3. Many people put vegetables in their smoothies as well.

fresh eggs
Eggs are great for any meal

Eggs provide the amino acids necessary to stimulate the brain to produce serotonin and they can be cooked so many different ways. Pair it with whole grain toast and jam. My kids aren’t very excited about eating whole grain, so adding the jam can make it more enticing. A glass of milk or milk-substitute also provides calcium and Vitamin D. Hershey’s makes a great dark chocolate syrup and my kids will always drink a glass of chocolate milk.


For a quick breakfast on the go, try toast with avocado.Green tea with honey makes a refreshing drink. You can also have oatmeal with fresh fruit.



fresh tomatoesFresh tomato sliced with salt makes a great snack, especially if it is fresh from the garden. Tomatoes are high in folic acid, a b Vitamin.

Crackers or celery with almond butter is a tasty Omega 3 snack

trail mixGranola or Trail mix are great snacks and easy to make as well. You can load it with Omega 3 rich seeds and nuts and some dried fruit.



salads are great side dish or meal
Salads are very versatile

Try a salad with spinach or other leafy vegetables added to the lettuce. There is no limit to what you can add to a salad to boost your depression. You can add fruits, vegetables, seeds or nuts, and maybe some left over chicken or a boiled egg for an extra boost.

If you are eating out you can have a turkey sandwich, but instead of getting fries or chips ask if they serve sweet potato fries.


grill fish
Summer is a great time to grill

There are a lot of different meats that you can grill – salmon, turkey burgers, or shrimp, to name a few. With corn on the cob and blue potato salad are great mood boosters too.

My Recommendations

Here are two books that have great recipes designed specifically to help depression. They also provide more detailed information than what I just did about food and depression. If you try any of these recipes please be sure and tell us about it in the comments section.

Smoothie Recipes to Relieve Anxiety and Depression
by Laura Sommers

Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain: 

75 Recipes for Alleviating Depression, Anxiety, and Memory Loss
by Michelle Babb 

Can Animals Help Depression?

I can tell you that dogs help depression. Last fall my son was having a very difficult time with his depression and anxiety. We made the decision to get a dog for him and it made a huge difference for both him and my daughter. Our sweet little dog has quickly become an important part of our family. I want to share with you how she has helped my teens.

She found her forever home.
They fell in love.
What is it About an Animal That Can Help with Depression?

Having a pet gives you somebody to take care of. Sometimes it is too hard someone to loveto take care of yourself so having somebody to take care of can make a big difference. If you don’t really like yourself or what is happening in your life you may not be very motivated to take care of yourself. But having a sweet animal that loves you and is dependent on you can make you get out of bed.

never alone
When you have a pet you are never alone.

Having a pet can give you a reason to live. You may want to give up on yourself but you can’t give up on your pet. Your pet loves you even if you have a difficult time liking yourself. When you are very depressed you often don’t want to be around other people but you also don’t want to be alone. It can be scary to be alone. Your pet can be with you so you aren’t alone and they can give you the love that you need at that time. Sometimes having somebody touch you can make your skin crawl. But we all need touch. Cuddling your pet can take care of that need. They are soft and warm and comforting.

Your Pet is Non-Judgmental
puppy love
best friends

Your pet gives you somebody to talk to that you know isn’t going to judge you. They will keep your secrets, so it is safe to talk to them. They don’t try and tell you why your thoughts are illogical. Your pet will not tell you that you just need to get over it or that you are only imagining that somebody doesn’t like you. When you wake up with a nightmare they comfort you. Your pet helps ground you after a nightmare by helping you come back to the present time. They are there for you when you need somebody.

Quite some time ago when I was very depressed we got a kitten. Shecat love climbed in bed with me when I was too depressed to get out of bed. She laid her head next to mine on my pillow. To this day, when I am down or have had a hard day my cat senses it. She will come and lay down next to me and put her head on my pillow. She can tell when my kids are sad too and she will lay down with them. She knows it is her job to love us when we are sad.

Is a Pet the Right Thing for Your Family?
Clover sandwich
Grandma’s dog gives lots of love too.

There are a few things to keep in mind before you decide if getting a pet is the right thing for your family. Pets can require a lot of your time. If they are still young they will take even more of your time. If you travel you will need to find somebody to take care of your pet while you are gone. You have to buy food and supplies and take them to the vet for shots and check ups. And, remember that pets live a long time, so if your kids are teens you can expect that you may have them long after your kids leave home.

A pet can be a wonderful addition to your family. My daughter often tells me that we wouldn’t make it without our pets, and she is right. Our dog dances behind the door when she hears us unlocking the door. Our cats purr and rub against us to warm us up when it is cold (and even when it is not cold). They give us a reason to smile.

You can benefit simply from the presence of your animal, however if you suffer from extreme symptoms you may want to talk with your mental health provider about the benefit of an Emotional Support Animal. You can find information on my page Emotional Support Animals, including how to train them or register them.


Can Exercise Help Depression in Your Teen?

Depression can give your teen a natural inclination to stay inside. It can sap their energy and take away motivation to do just about anything. Without the necessity to go to school, summertime increases the opportunity to sleep and withdraw. Summer is a great time to get outdoors and do something. Not only is it fun but it can be good for your brain and help with depression.

