Anxiety & Depression Guide

Understanding Anxiety & Depression at any age — at home, at school and in life.


Micaelia Randolph, EdD, MA

Educational Consultant

Erin Hoolihan author image


Erin Hoolihan, PsyD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist
CHC’s Catherine T. Harvey Center for Clinical Services

A View of Anxiety & Depression Across the Lifespan

Anxiety and depressive disorders can develop at any age and are often thought of as being caused by an interaction between someone’s genes and their environment. Over the past few years, incidence of these conditions more than doubled with 20% experiencing anxiety and 25% experiencing depression. Youth of various marginalized identities (LGBTQ, ethnicity, race, immigrants, etc.) are disproportionately impacted. The intersection of these identities may also bring systemic injustice that can lead to mental health challenges. Anxiety and depression frequently occur together and can be accompanied by behavior challenges, learning differences, social challenges, academic difficulties, conflict with family and friends, changes in sleeping and eating, difficulty concentrating and more.

Young Child

Most young children have fears or concerns that can be part of growing up—things like fear of the dark or loud noises. Most children outgrow these fears, and with others, these fears and worries persist.

  • Persistent worry or fear
  • Very worried about the future
  • Extreme separation anxiety
  • Extreme irritability or anger
  • Excessive crying
  • Stomachaches and/or headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Recurring bad dreams

School Age Child

As children start school, anxiety and depression may increase. For school-age children, anxiety can show itself in a broad range of symptoms and behaviors that can sometimes affect their school experience—socially, emotionally and academically.

  • Behavioral challenges at school
  • Lack of interest in fun activities
  • Sadness and excessive worry
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • School refusal
  • Moodiness
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Disruptions in sleep


Teens are faced with many social and academic pressures along with the fact that they are developing physically and emotionally and experiencing continuing maturation of their brain. Their anxiety can be more complex and include depression.

  • Persistent sadness or worry
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Withdrawal from friends
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Difficulty getting through the day
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Disordered eating
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse


Anxiety and depression can increase in young adults as they are faced with mounting academic expectations, a perception of the need to be effortlessly perfect, relationship challenges and worries about the state of the world.

  • Self-doubt
  • Low self esteem
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Loss of energy
  • Sleep disruption (insomnia or too little sleep)
  • Isolating socially
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Spiraling worry

Your Questions Answered

Top questions answered by CHC experts.

What causes anxiety and depression?

We don’t know exactly what causes anxiety and depression. It could include a combination of things, such as genetics, biological or psychological factors, and environment. Anxiety disorders often occur with depression, and about 1 in 6 people experience depression during their life. There are risk factors associated with anxiety and depression, with self-esteem and parental behavior being two of the strongest predictors. Others include lack of sleep, peer rejection, school and community violence, marginalization or discrimination, parental relationship problems and parental mental health challenges.

What are some ways to help manage anxiety and depression?

Self-care practices—talking with friends and family, getting enough exercise and sleep, eating healthy, engaging in breathing and mindfulness practices and meditating—can all be helpful. Spending time outside or with a pet has also been shown to relieve anxious feelings and stress. When self-care alone isn’t enough, reaching out for professional help is key, perhaps starting with a school counselor. A combination of therapy and medication is best practice and there are many groups and therapists who can help. The important thing is to get help as soon as possible.

What is an IOP?

An IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) is appropriate for adolescents who are severely depressed and who may be self-harming and unable to manage emotions or attend school. An IOP for youth takes place in a small group setting led by therapists who specialize in adolescent care. Programs typically last for a prescribed number of weeks (such as 12 weeks for our RISE IOP at CHC) where participants learn healthy ways to cope with stress. These programs often include individual therapy, psychiatry, group therapy and parent/caregiver involvement or support. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is the evidence-based treatment for self-harm and suicidal behavior that can be used in an IOP. The treatment teaches mindfulness, strategies to be more interpersonally effective and skills to manage emotions and tolerate stress. 

Got a question for our experts?

Ask  us anything about Anxiety & Depression and get advice from a CHC expert. If your question is chosen you will be notified via email!

Tools, Tips & Takeaways





CHC Voices of Compassion Podcast

Our weekly CHC podcast with expert insights, inspiration and creative conversations about mental health, education and family.

When Young Children Are Anxious


with Glen R. Elliott, PhD, MD and Natalie Pon, MD

Young children typically experience some degree of fear — of separation, the dark, strangers, loud noises and new experiences. But how do we know when it’s something more and prevent these fears from interfering with our children’s daily lives? In this podcast episode, we chat with two child and adolescent psychiatrists, Dr. Natalie Pon and Dr. Glen Elliott, to discuss the various ways anxiety presents in young children, what is typical vs. troubling and the role of play in managing fear. Parents and caregivers of children under 6 will find our conversation especially relevant.

Can My School Aged Child Really Be Depressed?

EPISODE 29, SEASON 2 | MAY 3, 2022

with Dr. Patrice Crisostomo and Annemarie Kelleghan

A lack of socialization over the past two years has a lot of parents worried about their children’s language development. In fact, one of the most viewed articles in our online Resource Library right now focuses on speech delays in young children during COVID. How do we know when our kids should be progressing from first words to full sentences? Have masks and social distancing affected typical language development? Where should we turn if we’re concerned? Today’s podcast guests — two CHC Speech and Language Pathologists — will put these questions to rest and share ideas to foster healthy language development at home.

Understanding Anxiety: What is Typical and What is Not

EPISODE 26, SEASON 2 | APRIL 5, 2022

with Christa Johnson, PsyD and Jessica Shankman, MA

Autism can present in many different ways, but at its core it’s about social communication. Autism is usually suspected at a young age because children aren’t developing language or social skills at the same rate as their peers. Sometimes parents don’t want to have their child screened for autism because they are afraid of labels, stigma and limitations. But while overwhelming, diagnosis can also bring support, services and maybe even relief. Don’t miss this special podcast episode with two CHC experts who are also parents of young children with autism. Join us to hear personal and professional advice for finding empathy, understanding and community while raising a child on the spectrum.

Featured Articles

Read our top articles helping with anxiety and depression for kids and youth.

How We Help

CHC provides life-changing services for learning differences and mental health for young adults, kids and teens.

Our Experts

At CHC, we have learning and mental health experts who can help you overcome barriers to learning and help you develop skills that last for a lifetime. Real people you can talk to. People who can really help.

Erin Hoolihan team headshot

Erin Hoolihan, PsyD


Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Learn More About Dr. HoOLIHAN

Tracy Cavaligos

Tracy Cavaligos, PsyD


Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Learn More About Dr. CAVALIGOS

Emily Sullivan

Emily Sullivan, LMFT


Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Learn More About Emily

Comprehensive & Integrated Services for Learning Differences & Mental Health

CHC’s Catherine T. Harvey Center for Clinical Services

CHC therapists provide specialized, individualized and age-appropriate services for you to take charge of your own mental health and wellbeing. Services in California.

Schwab Learning Center at CHC

The SLC@CHC empowers all types of learners to adopt tools and strategies to support their unique strengths. Students and young adults with diagnosed or suspected ADHD, dyslexia and other learning disabilities discover their gifts, strengths and potential.

Crisis Resources

Please refer to these 24/7 crisis lines for immediate help. You are not alone.

911 Emergency

Call or text 911

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

Call or text 988

Chat on

Trevor Project Lifeline

Call (866) 488-7386

or text START to 678-678

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