Anxiety and depression in teenagers

In September this year I had the opportunity to hear Rebecca Avern, an acupuncturist with a special interest in paediatrics, speak about the causes and treatment of anxiety and depression in teenagers. What did I learn that I can pass on to you, so that you can help a young person who may be struggling?

Adolescence is a time when the body has extra energy which can become constrained or stuck in response to challenges in life and this can lead to depression. A young person must be encouraged to move, express themselves and to get ANGRY (yes – anger is a good way of getting this stuck energy moving). An explosion is healthier than an implosion.

We live in a time where we all spend a lot of our time sitting and looking at our phones or tablets. This isn’t going to change so we need to make sure that we tell our teenagers to MOVE MORE and THINK LESS.

They need a way to release their pent up energy and also to express themselves in an authentic way. A counsellor or life coach could help them to find a way to communicate effectively with the people they see are causing them anguish, conflict and worry.

Some young people may not be living under the heavy weight of depression, but instead in a state of anxiety. They may be uncertain of themselves and in need of approval to feel more settled. Getting positive feedback from peers through social media can provide a temporary relief but in the long run can act as a source of anxiety in itself. If you know someone who feels this restless anxiety then advise them to SPEND TIME ALONE (yes without devices), and be in NATURE. This can ground someone and settle the anxious internal energy. It may take some practice though!

Another common pattern is where a teenager is run down and doesn’t have the energy to be the grumpy defiant teen that is usual for this age (we may not always enjoy their company during this time but it is an essential part of growing up and becoming an independent adult). Special attention should be paid to having plenty of nutritious FOOD and taking steps to ensure they get plenty of SLEEP. This may mean providing them with a big breakfast or agreeing on everyone (yes, even you) putting their phones in one place at bedtime to encourage a more restful sleep.

Other common situations are where a teenager struggles to:

  • express their uniqueness
  • separate from their family and find their own tribe
  • connect with their changing body and need caring touch in their lives
  • either rest at home or want to leave the house at all.


Acupuncture is special in that it can help move the heavy, stuck energy of depression, settle the agitation of anxiety and help someone move forward. All this without the young person having to open up and talk when they might not have the words to express how they feel or not know where to start. The acupuncture needles can do their gentle work without words.

As acupuncturists should not treat anyone under 16 years of age without the parent or guardian present, being able to give acupuncture and start making a change can happen if the young  person feels reluctant to speak in front of their parents.

Acupuncture is becoming more acceptable to young people, who are likely to have seen photos of celebrities or sports people having the treatment. They can be reassured that a credible acupuncturist will always keep anything they talk about confidential (including the fact that they even have acupuncture). Acupuncture can even be fun, reassure them that they won’t have to spend an hour talking about how awful they feel.

Being a teenager is difficult and a recent report by the World Federation for Mental Health says that 20% of young people will suffer from a mental illness. The need to act is vital considering that suicide is the second leading cause of death in people aged 15–29 years.

If you want to talk to me about acupuncture or make an appointment you can give me a call on 07815 097473 or email me at

The following are also great sources of support if you know, or are, a young person living with anxiety or depression:

SAMARITANS – or call 116123

YOUNG MINDS Parents Helpline: 0808 802 5544

CHILDLINE 0800 1111

PAPYRUS  0800 068 41 41

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