Anxiety in Teens: A Guide for Parents and Guardians

Anxiety, Mental Health | 0 comments

Teenagers have a lot on their plate. Each day, they have to deal with pressure from academics, sports, friends, and everything else going on in the world. With all of this going on in their lives, it is not surprising that teenagers are increasingly prone to developing anxiety. Anxiety is a normal human emotion, but can become an intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Anxiety can cause poorly school performance, loss of interest in activities, and can harm friendships.

How Many Teens Have Anxiety?

Anxiety has become extremely common in teens. Studies have shown that an estimated  31.9% of people will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point during their teenage years. With such a high number of teens suffering from anxiety, it is important that parents always keep an eye on their child’s mental health.

Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

Living with anxiety can be an awful experience for anyone, but especially for teens. In order to make sure parents and caregivers can support teens to get help as soon as it is needed, it is imperative to understand when your teen is suffering from anxiety. There are a number of symptoms to be aware of which will alert you to the presence of anxiety. These symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of interest in previously-enjoyed activities
  • Negative self-talk
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Loss of appetite
  • Substance abuse or other risky behaviors
  • Irritability
  • Dip in school performance

A teen suffering from an anxiety disorder may display some or all of these symptoms. There is no telling which symptoms your teen might show, so it is vital to be aware of all the ways in which problematic anxiety presents, to be on the lookout. 

Anxiety Assessments for Teens

If you believe your teen is showing symptoms of anxiety, it is important to get a professional opinion. Your first priority should be getting in contact with a professional, licensed treatment center. The first thing the center should do is a comprehensive clinical assessment, including an anxiety assessment. This occurs when a professional therapist will speak with your teen, asking them questions about their life and how they are feeling. After the discussion, the therapist will be able to determine whether or not your teen is suffering from an anxiety disorder. There are online anxiety tests that you can use. While these may be able to help determine if your teen has anxiety, it is best to take them to a professional to be evaluated. 

How to Help Your Teen with Anxiety

Once your teen has been diagnosed with anxiety, it is time to decide on a treatment plan. There are a number of ways to treat anxiety, and a professional treatment center can help figure out which option will be most beneficial for your child. 

Medications

Anxiety medications for teens can help them to return to living their normal life. The most established evidenced based medication for anxiety, and thus the most prescribed, are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This medication works by blocking the absorption of serotonin, increasing the amount of serotonin available in the brain. The increase of serotonin levels is known to effectively treat symptoms of anxiety. Other medications that may be used are: 

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Buspirone
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Propranolol

The professionals at the treatment center will help to find the medication that works best for your teen.

Therapeutic Treatments

Medication alone is often not enough to completely treat teen anxiety. Usually, psychotherapeutic treatments must also be utilized to give your teen the best chance at living a full and healthy life. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often the best option. This is when your teen speaks with a therapist, who will help them try to change their thinking patterns for the better through conversation and self-reflection. 

Anxiety Coping Skills for Teens

Even after treatment has begun, your teen may still be overcome with anxiety symptoms. In order to be prepared for these anxious moments, it can be extremely useful for teens to utilize anxiety reducing coping skills. These skills can help them make it through a moment of high anxiety, and come out the other side ready to continue their day. These skills include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Staying fed and hydrated
  • Journaling how they are feeling
  • Connecting with nature

Not all of these coping methods will be useful to all teens. It is vital that you work with your teen to help them find a method that will allow them to cope with their anxiety. 

What Is the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are very similar and often confused with one another. Both have the same symptoms, such as irritability, worry, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. However, stress is caused by an external trigger. This could be a work deadline, a fight with a friend, or financial problems. On the other hand, anxiety does not have an external trigger. It is when a person feels persistent worry and other symptoms for seemingly no reason. 

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