Occasional and temporary anxiety is normal. You feel anxious when faced with a problem that needs to be solved, before taking a test, getting up and talking before a crowd, or even before making an important decision. But what about when the worrying does not go away or gets worse and worse?1
"There are several different types of anxiety disorders...panic...generalized...agoraphobia, specific...social...post-traumatic stress...obsessive compulsive. and separation..."
National Institute of Mental Health
And what makes it so different when it's an adolescent involved? Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health issue facing adolescents today, but are all too often underrated and left untreated.2
Anxiety disorders, those that never go away and continue to get worse and worse, typically interfere with people's daily lives, including school, work, and relationships. Approximately 20% of the U.S. population has some kind of anxiety disorder but it is more prevalent among females than males.3
An anxiety disorder is defined as what a person has who has excessive and often debilitating feelings of uneasiness, worry, and fear. Some with Anxiety Disorder might be terrified to leave their homes. Some might feel constantly restless and on edge, which also keeps them from sleeping normally. Others might be paralyzed by an irrational but abject fear of spiders. An anxiety disorder by functional definition impairs day-to-day basic functioning, resulting in a significantly reduced quality of life.
And all anxiety-related problems share 4 common characteristics:4
- An inexplicable fear or preoccupation that interferes with the ability to enjoy life or complete daily functions.
- The everpresent feeling is as puzzling to the person involved as it is everyone else around him or her.
- Logical explanations or understandings do not diminish the effects of the condition.
- The problem and the problems caused can be remedied or controlled.
Anxiety Disorder in Adolescents
Nearly 32% of adolescents (13-18 years of age) have some kind of anxiety disorder, and again such is found to be more prevalent among females than males.3
What makes the onset and continued presence of Anxiety Disorder in adolescents so different, as opposed to adults, is that not only is there a growing body of research that such not only impairs the quality and quantity of daily functioning and become an resistant obstacle to natural emotional and mental development, if left untreated it can also predispose affected adolescents to continued and consolidated dysfunctioning in adulthood.5 Basically, the stakes are higher for adolescents, and early intervention is required.
The signs of the onset of Anxiety Disorder vary among adolescents, but there are some that are more common than others: excessive fears, worries, and nervousness in the absence of any actual threat; socially anxious teens are often withdrawn or uneasy, or overly restrained, often preoccupied with fear of losing control to unrealistic social expectations; frequent complaints of muscle tension and cramps, as well as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.4
The most common Anxiety Disorder is when adolescents (girls more so than boys) experience feelings of intense panic, resulting in panic attacks. During the attack, the adolescent will feel overwhelmed for no rational reason and either shut down emotionally or run physically to avoid the perceived encounter.4 An adolescent afflicted with this tendency may experience dizziness, difficulty breathing, and stomach upset by merely having to stand in a line.
Many affected adolescents develop exaggerated fears that center on specific objects or situations, resulting in withdrawal and or mental shut down. Most of the phobias during this time involve academic performance and social participation at school. Such avoidance-like response creates a spiraling cycle of anxiety, as performance in school falls and friend networks diminish.4 An adolescent afflicted with this illness may experience all of the above sensations just thinking about getting his or her hands dirty.
Early intervention for diagnosed Anxiety Disorder is a must. At stake is the ongoing quality of life experienced as an adolescent, as well as the long-term health and later functioning in adulthood.6
"A worried teenager performs less well in school, sports, and social interactions."
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Evidence-Based Practices for treating Anxiety Disorder in children and youth include:
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy in combination with Selective Reuptake Inhibitors
- CBT is talk therapy that explores thoughts and perceptions
- SRI is a medication
- Identifying and deflating the power of Automatic Thoughts
- Capture first response thoughts in order to correct and adjust them
- Learning to let go of Safety Seeking behaviors
- Withholding safety seeking habits to break the cycle of dependence
- Learning and practicing Deep Breathing exercises
- To reduce stress and panic response
- Learning and practicing Muscle Relaxation exercises
- Strategy to ease tension growing in muscles
- Practicing Cognitive Restructuring
- Identifying old ways of thinking and replacing them with new ways
- Practicing Exposure Intervention
- Teaches adolescents to initially avoid fight or flight responses
1 "Anxiety Disorders: Overview," National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
2 "Anxiety in Adolescents," Rebecca Siegel.
3 "Any Anxiety Disorder," National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
4 "Your Adolescent--Anxiety and Avoidant Disorders," American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2018.
5 "Anxiety Disorders in Adolescence," Carl Tassin, 2014.
6 "Evidence-Based Practices for Youth Anxiety Disorders," Shanelle Wenell, 2014.
For further information in regards to how we can assist you and your troubled teen today, please call our child-placement specialists any time at (800) 559-1980.