What to Do When Anxiety and OCD Lead to Feelings of Depression in our Children, Adolescents, and Teens.

Living with Anxiety and OCD can be really hard and depressing.

Is your child living with or learning how to manage their anxiety and/or OCD? If so, sometimes the weight and power that anxiety can have over our children can lead to feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, discouragement, and some depression. If your child is avoiding things because of their anxiety or doing compulsions to manage their OCD, then they may be missing out on things that are fun and important to them. This can lead to a cycle of not feeling good about oneself and sadness throughout the day. Clinical depression can be a comorbid condition with anxiety and OCD and depression does like to hang out with them together. It is important if you feel your child is struggling with clinical depression, to seek out the help and guidance of a therapist trained to work with both mental health issues. However, in this blog post, I am not going to focus on clinical depression. Instead, I would like to highlight how anxiety and OCD can rob children of their joy, sense of curiosity, and happiness if not managed well.

Anxiety and OCD can be really LOUD and keeps our kids stuck in unhealthy coping patterns.

Having anxiety and OCD can be depressing. It can be depressing if your child is having all these upsetting intrusive thoughts in their head day in and day out. If your child is feeling down, sad, or more tearful, this can have a direct impact on their level of motivation to work on their anxiety or OCD while also affecting their ability to function well in their daily routines or in social situations. Since we are not talking about clinical depression here, I want to normalize that it actually is expected for your child to feel a bit sad and depressed when anxiety and OCD are getting in the way of them being able to engage fully in life the way they would want to.

Here are a few simple, but effective ways to help prevent your child from slipping into depressed states. These strategies will also help your child stay focused and empowered towards getting unstuck from their anxiety or OCD.

  • Watch out for negative thoughts that your child might be saying to themselves with their internal dialogue such as “I am never going to feel better,” “This is too hard,” “This is always going to be a struggle,” “I will never be able to feel normal.”
  • When those thoughts show up for your child, redirect them and encourage them to journal about it or try to reframe the thoughts into something more positive.
  • Celebrate your child’s daily and small wins! If they are able to do the thing that their anxiety told them to avoid, or are able to do the opposite of what OCD is telling them, have a party! Point out their bravery each day, encourage and praise them for working so hard to manage and crush their anxiety and OCD.
  • Encourage your child to write down their daily wins. They can have a win journal, collage, or a board in their room that focuses on everything they have accomplished towards beating their anxiety and OCD. When they are feeling down or sad, have them reference all of their past wins!
  • Find a local community support group for your child with anxiety or OCD. You can also look at the IOCDF website for local resources at https://iocdf.org/programs/community-events-programs/. Connect and find your child’s tribe so they know they are not alone.
  • Talk to your child’s doctor, to make sure there aren’t any medical reasons (e.g., lack of vitamins, unhealthy diet, medical concerns) that could be contributing to your child’s feelings of sadness and depression.
  • Have your child make a list of things that help them feel better when they are having a tough day. Write them in their journal or on a board in their room. When they are having a sad day, have them commit to doing one thing on their list each day to help them feel better and connect to some joy in their life. It sounds really simple, but humans tend not to do the things that make us feel good when we are down. For example, drawing, reading, journaling, playing a game, and walking outside can be the sorts of things on their self-care list.
  • Remember small steps lead to big changes! Remind your child not to get lost in the big picture perspective we all tend to get stuck on.

As always, if you have made it this far, thank you for spending your valuable time reading this blog post and I hope you found it helpful. Please reach out if you would like to connect around how I can be of support for your child and family.

Be well,

Dr. G

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2 thoughts on “What to Do When Anxiety and OCD Lead to Feelings of Depression in our Children, Adolescents, and Teens.”

  1. Thank you for the solid advice. I especially appreciated the suggestion that children write down a list of things that might be helpful for them, so that they can reference it when they are feeling lousy.

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