Views expressed in this blog are mine alone and are not intended to represent Williamson County policy nor intended as legal advice.
It’s rare for me to go through a day in truancy court and not hear from a teen that part of the reason they have excessive absences from school is their anxiety or depression. In fact, the CDC says that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 have been diagnosed with anxiety and another 3.2% of that age group have been diagnosed with depression. Having another disorder is most common in children with depression: about 3 in 4 children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety (73.8%) and almost 1 in 2 have behavior problems (47.2%).
What are the signs that your child may be suffering from anxiety or depression? (I’m shamelessly stealing this verbatim from the CDC website.)
Examples of different types of anxiety disorders include
• Being very afraid when away from parents (separation anxiety)
• Having extreme fear about a specific thing or situation, such as dogs, insects, or going to the doctor (phobias)
• Being very afraid of school and other places where there are people (social anxiety)
• Being very worried about the future and about bad things happening (general anxiety)
• Having repeated episodes of sudden, unexpected, intense fear that come with symptoms like heart pounding, having trouble breathing, or feeling dizzy, shaky, or sweaty (panic disorder)
Anxiety may present as fear or worry, but can also make children irritable and angry. Anxiety symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches. Some anxious children keep their worries to themselves and, thus, the symptoms can be missed.
Examples of behaviors often seen in children with depression include
• Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time
• Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things
• Showing changes in eating patterns – eating a lot more or a lot less than usual
• Showing changes in sleep patterns – sleeping a lot more or a lot less than normal
• Showing changes in energy – being tired and sluggish or tense and restless a lot of the time
• Having a hard time paying attention
• Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty
• Showing self-injury and self-destructive behavior
Some children may not talk about their helpless and hopeless thoughts, and may not appear sad. Depression might also cause a child to make trouble or act unmotivated, causing others not to notice that the child is depressed or to incorrectly label the child as a trouble-maker or lazy.
If these symptoms sound familiar, it’s ok to ask for help. Mental health is every bit as important as physical health. If your child was diagnosed with an illness that needed regular medication to stay healthy, you wouldn’t tell them to tough it out. You’d get them the meds. Mental health is the same. It deserves the same consideration. Get them to a mental health professional. Ask the school for help finding resources. Contact Bluebonnet Trails Community Services and make an appointment.
Don’t wait. Get them the help they need.