Teenage Anxiety Treatment
Facing Anxiety Together
Anxiety disorders are some of the most prevalent mental health conditions in the world, especially among teens. While there are plenty of things to be anxious about in the modern world, anxiety does not only stem from outside worries; at its core, an anxiety disorder is defined as an overwhelming and disproportionate response to both internal and external stress, and as a debilitating condition that will continue to affect a teen’s self-confidence and motivation throughout adulthood.
Helping your teen deal with their anxiety can be difficult, especially if you haven’t faced anxiety symptoms in the past. Teens with anxiety problems might find themselves reacting physically and emotionally to even minor challenges and otherwise trivial circumstances.
If you have had panic attacks or anxiety symptoms before, then you know that irrationality is par for the course - telling someone to calm down or admonishing them for overreacting never helps.
Anxiety disorders require a holistic treatment approach to help teens identify and isolate intrusive, panic-filled thoughts, and differentiate between imagined fears and tangible problems.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders come in many different forms. Most people diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are also more likely to struggle with a co-occurring mental health issue, such as a secondary anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or substance use disorder. Learning to differentiate between some of the more common anxiety disorders can help you and your teen better understand how to tackle symptoms as they arise, and when to seek help. Common anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder – generalized anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by feelings of worry and oppressive anxiety with no particular focus. In cases of generalized anxiety, a teen will seem on edge most of the time, as though unable to calm down or relax, except under very specific circumstances. Teens with generalized anxiety disorder tend to overthink things by default. Their anxiety can impact everyday life to a debilitating degree.
- Social phobia – social anxiety disorder or a social phobia is one of the more common types of phobias, or irrational fears. This is a condition characterized by irrational fear and worry in social contexts – such as avoiding all social gatherings because of a fear of embarrassment, worrying that people are talking about you behind your back at any given moment, and an intense fear or worry of being judged, even when there is no indication of judgment from others.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder – obsessive-compulsive disorder is a special type of anxiety disorder with its own complex set of rituals, characterized primarily by overwhelming intrusive thoughts and powerful feelings of discomfort, which are then “resolved” through ritualistic and seemingly unconnected compulsive behaviors, such as excessive cleaning, esoteric counting, repeating words and phrases, and more.
- Panic disorder – panic disorder is diagnosed in teens with recurring intense panic attacks. These are episodes characterized by physical symptoms of panic that often occur without a specific trigger or cause, seemingly out of the blue. Symptoms include hyperventilation, heart palpitations, struggling to breathe, chest pains, muscle weakness, shivers, cold sweating, and nausea. While most anxiety disorders share these physical symptoms, panic attacks are more acutely intense, and short-lived.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by different symptoms of anxiety triggered by a traumatic event. Most PTSD is long-lived, and some symptoms of PTSD can last for years. Not all teens who experience a traumatic event will develop PTSD, and trauma is subjective. But in cases where teens do develop PTSD, their symptoms are both physical and psychological.
- Separation anxiety disorder – although separation anxiety is more often diagnosed in young children, teens can also struggle with separation anxiety. In cases of separation anxiety, a teen’s primary fear centers around the absence of their parents – whether it’s a fear of being left alone, a fear that their parents won’t come back, or a fear that their parents might get hurt.
- Other phobias–while social phobia is arguably one of the most common phobias, there are well over a hundred recognized and diagnosed forms of phobia. These can range from a fear of spiders or great heights to rarer fears, such as a fear of eggs.
As always, a formal diagnosis is the only way to be sure about your teen’s symptoms. Be sure to seek the advice of a trained professional through a comprehensive one-on-one psychological assessment before tackling your teen’s mental health together.
Is My Teen Anxious?
It is completely normal to be anxious over several things in life. People are generally anxious about taking tests, preparing for nail-biting job interviews, or even just Tax Day. Teens can be anxious about school, about their last fight with a good friend, or about their relationships.
But the line between healthy worry and anxiety is defined by how much of an impact that worry can have on your life in the long-term. While it might be relatively normal to worry about something as impactful as a family member’s terminal illness or an upcoming wedding, panic attacks and nervous breakdowns may require professional help.
On the other hand, worrying excessively over comparatively small things might be a sign that your teen is struggling with anxiety problems.
Observe your teen’s behavior and thought processes in the long-term and talk to them. Do they struggle with relaxing, or always find something to worry about? Do they consistently isolate themselves or refuse to go on trips with friends because they’re afraid of how others might perceive them?
If you don’t know what to do next, consider talking to your teen about seeing a therapist or mental health professional. Here at the Arrow House, we can help you and your teen figure out the best path towards long-term anxiety management, and better mental wellness.
Our treatment plans incorporate outpatient programs, as well as 30-day residential treatment programs with an accredited day school program, so your teen can continue to keep up with their peers even while receiving mental healthcare. While our treatment plans are comprehensive, we see ourselves as the foundation for a long-term mental health plan – a stepping stonetowards the future. Call today to find out more.