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Summer Camp Anxiety and Depression

boysMany parents can remember the fear and anxiety that accompanied their first significant overnight stay when they attended summer camp.

New research suggests the psychological stress should be addressed rather than simply glossed over as a rite of passage.

About six million children in the United States attend summer camp each year and 24 percent of children ages 6 to 12 attend summer day-care programs. Parents want their children to be safe and healthy.

One aspect of health that is sometimes overlooked during these decisions is mental health. Unfamiliar environments may be an anxiety trigger for some children, and adolescence brings stressors of its own.

Common symptoms associated with anxiety include refusing to go to camp, extreme worries about sleeping away from home, and/or being afraid to meet or talk to new people outside of the family. Symptoms of depression are extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and a lack of energy. Children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk for depression.

Valerie Robinson, M.D., adolescent psychiatrist at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, can discuss the symptoms parents should look for with their children. She can discuss some of the most common treatments for depression and anxiety in children which can include medications in some cases.

Robinson says, “one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for treatment of depression is Prozac. It is the only drug approved by the FDA to treat major depression in children. Other antidepressants that are approved in children for Obsessive Compulsive disorder or ADHD are used for depression and anxiety in children because they are effective in adult depression but do not specifically have FDA approval for depression or anxiety in children.”

Other antidepressants, such as Elavil and Tophernil that are approved for children are used for anxiety in children as well because they are effective in adult depression but do not specifically have FDA approval for depression or anxiety in children. The only drugs the FDA doesn’t recommend for adolescents are Paxil and Effexor. Thus, Robinson says it is not approved for children in that age category.

“Other suggestions would be a follow-up visit with your child’s doctor a week after the child has begun the medication, and then periodic visits until the patient is stable.”

Robinson says If you notice a marked change in their behavior such as mood swings, suicide thoughts, self-harming of any kind, or if the patient is feeling more agitated, notify your child’s doctor immediately. If your child is exhibiting any of these symptoms you should consult your physician. There are several treatments including medication, therapy or a combination, which can help. Using a combination of medicine plus therapy would be the optimal solution to treatment.

“Anti-depressants typically require eight to 12 weeks to begin working effectively. So if you make a visit to your family doctor or psychiatrist, one question you should ask is whether medication, therapy, or both will “cure” my child of anxiety and depression. You also might want to ask how the treatment you choose might affect your child’s activities.”

What is the best solution for treating depression? Each child is different, and that is a decision to be made with your physician. With proper treatment and support, children who suffer from anxiety or depression can overcome the problem.

Source: Texas Tech University

Summer Camp Anxiety and Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Summer Camp Anxiety and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 16, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.