The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) recently held their annual conference. The event took place in Chicago during the last three days of March 2014, and a number of well-respected psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists were in attendance. Many of them presented the latest research in the mental health field.
Prevalence of Teen Anxiety & Depression
One topic that continues to be of great importance is the treatment of adolescents diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Dr. Aaronson from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai presented on the prevalence of anxiety and depression in teens. Using an assessment tool that measures the rates of occurrence of anxiety and depression in adolescents, the following information was gathered. It indicates the presence of teen anxiety broken down to specific diagnoses:
- Phobia – 19.3%
- Social Anxiety – 9.1%
- Separation Anxiety – 7.6%
- PTSD – 5%
- Panic Disorder 2.3%
- Generalized Anxiety – 2.2%
- Any Anxiety Disorder – 31.9%
With regard to depression, the following statistics reveal the rates of occurrence of mood disorder in teens:
- Major Depression or Dysthymia – 11.7%
- Bipolar Disorder (I or II) – 2.9%
- Any Mood Disorder – 14.3%
Depressive Mood Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis for those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Both of these psychological disorders usually impact a teen’s ability to function at home, school, and in relationships.
In general, the prevalence of depression and anxiety are common and the rates of occurrence are only increasing. Some experts say that it is Western culture itself, which focuses more on productivity versus personal relationships. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological illness. According to Moretza and Karen Khaleghi, authors of the book Anatomy of Addiction, 19.1 million adults suffer from anxiety, which translates to about 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, or about one in every seven adults. Also, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that one in eight children have anxiety disorders.
Often, underneath teen anxiety is depression, underlying emotions that have been directed inward. Rates of depression are also increasing around the world. Globally, five percent of the population across the planet suffers from depression, according to the World Health Organization. About 70 percent of all antidepressants sold in the world are sold in the United States. With that, about 9 percent of American adults suffer from depression.
Mental Illness Stigma
Sadly, psychological health is not well emphasized in society. Other forms of health, such as physical well-being, are important, perhaps because it is visible and apparent to others. Psychological health, however, can be easily made discreet. One can look great but feel horrible inside and no one would know. Furthermore, psychological illness continues to have a stigma that admitting to having a mental illness, seeing a psychologist, or taking psychotropic medication easily warrants judgment. Hopefully, with further research and public education, the stigma of mental illness will become less.
Perhaps this was the reason behind another presentation at last month’s conference: how to improve your psychological health. In it, a psychologist listed the components of good mental health: compassion, gratitude, humor, purpose, community, good nutrition, and exercise. As more and more of the public gives their inner life more attention and incorporates the above components, the rates of adult and teen anxiety and depression are likely to go down and not up.
Aaronson, C. (2014). Treating children, adolescents, and teens with Anxiety and depression. Retrieved April 22, 2014 from https://www.adaa.org/sites/default/files/Aaronson-pdf.pdf