Teen Anxiety

Experiencing occasional anxiousness is a normal part of growing up. However, when anxiety becomes chronic and overwhelming, it can interfere with your teen’s development and daily life in significant ways.

Teen anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. This age group is particularly susceptible to developing anxiety disorders due to the many stressors and changes they experience during this time.

It is now the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million people of all ages. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 31.9% of children aged 13 to 18 experience mental illness every year. 

Teen Anxiety

Experiencing occasional anxiousness is a normal part of growing up. However, when anxiety becomes chronic and overwhelming, it can interfere with your teen’s development and daily life in significant ways.

Teen anxiety and depression are at an all-time high. This age group is particularly susceptible to developing anxiety disorders due to the many stressors and changes they experience during this time.

It is now the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting 40 million people of all ages. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 31.9% of children aged 13 to 18 experience mental illness every year.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety refers to a feeling of uneasiness and apprehension. Everyone experiences this state at some point in their life – for example, you may feel anxious before an important test or interview. However, some people experience an anxiety disorder, which is when the state of anxiousness can be so severe and constant that it disrupts their daily lives.

symptoms-of-anxiety

Panic Attacks vs. Anxiety Attacks

Anxiety attacks are not panic attacks, but many people confuse the two.

A panic attack is a specific type of anxiety attack characterized by intense fear, palpitations, and other physical symptoms. These episodes can be so terrifying that the person often avoids any activity or situation that could trigger them.

On the other hand, anxiety attacks are not as intense as panic attacks and may not have physical symptoms. However, they can still be very frightening and can cause a lot of distress.

Types of Anxiety

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are several different types of anxiety disorders that teenagers may experience. These include:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

This condition manifests itself as excessive worry in multiple areas such as school, work, family life, and relationships. GAD-related worry is typically unrealistic or disproportionate to the situation at hand. It can be very impairing and often lead to difficulty concentrating or sleeping.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

An individual suffering from SAD exhibits a fear of social situations in which a person might be judged or embarrassed. This type can make it difficult for teenagers to participate in social activities, such as attending school or talking to people they don’t know well. SAD often results in the person avoiding social situations altogether.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development where they feel anxious about being away from an adult figure or caregiver, such as their parents. SAD usually lasts until about three years old, but some children experience it longer than others and may not outgrow this problem until they’re older. While it’s less common, separation disorders can also develop in teenagers and adults, causing issues leaving home for school or work.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder involves intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). OCD can be very disruptive and cause a great deal of anxiety for teenagers. It can be challenging to break the cycle of OCD thoughts and rituals, but some treatments can help.

Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder often experience a sudden onset of intense fear or terror, along with physical symptoms like chest pain or a racing heart. This feeling is commonly called a panic attack.

During a panic attack, people may feel like they have a heart attack, are losing control, or dying. Many people with panic disorder fear having an attack in public because it can happen at any moment. For teenagers, this can be very frightening and may lead to them avoiding situations where they might have a panic attack.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be triggered by exposure to a traumatic event. The effects of PTSD can cause flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event or experience.

Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and hyperarousal. These symptoms can make it difficult for teenagers to go about their daily lives. PTSD may develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as car accidents, natural disasters, physical assault, or sexual assault.

Causes of Anxiety

According to Mayo Clinic, the causes of this disorder in teenagers are vast and varied. Below are the risk factors most commonly associated with it in teenagers:

  • Trauma can be a significant cause of anxiousness in teenagers, including anything from physical or sexual abuse to the death of a loved one.
  • Bullying is another common cause in teenagers. Those affected may feel isolated, insecure, and self-conscious.
  • Family history becomes a factor if the disorder is common in your family, as there is a higher risk that your teen will develop it.
  • Chemical imbalances will often trigger anxiety due to chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances might be the result of genetics or the environment.
  • Stressful life events are commonplace for teens, such as moving, starting a new school, or going through puberty. For some teens, this can lead to increased anxiety levels.
  • Stress due to illness. When a teenager is dealing with a chronic disease or health issue, it can be very stressful and increase anxiety levels.
  • Appearance and body image. Teens often feel a great deal of pressure to look and act a certain way, leading to anxiousness and insecurity.
  • Stress buildup. If a teen is constantly under pressure, it can build stress and aggravate anxiety disorders.

Treatment for Teens Diagnosed with Anxiety

People must consult a doctor to determine the best way to treat their teen, but we can treat the disorder in various ways. Below are some of the different treatment options that are typically used in teenagers:

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy refers to psychological treatment that helps people understand and manage their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It can be done individually or in a group setting.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one type of psychotherapy that has been found to be effective for treating the disorder in teenagers. CBT helps people learn how to change their thoughts and behavior to manage their disorders better.

Medication Side-Effects

Medication does not necessarily cure the person of the disorder, but it can help manage the symptoms. Doctors can prescribe several different types of drugs, and each person will respond differently to them. The doctor will work with you to find the best medicine for your teen.
The common medication used to treat the disorder is antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and beta-blockers.

  • Antidepressants are medications used to treat depression but can also be effective for treating the disorder. It is important to talk to your doctor about any side effects the antidepressant may have. Some common side effects of antidepressants include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and sexual dysfunction.
  • Anti-anxiety medications work quickly to help relieve the disorder’s symptoms, as suggests the name itself. However, they should only be used as a short-term treatment since individuals may eventually tolerate them.
  • Beta-blockers are used to treat heart conditions, but they are helpful in treating some cases of this disorder. Beta-blockers help to control the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart and sweating.

Support Groups

Support groups are an excellent way for teenagers with the disorder to connect with other people going through the same thing. It can be helpful to hear from others how they have managed their disorder and get advice from them.

Stress Management Techniques

Many different stress management techniques can help teenagers manage their disorders. These techniques include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation.

The Role of Parents

Parenting a teenager who experiences anxiety can be difficult and, at times, frustrating. It is important to remember that your child’s disorder is not intentional, and they are not trying to upset you.

The best way to support your teen is by being understanding and patient. Try to listen attentively and avoid making assumptions or judgments.

It is also important to be a role model for healthy coping mechanisms. If you can remain calm in difficult situations, your teen will be more likely to do the same. Additionally, try to provide a sense of structure and stability in your child’s life to help reduce anxiousness and uncertainty.

Lastly, make sure your teen knows that you are always available to talk and that you love them no matter what.

Conclusion

Teenagers experience anxiety for a variety of reasons. While sometimes it is normal and even helpful, too much can be debilitating. Parents and teens need to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of teen anxiety and depression and know when to get help.

With the proper treatment and support from loved ones, most teens can overcome their anxiety and lead healthy, productive lives through treatment at Hillside Horizon.