Teen Anxiety

 Everyone feels anxious from time to time; a feeling of worry, uneasiness, and fear of what may happen in the nearest future. Depending on the situation or possible threat, these feelings of anxiety could be mild or intense.

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Intro to Teen Anxiety

However, it is nonpersistent, lasting only for a few hours to a few days. A stage performance, a job interview or class presentation, a date or even a phone call can cause anxiety. Sometimes, it happens for no reason. This type of anxiety is normal, even natural in human beings. Normal anxiety is an important feeling in people as it makes people alert in situations of impending danger or change. However, Anxiety disorder is a medical condition; a mental illness that causes people to have feelings of anxiety in excess.

What does Anxiety feel like?

People with anxiety disorders feel overwhelming amounts of fear, worry, uneasiness, and nervousness and these feelings are so persistent in the individuals that they become distracted and tense all the time, unable to function normally. Anxiety disorder interferes with personal lives, academic and extracurricular activities, and relationships with families and friends.
Some teenagers may also turn to substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) when they have an anxiety disorder. A National Institute of Mental Health Statistics shows that about 25% of children and teens between the ages of 13 to 18 have one anxiety disorder or another and up to 6% battle severe anxiety disorder. This disorder may set in a child as young as 3 with symptoms exhibited at age 13 which then goes with the child into adulthood without professional help.

Types of Anxiety

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: This is the most common type of anxiety disorder in teenagers and adolescents. It can occur as early as when the child is 6 with symptoms being noticeable at age 11. The teenager with a generalized anxiety disorder is constantly worried and has an intense fear of a range of possible occurrences. The teenager or young adult worries daily about performing poorly in their academics, their family separating or even their friends leaving them. They may also worry excessively about things like weather reports, how they look and how they are perceived. This anxietydisorder has no specific trigger. Often, the teenager with a generalizedanxiety disorder has low self-esteem and the worry goes on for a very longtime.
  • Panic Disorder: This kind of anxiety attack is also not triggered by any particular situation or environment. It occurs very suddenly in the teenager who experiences intense fear and, in a moment, goes into fight or flight mode. They suddenly have a sense of impending danger which they have no control over and get a panic attack, having difficulty breathing or focusing on anything. During a panic attack, the teenager may have physical complaints of chest pain and also feel nauseous, dizzy, and numb accompanied by intense sweating, choking and inability to shake the feeling that they are dying.
  • Social Phobias: This anxiety disorder is very specific to a certain environment or situation. Teenagers with social phobia feel overwhelmed and very nervous when in a social setting. When this happens, they may withdraw and isolate themselves from other people for fear of being judged or sheer embarrassment.

    This may last for a long time and affect their normal routine negatively. Sometimes, these phobias may also manifest as extreme fear of a particular place, thing or situation. The teenager may have an unhealthy fear of enclosed spaces known as claustrophobia, fear of open spaces called agoraphobia, fear of spiders called arachnophobia, fear of height called acrophobia, fear of dogs called cynophobia or even fear of traveling or flying in an airplane.

    When in any of these situations, they may develop a panic attack.  In some situations of Sophia phobia, children and teenagers may develop selective mutism where they are too scared to even talk.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): This is a common anxiety disorder that affects both children teenagers and adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 100 adults and 1 in 20 teenagers in the United States are dealing with OCD.

    This is a disorder in which an individual obsesses over a particular unwanted thought, image or impulse which then causes extreme anxiety and stress. Following the obsession, the individual is compelled to deal with stress and anxiety by engaging in a particular habit or behavior. They may impulsively clear them room repeatedly or wash their hands, count or check if a door is locked. Excessive concerns about safety or health is an example of OCD.

    Even when the teenager knows or suspects that he has an unhealthy obsessive-compulsive behavior, he or she is unable to stop. Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors are very repetitive and time-consuming. It may interfere with the daily routines of a teenager’s negate and impact upon them negatively.
  • Separation Anxiety Disorder: This is an intense worry in children and adolescents of being gay from their parents. They become very afraid that their parents are abandoning them and may not return to pick them.  While this is more common in younger children, it may develop into adolescence and even late teenagers. The teenagers may get very reluctant to leave home, skip schools and other social meetings. They may also deny that they get very anxious about being separated from home.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This is a type of anxiety disorder in teenagers that have experienced a deeply scary situation or traumatic event. The shock of the event may cause them to have flashbacks, dreams or relapse in situations that trigger them. Witnessing a violent crime, a disaster or being involved in one may cause PTSD in teenagers.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder

There are several symptoms of Anxiety Disorder and these symptoms differ in each teenager and also depends on the kind of anxiety disorder they have. There are social, emotional and physical symptoms of this disorder in teenagers. These signs of anxiety disorder may include:
• restlessness
• nausea
• fatigue
• insomnia
• Poor academic performances
• withdrawal
• Inability to concentrate
• Nervous shaking
• Irritability
• Intense sweating
• Shortness of breath
• chest pains
• loss of interests
• shaky hands
• tense muscles
• Angry outbursts
• compulsive behaviors
• Panic attacks

Causes of Anxiety

The exact causes of anxiety disorders are not known.However, a number of factors could contribute to a teenager’s development ofAnxiety Disorder. Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be caused by environmentaland biological factors. Disruption is the brain’s reaction to some signals or achemical imbalance between the brain’s norepinephrine and serotonin may causeGAD. Anxiety disorders may also be as a result of learned behavior,inheritance, genetics, overactive fight or flight response, or trauma.

How to get help

With the help of mental health professionals or therapists, it is possible to treat and manage anxiety disorders. However, it is important to engage the help of a professional as soon as some of the symptoms are noticed. The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the treatment can start and the better. Despite the treatability of this disorder, up to 80% of children and teenagers with diagnosable anxiety disorder do not get treated. A healthcare professional thoroughly assesses and evaluates the teenager’s condition, ruling out other possible health problems and a psychiatrist diagnoses the mental illness.On assessment and evaluation, the mental health professional recommends a combination of treatment plans for the teenager. The combination of the treatment plan may include:

Psychotherapy: This is also called “talk therapy” and it uses several methods to treat the teenager. These methods include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). The professional therapist, using CBT and DBT, teaches the patient to new ways to deal with and manage anxiety in triggering situations. The professional also guides and counsels the teenager, teaching him or her several coping mechanisms and engages in breathing and relaxation exercises.

Prolonged Exposure therapy (PET) where the patient makes a list of things that cause anxiety or fear and learn to deal with them or listen to recordings of themselves recounting their most traumatizing experiences, as well as family therapy, may be used by the professional to treat anxiety disorder.

Psychotherapy may also be used alongside Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to treat people with an anxiety disorder. SSRIs are medications, usually antidepressants prescribed for treating anxiety disorders in children and young adults.

Medication combined with psychotherapy used for up to 12 weeks has been found to effectively treat teenagers with this disorder. Although they do not substitute for professional healthcare, healthy habits, exercises and engagements that enhance general human wellbeing also a great help with the treatment of anxiety disorder. These habits and exercises may include healthy nutrition, good sleep patterns, meditation, yoga, and effective communication with friends and family.

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