Anxiety and Depression in Teens and Young Adults.
A Naturopathic Approach
Anxiety and Depression in Teens and Young People has become a topic of much discussion in the Medical Community as well as in our Culture at large. I have seen this in my Naturopathic Practice as well. So many parents are bringing their young adult children and teens into see me for mental and emotional complaints such as Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue, Insomnia, and even Suicidal thoughts.
My sister encouraged me to write this article based on the experience that I have had treating Anxiety and Depression my nieces and nephews.
MY FAMILY STORY
A few years ago, my nephews in New York reached out to me for help. They were suffering from extreme Anxiety and Depression. They were already in psychotherapy to talk through the stressors. This helped them to identify their feelings and work with behavioral changes. However, it did not change the actual physical symptoms of the anxiety and depression.
The boys were suffering, my sister and her husband were worried, and prescription medications were not something anyone was excited to try. After spending some time talking with the boys and my sister, I suggested that we do some bloodwork and test their neurotransmitters and adrenals. The labs came back with various imbalances that included vitamin deficiencies, Epstein Barr virus and Mono, and numerous Neurotransmitter imbalances such as serotonin, dopamine, cortisol, GABA, adrenaline and more.
The kids were relieved to find that there was something out of balance that explained their symptoms. They were even more relieved to know that there was a natural approach to correcting the imbalances with diet, lifestyle, functional foods, and supplements. They eagerly agreed to do the rebuilding and rebalancing program of supplements. I informed them that this would take about 6 months to correct. The symptoms would improve within days; however, the treatment would last about 4-8 months if they wanted to correct the levels and balances. Understanding how their body works and why they were feeling so lousy was the most important part of the program.
It is with this knowledge that they were inspired to adhere to the diet, lifestyle, and supplement regime. Imagine getting teenage boys to stick with a program that most adults bulk at! Not only did they follow the program, but they also finished it. The relief of symptoms literally began within days. But they followed through with the plan because I explained this was necessary to change the labs. The boys loved the experiment, and it changed their lives at school, with friends and at home. It was a joy for me to see them change and thrive in their lives.
Within months, my nephews were referring their friends to me. I was now treating scores of New York City teenagers with similar symptoms. The word was out! My nieces and nephews are extremely close, and they share intimate details about their lives with each other. Over the last few years, I have or am treating almost all 10 of my nieces and nephews. They shared similar symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Everyone wanted to try it because they could see the changes in their cousins.
For me there has been great joy in working with my nieces, nephews, and their friends to improve the quality of their mental, emotional, and physical health. It is a great honor to have them send their friends to me. I have a deep admiration for this young generation. They are more self-aware than I imagined, and they are very proactive in their healing when they are educated about their bodies.
A NATUROPATHIC APPROACH treats the CAUSE not just the SYMPTOMS
Here is a bit about my approach to working with Kids, Teens, and Young Adults.
There are times where medication may be part of the Holistic plan. However, often correcting young people can be done with a totally natural approach. This starts with partnering with a Functional Medicine, Integrative Medicine or Naturopathic Doctor that can help explore the root cause that explains the symptoms. The practitioner’s ability to educate the child is one of the most important aspects of the success of this therapy. It gets the child engaged in their healing by understanding how their body works. This knowledge at a young age can profoundly change young people’s lives and prevent them from self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, and food. These addictions start young and are often exacerbated by underlying health and hormone imbalances.
Anxiety and Depression are Symptoms and may be described differently to different people. Typical Symptoms associated with Anxiety include fear, restlessness, worry, sense of impending doom, paranoia, self-consciousness, mind racing, racing heart, tense muscles, grinding teeth, tight stomach, diarrhea, insomnia, shortness of breath, and panic attacks
Symptoms associated with Depression can include dark thoughts, sadness, apathy, fatigue, exhaustion, brain fog, heaviness, aloofness, cynicism, negative thinking, hopelessness, confusion, loss of focus, withdraw, socially disconnecting, and irregular sleep patterns.
When I see a young person that identifies as either Anxious or Depressed, the first thing I ask them is what does that mean to them? What they identify as Anxiety and Depression are very different for different people. What causes these symptoms and how we treat them is equally as unique as they are.
