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Mood Disorders and Teenage Girls

Mood Disorders and Teenage Girls: Why girls may be more vulnerable than boys and what signs to look for.

Teens of any gender can experience depression and anxiety. But statistics show that by the teenage years, girls are much more likely to be diagnosed with these mood disorders.

2023 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2021, 57% of high school girls reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year,” up from 36% in 2011. That’s nearly twice as high as the 29% of males who reported having those feelings in 2021.

An early sign of both depression and anxiety is withdrawing from things that are usually enjoyable. You might notice other changes in your daughter’s mood, including sadness and irritability. Girls who are dealing with depression may start eating or sleeping much more or much less. Girls with anxiety often structure their lives around avoiding things they are afraid of, such as new activities or social situations.

So what can parents and caregivers do to help?

More emphasis on social support
Social and emotional connectivity between humans is likely one of the most potent weapons we have against significant stress and sadness. Studies have found strong links between a lack of parental and peer support and depression during adolescence.

An Honest look at Social Media
Social media represents a unique form of personal interaction that has taken on an outsize role in the lives of teens. This is magnified for teenage girls, for whom every social media interaction may feel consequential and potentially cataclysmic.

Interacting in a fun and positive way with peers on social media platforms can be a positive and affirming experience. On the other hand, seeing the things that others post, and comparing it with your own life, can make people of any age feel anxious about how they’re appearing or whether they’re being included or excluded. This anxiety applies to both boys and girls, but the potential for emotional distress seems to be higher for girls, according to experts.

Teaching Youth to Recognize their Feelings
Learning to recognize and label feelings doesn’t come automatically for many people. The good news, though, is that teenagers can discover ways to help themselves when they’re experiencing anxiety or depression. Teens can learn to appreciate how hugging their dog, playing a board game, or talking with their parent(s) can help reduce anxiety, once they understand the feelings.

Seek Professional Help
If you think your daughter may have depression or anxiety, it’s important to seek help early. Over time, mood disorders can have negative impacts on friendships and academic success. Encourage your teen to speak with a therapist or counselor for help. Consider looking into your health plan to understand the resources you may have in addition to your coverage options.

About Camino a Casa

Casa Pacifica is the largest non-profit provider of children’s and adolescent mental health services in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. The agency’s Camino a Casa program, available to clients with private insurance, provides behavioral health care to youth ages 12-17 who struggle with emotional dysregulation and high-risk behaviors that jeopardize their safety at home, school and/or community.  

Intensive short-term residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and in-home behavioral health services comprise Camino a Casa’s full continuum of adolescent mental health care. 

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