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Are Teen Girls More at Risk for Depression and Anxiety?

Are Teen Girls More at Risk for Depression and Anxiety?

By Pam Dewey • mental health, girls and mental health, girls and depression, girls and anxiety, teen girls and depression, young women and depression, teen girls and anxiety, teen girls and eating disorders, mental illness and teen girls • September 02, 2021

Teens are often portrayed as moody and difficult to please. With changing bodies and hormones and increased independence, adolescence can be a difficult time of transition. It’s not too surprising then that teen boys and girls often face depression and anxiety. However, research shows teen girls are more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety.

Child Mind Institute states, “But by mid-adolescence girls are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder as boys, with the prevalence at adult levels, 14 to 20 percent.”

There are different theories about why this may occur. It could have to do way girls’ brains develop. The Child Mind Institute states, “Girls mature, in terms of their emotional recognition, faster than boys—and that sensitivity could make them more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.”

Since teen girls face depression and anxiety more often, it’s important that parents keep their eyes open for signs and get their daughters access to the help they need. 

Watch for these symptoms of depression

Parents should pay attention if they notice their daughter is withdrawing from activities or hobbies she normally enjoys or is showing little interest in the things that formerly made her happy. Since depression affects how people feel, it may take some time to observe changes in behavior. When parents notice something is wrong, a teen girl might have been depressed for some time. Here are some other signs that a teen might be depressed:

  • Becoming irritable
  • Seeming sad
  • Change in appetite
  • Sleeping a lot more or less
  • Neglecting schoolwork

Be aware of these symptoms of anxiety

A little anxiety is a good thing. It helps protect us from dangerous situations. But when someone is anxious all the time, it can prevent them from interacting in everyday situations or trying new things. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) states, “Teens who have been anxious since childhood may have created a lifestyle built around her anxieties, which is why it's important to diagnose and treat anxiety early on as it's more challenging to treat the longer a child has lived with it.”

Here are some signs a teen might have anxiety:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Has difficulty concentrating
  • Complains of sore or stiff muscles (muscle tension)
  • Difficulty sleeping or staying asleep

Teen girls are also more prone to these dangerous behaviors

Teen girls are also more likely to have an eating disorder or engage in self-harm, like cutting themselves. Both of these behaviors can occur when a young woman is depressed, but research has shown that depression doesn’t necessarily cause these to occur. Child Mind Institute states, “Girls who have eating disorders often show no signs of depression; indeed, they are often very high-functioning, competitive girls who have a distorted body image, but not the symptoms of depression.”

Self-harm behavior can occur when a young girl is depressed or anxious, but isn’t caused by depression. Rather, as the Child Mind Institute states, “self-injurious behavior is a kind of dysfunctional coping mechanism kids get into to alleviate emotional pain.” A teen girl who doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings may start cutting herself. She may be depressed, or she may be dealing with mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or borderline personality disorder.

Some treatments for depression, like antidepressants, won’t help these types of behaviors. It’s important to treat these behaviors separately, if a young woman has these along with depression or anxiety.

Depression and anxiety can have lifelong impacts

Depression and anxiety can both negatively impact academic performance. Not sleeping well and difficulty concentrating can make completing schoolwork or focusing in class difficult. According to the Child Mind Institute, “falling behind in school undermines a child’s confidence and self-image, and can impact her future if it’s prolonged.” Poor school performance could cause a girl to drop out or might prevent her from getting into college, which may have a negative long-term impact on a young woman’s future.

Both depression and anxiety may also make a teen withdraw from her friends and family. According to the Greater Good Science Center, “Those who make friends in early adolescence tend to have better health and well-being in adulthood, making it critical to a child’s development.” Social interaction is important for everyone’s well-being, and it’s particularly important to help children grow into strong, healthy adults.

Teen girls are more prone to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm. However, the earlier girls receive treatment, the better the outcomes. Therapy is the most common treatment for depression and anxiety. Some teens may also benefit from medication, like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. Eating disorders are often treated with therapy, medical care, medication or a combination of these. With self-harm, it’s important to treat any underlying condition that may be causing the teen to injure themselves, which may be therapy, medication or a combination of the two.