Brain Chemicals that Make You Happy

Your brain naturally produces chemicals that work to cause good brain chemicals that make you happyfeelings in your brain. A person that is depressed may not produce enough of some of these chemicals. Some medications used to treat depression target these chemicals to help reduce depression and increase feelings of pleasure and happiness. It is well known that exercise can produce or increase the release of these chemicals in the brain. So, you can see why there could be many benefits of exercise for depression.

What Can You Do to Encourage Your Teen to Exercise?

It makes sense why your child’s doctor or therapist may recommend that your child exercise. But, as I have already stated, depression can make it harder to be motivated, so you may have to be proactive in pushing your teen out the door to exercise. Here are some ideas that not only can get your teen exercising but also creates opportunities to spend time together.

Swimming is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day and you can get a lot of exercise as well. Some people may be lucky enough to have swimming releases endorphinsaccess to a community pool where they live. This makes going swimming an easy thing to do. If this is not an option for you, plan a day trip to the local pool or water park. (Okay you may not get as much exercise at a water park but you will have fun and that is also beneficial for depression.) Challenge your child to a race across the pool. Just playing around in the water will give you plenty of exercise because of the resistance of the water against your body.

Biking is another great way to exercise and has become very popular. You biking is great exercisecan encourage  your teen to ride their bike. Maybe you can entice them by suggesting you ride your bikes to get frozen yogurt or ice cream. When you go on vacation look for opportunities to take bike rides. If your teen doesn’t have a car then riding their bike can become their mode of transportation when they want to go somewhere and you can’t take them. This is beneficial to both of you.

Hiking can be a great form of exercise and can also be a fun thing to do ashike for fun and exercise a family or group. If you go camping for the weekend you can plan a couple of hikes into your agenda. Depending on where you live there may be places nearby that you can go for a day hike. Pack a picnic lunch and don’t forget to take plenty of water and sunscreen. Dehydration and sunburn will definitely be counter productive in your efforts.

jogging Jogging or running is a great way to exercise and get your endorphins flowing. There are always plenty of 5k or fun runs (or more if you are really ambitious) to choose from. Decide on one and make a goal on how often and how far you want to run. If your teen ends up enjoying running, you may want to encourage them to try out for the cross country team. They usually practice during the summer months to prepare for fall competition. This would keep your teen exercising once school starts. Having success in a sport can also help improve depression.

Walking is another activity that you can enjoy with your teen or as walkinga family. Walking in the evening after it cools off can be a nice way to wind down the day. If there is a park nearby, that may be a good place to walk. Ice cream is, once again, a great motivator to get your teen out of the house. Walking alone can also be enjoyable, especially with some good music.

Realistic or Unrealistic?

You may be reading this and thinking, “You are crazy if you think my teen is going to leave their room to do this!” and I will understand what you are saying. Motivating a depressed teenager to do anything can be very difficult. I know that first hand. Keep making suggestions and hopefully you will get lucky. Feel free to share any ideas that you have on getting your teen out of the  house and exercising.

If you want to to read more about exercise and depression you may want to check out this book.

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being
by Michael Otto and Jasper A.J. Smits

Product Details









Depression in LGBT Teens

Nobody has to be convinced that the teen years can be difficult. I would not want to go back and relive my teen years and I don’t expect that there are many people who would. Kids experience peer pressure and are going rainbow flagthrough hormonal changes. They have pressure from parents, teachers and coaches to do well in school and sports. LGBTQ+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) youth have an additional amount of pressure put on them.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that in 2015, 12.5% of US teens between the ages of 12 – 17 suffered from depression. That was approximately 3 million youth. They determined that 15.9% of teen girls and 5.9% of teen boys experienced depression. (1) The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide is the THIRD leading cause of death in youth ages 12-18. (2)

LGBT Depression Statistics Show These Teens Have a  Higher Risk for Depression and Suicide

THE CDC reports that LGB teens have 4 times the suicide attempts of their straight peers.  Suicide attempts by LGB youth are also 4 – 6 times more likely to end with the need for medical attention. Among LGBT teens, those whose family is not accepting of their sexual orientation reported 8.4 times more suicide attempts than their LGB peers with supportive families. (3) There isn’t much data available yet for suicidal tendencies of trans-gendered youth but from what I read they have more attempts than LGB youth.

Why Do a Higher Percentage of LGBT Teens Suffer From Depression?

The higher rates of depression and suicidal feelings should not be interpreted to mean that LGBT teens are more prone to depression and suicide because of who they are. Rather, they are at greater risk because of the extra challenges they face at home, school and in the community.

LGBT youth have a higher risk of being bullied or victimized. They face discrimination in school, such as gendered dress codes or no same sex gay teen malecouples at dances. For teens who are questioning sexual identity or have not yet come out they have the fear of what may happen when they do. They wonder what their family will think or if they will lose friends. They may have a lot of inner turmoil feeling that they have to hide who they truly are or struggling with accepting their feelings. There is a lot of anxiety surrounding the dilemma they find themselves in.

