Here’s How You Can Help Your Teen Manage Anxiety
Did I study enough for this test?
What if I can’t make friends?
Will I make the team this year?
What am I going to do after high school?
What happens if I get caught doing this?
Am I making my family proud?
Will I be successful?
Am I good enough?
Do you remember asking yourself similar questions when you were a teen? Most people do.
The fact of the matter is that life can be hard, and there are plenty of anxiety-producing situations constantly knocking at our doors — especially for teens.
If your teen is feeling the effects of anxiety, it’s important for them to understand they do not have to hide or run from those feelings. In fact, they’re quite normal.
But as a parent/caregiver, you hate to see your teen struggling with anything. The good news is that anxiety can be managed, and your teen can live a completely normal life.
For the purposes of this blog post, we’re going to take a look at what causes teen anxiety, other mental health disorders teens can struggle with, and how teen counseling can help.
What Is Anxiety?
At some point, we all deal with anxiety. What causes anxiety is different for everyone.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), “Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress.”
While many experts aren’t exactly sure what causes anxiety, things like genetics (inborn traits), stress, and environment are suspected to have some impact.
While there are many anxiety disorders, three of the most common are: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.
Generalized anxiety disorder is the excessive worry about everyday things like money, loved ones, and overall well-being.
Panic disorder involves panic attacks, which are sudden bouts of extreme fear even when there’s nothing to be fearful of.
Phobias are defined by an intense fear of something that usually isn’t dangerous. Phobias include, but are not limited to, things like social interactions, bugs, heights, and crowded places.
According to the NLM, the following people may be at risk for anxiety disorders:
- Those with personality traits like being shy or withdrawn
- Those with a family history of mental health disorders
- People with thyroid problems or arrhythmia (irregular or abnormal heartbeat)
- Those who’ve suffered trauma (an awful experience)
Generally speaking, anyone can battle anxiety, regardless of age, gender, race, or background.
Right now, around 4.4 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. That number continues to grow every year.
Why Do Teenagers Experience Anxiety?
As we’ve discussed, experts really don’t have a concrete answer when asked about the main cause of anxiety, but they do believe things like genetics, stress, and environment can play a role.
When you’re in your teens, there are plenty of stressors and environmental changes, creating a perfect recipe for anxiety. For example, your teen could be experiencing:
- Stress due to grades or schoolwork
- Problems making friends
- Stigmas (negative and often unfair beliefs about something)
- Peer pressure
- An unsafe neighborhood
- Applying for college
- Entering the workforce
- Balancing responsibilities
- Self-consciousness (feeling embarrassed, awkward, or ashamed)
- Financial problems
But even if your teen isn’t feeling any stressors or environmental impacts, do not brush their feelings aside. Those feelings are still valid and need to be addressed. Maintain contact with your child, check in with them, and refrain from being judgmental. They need your support.
If your teen is overwhelmed by anxiety, seeking the advice of a medical professional is highly recommended. Not only can they help in understanding the potential of an anxiety disorder, but they can also rule out any other health problems that could imitate its symptoms.
Spotting Anxiety Symptoms
First, we’ll take a look at symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
While this condition is common, it’s important to remember your teen might find it difficult to control. Symptoms can include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Being unable to relax
- Being unable to manage or stop worrying
- Difficulty concentrating
There are a number of known phobias, so symptoms may vary. Here’s a list of the most common phobias:
- Acrophobia (fear of heights)
- Arachnophobia (fear of spiders)
- Social phobias (fear of interacting with people)
- Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes)
- Mysophobia (fear of germs)
- Claustrophobia (fear of being in small places)
- Aerophobia (fear of flying)
There are plenty of other phobias, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any extreme fears your teen might have.
A panic attack, the main sign of panic disorder, can be overwhelming, and sometimes can come out of nowhere. In extreme situations, panic attacks can cause people to visit the emergency room out of fear something much more serious is happening. Those with a panic disorder may experience the following:
- Problems with shaking, trembling, numbness, or tingling
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Chills or hot flashes
- Chest pains or heart palpitations
- Feeling nauseous (like you need to vomit)
- Extreme fear
Can Anxiety Be Treated?
The simple answer is: Yes.
While many cases of anxiety are left untreated or even undiagnosed, those who receive treatment can learn how to live with and manage these mental health disorders.
One of the more common methods of treatment is what’s known as cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of therapy will help teens learn how to behave and think in a more positive way.
Overall, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on helping teens discover deeper psychological issues affecting their mental health. By understanding what causes your anxiety, you can learn how to manage it.
If needed, your teen may be prescribed medications to combat anxiety. Medications should not be consumed unless prescribed by a medical professional.