Causes of Anxiety and Depression in young people are important for helping them to understand the way they feel and how the healing will be approached. I often wonder if these symptoms are more profound now or if the parents and children are more aware of them. I can say I remember feeling so many of these feelings as a teen and young adult. However, I never called it Anxiety and Depression. I self-medicated for the symptoms with alcohol, drugs, and food to compensate and cover up for the way I was feeling. Was it situational, chemical, social, hereditary, mental, or more? I look back at my journey of self-healing that began with the beginning of medical education. I know see that so many of these feelings and symptoms were really related to physical imbalances and lifestyle choices that affected my emotional and mental health.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, Chiropractor and Acupuncturist I address
the cause of people’s symptoms
and not just the symptom itself.
Each generation has different stressors that help to define the personality and characteristics of the young people of that time. The Stressors that kids are facing now are truly unique and may be hard for adults to identify with as they are quite different than what we experienced. There are 3 Social Factors that Children today are dealing with that their Parents didn’t.
- Gun Violence, School Shootings and Active Shooter Drills…. I just don’t see how this can be normalized in society.
- The influence and stress of social media is having a very really impact on social skills and self-esteem.
- Covid 19 led many kids to feel isolated and behind in education.
These 3 big factors don’t consider other things that can affect a child’s unique experience including family life and relationships, physical health, fitness and exercise, diet, and socioeconomic status. Truly this is a complex set of factors that affect emotional wellness in Children. I am not going to try to conquer them all. However, I would like to offer an alternative approach to Medications as an entry point for dealing with these symptoms.
LABORATORY WORK UP
When a Child, Teen or Young Adult presents with these symptoms, I take a thorough intake to access all the contributing factors that may be causing the symptoms of Anxiety and Depression. These factors include parents’ health, education, social issues, spiritual issues, relationships, diet, exercise, medical history and more.
The first thing that I do is General Health Workup to rule out the Physical and underlying diseases that may contribute to Anxiety and Depression. There have been numerous times that I have seen children on medications for ADD, Depression and Anxiety that had Lyme Disease and or other illness that were the real cause for the symptoms.
So, I am sure to workup and rule out:
- Blood Sugar Imbalances
- Lyme and Tick-Borne Illness
- Epstein Barr and other Chronic Viral Infections
- Anemia and Iron Deficiency
- Vitamin Deficiencies
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Hormone Imbalances
I cannot tell you how many times the child’s Anxiety and Depression were physical problems that could easily be resolve if identified. Instead, the child was put on psychotropic medications to suppress the symptoms of Anxiety and Depression.
Testing the Adrenals and the Neurotransmitters is essential when working up anyone of any age for Anxiety and Depression. Medications used to treat the symptoms of Anxiety and Depression are Reuptake Inhibitors or Antagonists of Neurotransmitters such as Serotonin GABA, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol.
The Lab I use to test Adrenal, and Neurotransmitters is ZRT LABORATORY.
If someone is going to be prescribed a medication, I would recommend that they get these chemicals tested to identify the imbalances first. Medications should be the last resort. Imbalances in these hormones and chemicals can be treated with a Functional Medicine approach called Targeted Amino Acid therapy.
TARGETED AMINO ACID THERAPY
First, we identify the chemicals that are too low or too high. Then we use the specific amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to build and correct these imbalances. We are giving the body the building blocks it needs to replenish what they are low in. Targeted Amino Acid therapy is a curative treatment. There is a beginning and end to it. It is like filling up a car with gasoline. Once the tank is full you don’t continue to add gas. The supplements that correct these imbalances are used until the levels are corrected. Then diet and lifestyle can maintain the balance.
I Retest the Adrenal and Neurotransmitters near the end of the treatment to show the child and family that the treatment has done its work. From here we talk about diet and lifestyle to maintain the balance.
TAAT may also be used in conjunction with medical treatments and prescription drugs. It helps to reduce the need to go up to higher doses of medications. TAAT can also be used to help support patients that have a desire to go off Antidepressants and Anxiety medications. Tapering off medications is done successfully with the combined support of the Medical Doctor and Functional Medicine/Naturopathic Doctor working together.
For more information on Targeted Amino Acid Therapy, you can check out NEUROSCIENCE Supplements.
The Suffering of Children and Teens is a complex issue that involves Family, Social, Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Issues. Their stories reflect the Health of our Society, our Planet, our Families, and more. To really get to the root of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Teens, a team of support should include the Parents and Families, Friends, Schools, Therapists, Doctors, and Holistic Practitioners. The Good News is that there are so many resources to Support young people.
This is a very Special Generation of emotionally Open and Vulnerable youth
that are very interested in Understanding themselves
and eager to be Empowered to Heal.
For More information about Dr. Gabrielle Francis see her Story on The Herban Alchemist Site!