Our society is much more accepting of LGBT than when I was growing up. girlfriendsBut there is still a lot of discrimination and negativity toward this population. It doesn’t matter how supportive the teen’s family and friends are, they are going to run into barriers. There will be other family members or friends who don’t understand or are uncomfortable with learning about their sexual orientation.

What Can You Do as a Parent to Support Your Teen?

The most important thing a parent can do to support their teen, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is to accept them for who they are. Communication is very important. Sit down with your child and ask them what they need from you. If you are struggling with gay thumbs up understanding or accepting your child, find support for yourself through a support group or counseling. Throw away any preconceived notion of who your child is supposed to be and love and accept them for who they are. This will not keep your child from being depressed or anxious or suicidal, but it will be one barrier your child won’t have to overcome. And when your teen is depressed and it feels that the whole world is against them, knowing that you support them could open the door at least enough for you to help them.

I found a LGBT suicide hotline that could be a good resource for you or your teen. If your teen is suicidal they can call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. The texting is only available 3 pm – 10 pm MST but the hotline is always open.

If your child is gay this may be a good book for you to read. The reviews by parents is pretty good.

This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide to Everyday Life
by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo



Is my Teen Depressed or Just Sad?

To answer this question first we have to determine the difference between sad face cartoondepression and sadness. Sadness is a normal emotion that all humans experience at times. Typically you feel  sad as a result of something that has happened that is hurtful or disappointing. Usually, when you are sad you can pinpoint a reason for your sadness. Depression is an abnormal state of mind. Depression isn’t a result of something happening. Depression is usually accompanied by a feeling of sadness but the depressed person may not know why they are sad.

The teen years are difficult for many reasons and if you have teenagers or even are around teenagers you will know that they can be very moody and emotional. I think this is a combination of multiple things – changing hormones, trying to figure out their own beliefs, or navigating relationships, to name a few. As a parent of teenagers I see and experience these emotions pretty much on a daily basis.

All Teens Will be Sad at Times.

There are plenty of things that can happen that can make your teen sad. Maybe their basketball team lost a close game or they auditioned for the school play and didn’t get a part. Your teen can be sad because they didn’t sadnessdo well on a test or they had a fight with a friend. If your teen feels left out or they are grounded they may feel sad. One thing that all of these situations have in common is that the feeling of sadness persists for awhile, and then it subsides. They may cry or yell. They may withdraw to their room or refuse to eat dinner. They may avoid situations that made them sad. Sometimes they may be sad for quite awhile, but it ends. Sometimes it ends suddenly or it may wane slowly.

As a parent it may be hard to know if your child is just sad or if they are depressed. There are a lot of reasons for that. First, your child may have real reasons to be sad so when they act sad it doesn’t seem abnormal. Everybody gets sad at times because it is a normal emotion. The teen years are a time when kids naturally start looking to peers for support more withdrawn teenthan their parents so they may not be talking to you about the problems they are experiencing. How many times has your child said to you, “I don’t want to talk about it,” when you try to talk with them about things? Your teen is probably not going to ask you, “Am I depressed or just sad?” It could be that your child started out being sad and that instead of recovering it developed into depression.

How Will I Know?

Depression-is-worse-than-a-bad-dayDepression looks very different than sadness, although it can be accompanied by some of the same symptoms that I just mentioned. There is a big difference. The depression persists and is to a greater degree and they very likely won’t be able to tell you why they are feeling the way they do. There is not always something that causes a person to become depressed so things may be going really well for them in general.

How did I determine that my child was not just sad or going through a tough time? I have had more than one teen with severe depression so the things I am going to list weren’t all necessary a symptom for all of my kids. You may notice that your child no longer enjoys doing something that he or she really enjoyed. My son loved to cook and would beg for me to let him cook our entire meal. Then suddenly one day he told me that he crying teenhated cooking and would cry if I asked him to join me in the kitchen. Your child may do really well in school and get good grades but you receive notification that your child has missing assignments or is even getting a D or F in a class. Completing the assignments were too hard, and not because of the content. The inability to concentrate and lack of motivation make homework hard to complete. Your child may sleep too much and have a difficult time getting out of bed. Sometimes though, your child may have a hard time going to sleep or wake during the night and not be able to go back to sleep. You may hear them say something like, “I just don’t think I can keep doing this.” or “The world would be better off without me in it.” You may notice cuts or burns on your child that they “don’t know” how they got.

This is not a comprehensive list. If you see some of these things happening with your teenager then they might be depressed. It is difficult to see your child like this and as a parent you may feel powerless. I would urge you to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss the concerns that you have. There are medical problems that can cause some of these same symptoms and they should be ruled out. Your teen should have a proper evaluation by a trained mental health professional. They can help you determine if your child is just sad or if they are depressed.

There are a couple of books that may be helpful to you in understanding your teen’s depression and how you can help and support them.

Warning Signs: A Parenting Guide for Discovering if Your Teen is at Risk for Depression, Addiction or Suicide.
by Judy Davis and Geoffrey A. Davis

Adolescent Depression: A Guide for Parents (A Johns Hopkins Press Health Book) second edition Edition
by Francis Mark Mondimore, MD and Patrick Kelly, MD