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By Dhanashree Padhye

MA (Psychology)

13 October 2022
Medically reviewed by
Dhanashree Padhye
MA (Psychology)
Treating Anxiety in Teens
Table of Contents

Facts and Stats about Anxiety in teens in the USA

In recent years the prevalence rate of Anxiety, depression and other behavioural issues has increased in the United States. It has become easier to indulge in social media, primarily for children and teenagers.

They follow social networking sites daily, giving opportunities for the presentation of the self, learning, building a wide circle of relationships, and managing privacy and intimacy. There is an increased concern about the risk to the self, loss of privacy, bullying, harmful contacts, and many more.

It is observed that 1 in 3  of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 are more prone to experience Anxiety. (National Institute of Health). The number of children with Anxiety has been increasing between 2007 and 2012. Anxiety disorders went up 20% in these years.

There are stats combined with the growing amount of teenage suicide admissions in the hospital. The rates doubling over past decades are alarming.

The Child Mind Institute reports that:

· 19.3% of teens have a specific phobia
· 9.1% of teens have a social Anxiety disorder
· 7.6% of teens have separation Anxiety
· 2.3% of teens have a panic disorder
· 2.2% of teens have Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • There was diagnostic interview data from the National Comorbidity Study Replication (NCS-R) prevalence of past year Anxiety disorder in U.S. adults aged 18, or older 18 showed that:
  • 19.1% of U.S. adults had a high rate of Anxiety in the last few years
  • The prevalence rate of any Anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%)than for males(14.3%).
  • Also, there was a prediction that 31.1% of U.S. adults experienced an Anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.

What is behind the increase in youngsters suffering from acute Anxiety?

High expectations and pressure to succeed

Teenagers today live in a  culture of achievement, where they can feel pressured to become successful in many ways earlier generations did not.

Every year there is a survey done by Higher Education Research in which first-year college students are asked how they get affected by everything they do.

A world that feels scary and threatening

There were terrorist attacks in the U.S. and all around the world. People living there have seen shooting in public places.

Teenagers may have seen the shootings which took many lives in front of their eyes. It is possible for anyone to will feel scared to visit the places where they used to feel safe previously.

Social media 

Teens today are constantly connected to social media sites. That is the primary reason behind their attitude and worldview.

When teenagers see others posting things in their lives, they compare their lives with others. Some children have sudden and persistent reactions to daily activities. 

Hormones

Teen hormone production will decrease during adolescence. Sometimes they may feel anxious, upset, depressed, and angry without any particular reason. Some of these feelings come from hormonal changes.

Due to hormonal changes, teenage boys have to deal with the flow of testosterone, and adolescent girls have to deal with hormonal changes due to menstruation. At this age, teenagers lack the maturity to handle certain situations and don't have any experience dealing with the feelings associated with those hormones. Hence they are likely to experience stress and Anxiety.  

Parental Disapproval

Teenagers are at the stage where they want their parents' consent, but sometimes they want to resist parental authority. Often teenagers will continue with their actions, even if their parents don't want them to do.

This stage of their life is very natural and essential for their development, but it will cause some stress and Anxiety in the parents and teens. 

How Does Anxiety Differ in Teenagers?

Social Anxiety

Social Anxiety often happens in schools and peer settings as they fear being judged or embarrassed in social situations. It may appear while speaking with authority figures or older adults.

Teenagers may feel that they are being negatively classified and judged by others as anxious, weak, dumb, dull, and unlikeable. (Stein, M.B. and Stein, D.J., 2008)

Separation Anxiety 

It is the most common Anxiety disorder in small kids, which involves concern and thoughts about something terrible that will happen to the child or the caregiver after going away from the child.

This will lead to sleep disturbances, social dejection, physical symptoms of Anxiety, or struggles in school. (Masi, G., Mucci, M. and Millepiedi, S., 2001)

Phobias

There are some familiar phobias observed in teens and kids.

They include: 

  • Hemophobia
  • Emetophobia
  • Trypanophobia

Anxiety symptoms associated with phobias will last six months or more. (Seligman, M.E., 1971)

What Are the Symptoms of Teenage Anxiety?

Emotional Changes 

Teenage emotional changes are widespread, including feeling jittery, nervous, annoyed, having trouble concentrating, agitation, and new attack or tantrums. When teenagers hit puberty, their bodies undergo many changes, making it natural to feel uncomfortable. They become susceptible to their physical appearance resulting in irritation, anger, and depression. (Rosenblum, G.D. and Lewis, M., 2003)

Social Changes 

Suppose you notice your child avoiding conversations with their usual friends, not participating in extracurricular activities at school or college, staying away from peers, and spending alone time frequently; it is a call for help!

Physical Changes

The physical complaints which can arise with an Anxiety disorder will appear the same as general complaints by teenagers. Hence we might ignore them, but you should notice frequent headaches in your teen, which might be severe.

Frequent headaches/ migraine, gastrointestinal problems, strange pains or aches, extreme fatigue, not feeling well without any medical reason, and changes in diet are the changes which you should not ignore.   