In some cases, cognitive behavioral therapy and medications are recommended together.
Professional treatment can give your teen the tools they’ll need to overcome nearly any obstacle caused by anxiety. The younger they learn those skills, the better.
Depression: Another Common Mental Health Disorder for Teens
Much like anxiety, depression is quite common for teens. However, it is still serious and can be a difficult mental health disorder to control.
The NLM defines depression as “a serious medical illness. It’s more than just a feeling of being sad or ‘blue’ for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million teens and adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life.”
If you’re depressed, you may feel sad, tired, hopeless, or irritable. You may lose interest in activities you once loved. You may be eating more or not at all. Depression can even cause aches, pains, and digestive problems. Overall, it’s a condition that can cause physical, mental, and emotional distress.
Anyone can have depression, and there are a variety of factors that contribute to it. Since depression is serious, if your teen is having any of the symptoms mentioned above, they should speak with a medical professional.
Recognizing Teen Eating Disorders
Eating disorders come in a variety of forms, including anorexia nervosa (refusing to eat), bulimia nervosa (self-induced purging of food after eating), and binge eating (eating large amounts in one sitting and feeling out of control).
Sometimes, eating disorders can also coincide with anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.
Symptoms of an eating disorder include:
- Skipping meals
- Constant mention of being overweight
- Eating large amounts of food
- Going to the bathroom immediately after eating
- Eating in secret
- Tooth enamel decay due to self-induced vomiting
According to the NLM, “Anyone can develop an eating disorder, but they are more common in women. Eating disorders frequently appear during the teen years or young adulthood. But people can also develop them during childhood or later in life.”
Since eating disorders can be extremely dangerous, seeking help is crucial. In order to diagnose an eating disorder, a medical professional will typically perform a physical exam, run various tests, and ask questions about the condition. You should advise your teen to be honest about the situation so they can receive the proper treatment.
When to Seek Treatment
If your teen is struggling with any condition we’ve discussed in this blog post, treatment can prevent the problem from growing worse. It can also help in developing healthy coping skills that can result in better mental and physical health for the rest of their life.
It’s important for you and your teen to remember that what they’re feeling is normal, and there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Just as you’d seek treatment for a physical injury, you should do the same for any mental health condition.
At times, your teen may feel overwhelmed by anxiety or any mental health disorder, but they no longer have to. Help is out there.
SUN Behavioral Columbus Can Help Your Teen Manage Anxiety
It cannot be said enough: Being a teen is hard. If you’re a parent/caregiver and you’re seeing any symptoms of anxiety previously mentioned, it’s OK to ask for help.
We offer evidence-based adolescent therapy treatments to help with mental health and mood disorders.
Adolescent therapy involves identifying psychological issues that impact mental health and emotional distress. Once those are identified, a therapist will work with the patient to identify healthy ways of dealing with and managing emotional distress.
The ultimate goal is to help your teen learn how to manage their anxiety so they’ll have the tools to live life without it holding them back.
We use the combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy to help make managing symptoms of anxiety much easier. Our trained staff of psychiatrists and trauma-informed professionals is here to make sure your teen is receiving the care they need throughout the treatment process.
Here at SUN Behavioral Columbus, we believe in empowering our patients to be the expert in their life. This includes being able to identify their needs and learning how to overcome obstacles.
To learn more about how we can help, call (614) 706-2786.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you help a teenager with anxiety?
If you think your teen is having symptoms of anxiety, tell a medical professional. If needed, anxiety can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or medication, or both. CBT will help teens learn how to behave and think in a more positive way, and it will help them discover deeper psychological issues affecting their mental health. There are a number of medications prescribed to combat anxiety. As a parent/caregiver, it’s important to remain supportive and understanding as your teen receives treatment.
What are the signs of anxiety in a teenager?
Anxiety is different for everyone. In general, anxiety symptoms include trouble sleeping, being unable to relax, being unable to manage or stop worrying, difficulty concentrating, nervousness, overthinking, various phobias, chest pains, heart palpitations, nausea, and more. Some of these symptoms can be caused by other health conditions, which is why it’s important to speak with a medical professional.
Is teenage anxiety a thing?
Yes, teen anxiety is real. Anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of age. Teens actually have a lot of anxiety-producing factors in their lives, such as doing well in school, making friends, preparing for life after high school, balancing school and extracurricular activities, peer pressure, and the list goes on and on.
How do I know if my teen needs treatment for anxiety?
If they feel overwhelmed or like they cannot control their anxiety, you should help them to seek professional treatment. Professional treatment is a useful tool for anyone with anxiety, whether it be through therapy, medication, or a combination of both. If you notice your teen struggling with anxiety, make sure they know asking for help is OK.