Managing Your Child’s Anxiety and Depression
When people hear about mental health the first few things that come to mind are anxiety, depression, and perhaps even ADHD with how common it has become among our youth. But the truth is, people are not talking openly about mental health because of the stigma and shame that is attached to it.
What is Anxiety?
In layperson’s definition: it is a feeling of worry, nervousness, unease. It is typically about an imminent event or something that has an uncertain outcome.
The psychiatric definition is somewhat similar but it needs to be of a certain kind of severity and is long-standing. It also adds to panic attacks which are common with people who do suffer from anxiety.
What are the signs of Depression?
Depression is a constant feeling of sadness and loss of interest and it stops you from doing your normal activities which can definitely bring low self-esteem and low self-worth. It is a person's inability to enjoy their life. Some people have depression because of chronic anxiety and some people have chronic anxiety because of depression. They're usually meant to manifest together but one is more dominant depending on the person.
What is ADHD?
ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is prevalent among adults and children. It is something that has been around for quite some time but only in recent decades has come to the forefront because of the learning challenges, and behavior challenges among our youth. That is when we tend to turn a focus and try to uncover root drivers and therapies to support people who are suffering.
According to CDC Statistics:
- 6.1 million kids aged 2 to 17 have a diagnosis of ADHD
- 4.5 million have a diagnosed behavior problem
- 4.4 million experience anxiety
- 1.9 million suffers from depression
These numbers are quite low because it always takes the government time to collect their data, curate them and publish them as what is real. It's a staggering number considering all of these kids and adults as well are having a really difficult time just managing day-to-day life.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
Increase Menstrual Symptoms
Shortness of Breath
Impaired Immune System
Brain Fog/Lack of Concentration
Rapid Heart Rate
Anger Outbursts/Behavior Issues
Loss of Interest in Things Once Enjoyed
Automatic Negative Thoughts
Inability to Heal
Growth and Developmental Delays
Chronic Systemic Inflammation
Things like isolation, memory loss, brain fog, and digestive issues are tremendous indicators of mental health struggles. Some of these are a little on the obvious side, some are not. People who self-harm are clearly struggling mentally but things like dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, chest pain, hives, acne, are all indicators of chronic inflammation that has made its way up through the brain-blood barrier and into the brain.
Symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
The symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers are well defined and they’re usually noticeable before the age of 6. They occur in more than one situation, such as at home and at school.
The main signs are:
- Having a short attention span and being easily distracted
- Making careless mistakes
- Appearing forgetful or losing things
- Being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
- Appearing to be unable to listen or carry out instructions
- Constantly changing activity or task
- Having difficulty organizing tasks
The main signs are:
- Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
- Making careless mistakes- for example in schoolwork
- Constantly fidgeting
- Being unable to concentrate on tasks
- Excessive physical movement
- Excessive talking
- Being unable to wait their turn
- Interrupting conversations
- Little or no sense of danger
These are some of the symptoms that go along with ADHD: inattentiveness, having a short attention span, easily distracted, actually they're not being careless, it's just that their brain has a very difficult time fixating and honing in on one task at a time and staying there for a long time. If you have children, this will help turn your paradigm instead of categorizing them because their brain really is having a very difficult time going through the day and performing tasks that most people with healthy brains take for granted.
When the brain is not performing optimally, there's a stigma and shame that's attached to it. There are all kinds of support groups for all different types of struggles of organs within the body but when it comes to the brain they're typically private groups that you have to answer certain questions of confidentiality. The point is, there's such a stigma around a brain that is already struggling and undergirds everything. It impedes the progress that people are making because they don’t openly talk about a brain that's showing up in a way that's unhelpful.