Sleep Disturbance

Teens 13 to 18 years of age must sleep 8 to 10 hours daily. It is advisable to shut the screen 30 minutes before bedtime. Therefore, it becomes difficult to understand that exhaustion results from Anxiety or a busy schedule. It is a call for a red flag if you observe symptoms like difficulty falling asleep, difficulty sleeping, persistent nightmares, and not feeling fresh after waking up in your teens.

So, what can parents, teachers, and others who work with children and teenagers do?

You can do all these things for your children as a parent or caregiver.

Please encourage them to share their feelings

Search for the ways you can "check in" with your teenager. Forex, while preparing for dinner, you can ask them about how their day was. What activities did they do today? When your teenager shares uncomfortable experiences and emotions, remind them that you are always with them.

"I understand it must be difficult" and "yes, that makes sense" are some phrases that will give them assurance and encouragement. Try to notice efforts taken by your teenager, even though it includes simple tasks like cleaning their room and keeping their clothes organized.

At such times if you praise them, they will be happy and will continue to do these things regularly. 

Take the time to support them

You can work with your teenager to set up a routine, which can be done by making achievable daily goals. Allow them some free time from school, homework, and housework, as independence is essential at this stage.

They need their own space to do some things, which is normal. If they are stuck while working on something, sit with them and brainstorm some ideas to help them, but don't give instructions like, "you should do this" or "don't be irresponsible". These are some ways you can show support.

Work through conflict together

Whenever there is a conflict, listen to your teen's views and try to sort it out since everyone gets stressed. Never talk about any problem if you are angry. Empathize with them rather than controlling them or fighting back with them.

If you try to control your teenager, they will not listen to you and might get angry. Be transparent and honest with your teenager about how much stress you are going through. Also, take some time for reflection and talk to them about how you both can resolve the conflict.

Some Tips for parents, teachers and caregivers

  • Paying attention to their feelings
  • Staying calm whenever teenagers become anxious about any situation 
  • The child will feel happy when you recognize their accomplishments and praise them.
  • When you don't punish them for minor mistakes, they will feel trusted
  • Try to maintain a daily routine, but allow them to be flexible at times
  • Changing expectations during stressful times
     

When Should You Seek Treatment for Teen Anxiety?

If you observe the following things happening with your child, it will be better to seek professional help as soon as possible.

  • Changed behaviour or acting out
  • Severe changes in the sleep-wake cycle or diet
  • Avoiding social activities, places or people 
  • Selective mutism or refusing to speak to others 
  • Intense worry about every tiny thing
  • Anxiety about everyday stresses, like schoolwork or sports, which is persistent and interferes with day-to-day life
  • Irritability, sadness, or frequent tearfulness
  • Exposure to a traumatic situation
     

Types of Anxiety Medications for Teens

Prescription medications are helpful in Anxiety treatment. They are used in association with CBT. When teenagers have mild to moderate impairments, they must change their medicines.

Benadryl is used as an Anxiety relief medication by doctors. It has calming effects on Anxiety and is mainly prescribed for children and adolescents with Anxiety disorders. (AACAP). Vistaril (hydroxyzine), similar to Benadryl, can also be used as a short-term remedy for treating Anxiety.

Painkillers act on different parts of the brain, which are related to the experience of emotional pain. One of the studies from the University of British Columbia decided that OTC medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) affected emotional distress and provoked Anxiety.

Treatments for more severe Anxiety might include psychological therapy such as cognitive behaviour therapy or counselling.

Natural Remedies to treat Anxiety in teens

John's Wort

It works as a mood booster. Combined with passion flower and valerian, it will reduce Anxiety and attention disorders in children up to 12 years. If your child is taking any medicines, you can talk to the doctor about the side effects of this herb.

Passionflower

Passionflower doesn't have the therapeutic properties of attention disorder medications. It helps to deal with Anxiety symptoms. Passionflower has been reported to calm the Anxiety of patients about to undergo surgery in the hospital.

Exercise

Exercise is considered to be an essential factor in mood stability. It has many benefits, including protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. Exercise can revive symptoms of depression and Anxiety. Exercise also helps the brain's nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, which regulates our mood.

Family Time and Connection 

Teenagers often feel lonely, depressed, isolated and confused as there are emotional and physical changes. They start to perceive the world around them differently, and it starts to affect them.

Therefore it is necessary to meet friends and have dinner with family. Connecting is required in times when they are growing. It's essential for teens to feel supported, and this will come from close family members.

It's important to make your teen feel seen, heard and understood. For that, it is essential to set some goals to create a family time to talk, connect, and be with each other. (Kendall, P.C., Hudson, J.L., Gosch, E., Flannery-Schroeder, E. and Suveg, C., 2008)

Conclusion

Teenagers might experience different negative emotions like anger, confusion, frustration, jealousy, self-criticism, and rejection as changes happen in their bodies. It can be challenging to handle these emotions since they are new.

It will be better if we as a caregiver help them, support them, and encourage them to do things in which they need help. Often, these changes are natural, and most teenagers will learn to deal with them.

Still, if your teenager is showing changes in sleeping and eating habits, if they are quieter than usual, if they are avoiding social interactions, you should seek professional help. You can also try some natural remedies for mild Anxiety symptoms.

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