ADHD Potential Triggers
- Highly Sensitive Personality
- Emphatic Nature
- Social Media/Social Pressures
- Disrupted Circadian Rhythm/Sleeplessness
- Poor Diet(SAD/GMO)
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Gut Dysbiosis/Leaky Gut
- Low Stomach Acid levels
- Hormonal Imbalance (Excessive Excitatory Chemicals)
- Childhood Trauma/Abuse (ACE)
- Familial Issues/Divorce
- Gluten Sensitivity
- Thyroid Dysfunction
- EMF Sensitivity/Toxicity
- Public Humiliation
There's an autonomic nervous system nature called a Highly Sensitive Personality where that person's sympathetic nervous system is much more easily overwhelmed than a non-HSP nervous system person. It's just in nature, it's not a disorder in any way shape, or form. Now we are really starting to see practitioners and experts in the field lend their ears to considering it as a big part of the puzzle.
When we think about what has significantly changed over the last couple of decades to cause these numbers to skyrocket, number one is social media and social pressures that exist in our youth today. They didn't exist years ago. Kids today have literally no escape. It's a 24/7/365 assault on their mind on their self-worth. It's one of the huge contributors to the mental health crisis that we're experiencing.
Sleeplessness - We are living in a society that is so chronically sleep-deprived the brain has no shot at showing up well. We can’t say “well I'll sleep on the weekend” because the physiology of the brain doesn't work that way. It's accumulating night after night. It just doesn't work like that and neither does the brain so that's another really significant contributor
Diet - We are all-consuming adults and children alike. It is incredibly toxic, neuro-inflammatory, and gut-destroying that it is a wonder that we are able to show up as strong as we do. But for children whose physiology is in its most metabolically active season of life, they are building their bodies on the raw material of Mcdonald's.
About brain development, we are different from all other created things. We have this frontal lobe that gives us executive functioning and one of the great takeaways if you are a parent of younger children is that the frontal lobe does not fully develop in a female until around 25, and in males around 28. That means the brain is not fully myelinated, it is not ready to rock and roll like a full-blown adult. So if we have a later teen or even an early 20-year-old, they're still developing their brain. Take that into consideration as you process their behaviors.
When talking about stress and the need for functional medicine, Tracy takes a look at biology, psychology, relationships, lifestyle, genetic environment, physical environment, and careers. She looks at all of these facets of their life and tries to come up with all of the drivers that are contributing to the brain challenges and work together with them to heal the whole life.
Q&A with Tracy
Q: How young do you start working with teens?
A: I start with moms who are considering being pregnant all the way up to a newborn all the way up to people who have kids in their 20s. I also work with adults and anybody who wants to learn more about the brain and how to live a gut-brain healthy lifestyle. The ideal person is somebody with younger children. That's because we can get in front of it before you're trying to retroactively heal. You can be a proactive partner in living a lifestyle that will hopefully avert some of these really hard experiences.
Q: Do you charge hourly or is it more of a monthly thing?
A: It’s a monthly thing, I mean there are some people who would prefer the hourly experience. It's more cost-effective to do a monthly experience because with that kind of commitment the rates are somewhat lower as opposed to a one-off visit which I do offer. But the thing about health and wellness coaching is it's a commitment, it's a partnership so I really try to encourage people to get invested not only with their finances but with their whole heart and get them excited about filling a new toolbox that they can use for the rest of their lives.
Q: You mentioned social media never shut off but it's multiplied so much, do you think that the pandemic has also caused it?
I think the pandemic has turned people inside out. You know nothing will kill us faster than isolation and loneliness and there are scientific studies that will corroborate that statement. We are relational beings and when we go for long stretches of time without one another, we die. They really don't put people in isolation that much anymore in the prison system even for convicted murderers because they feel like that's too cruel of a punishment. The numbers of people who have suffered low grades and adapted some coping skills but really if those coping skills kind of buckled under the weight of the loneliness and the isolation of this long season, so yes.
Begin to get curious about that chronic thing that's been showing up in your life instead of being so frustrated by it and doing everything you can to either ignore or make it shut up. Get curious about it and ask your body and your brain what it is that they need and give that to it.
ABOUT TRACY SPIAGGIA
Tracy Spiaggia is a Functional Nutrition and Lifestyle Practitioner, Amen Clinic Brain Health Specialist, and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Her mission is to support parents trying to guide their struggling children out of chaos and into a more peaceful, healthy, successful life
Get to know Tracy Spiaggia more!
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