Anxiety Treatment For Teens
January 11, 2022
Anxiety disorders are common mental health conditions for adults in the United States, but it can also affect teenagers. Based on data from the National Institutes of Health, around 1 in 3 young people aged 13 to 18 will be affected with an anxiety disorder. What’s more alarming is the numbers have been rising steadily each year.
Teens with anxiety disorders are also at a much higher risk for suicidal behavior. In fact, over the last decade, cases of hospitalizations of teens exhibiting suicidal behavior has doubled.
While these statistics are really concerning, the good news is anxiety disorders are highly treatable. Read on to take a look at what anxiety treatments work well for teens.
Why are there a lot of teens experiencing anxiety?
The rising numbers of teens affected with anxiety is driven by a number of factors. One of them is the pressure to meet high expectations. Often, parents can impose these high expectations on their teenage kids. As a result, the teens are pressured to succeed, contributing to feelings of anxiety if they cannot meet their parents’ expectations.
A huge factor in the rise of anxiety disorders in teens today is social media. Because teens are constantly exposed to the “good parts” of their friends’ lives on social media, they cannot help but compare their lives to those of others. If they feel that they’re missing out, this can contribute to teen anxiety.
Additionally, many teens perceive the world as scary. With lots of natural disasters, conflicts, school shootings, climate change, and other issues happening at the same time, teens cannot help but feel afraid that the world around them is not safe. This also contributes to feelings of anxiety.
The more concerning thing is teens suffering from anxiety disorders are more prone to substance use and, at worst, suicidal tendencies. Anxiety can negatively affect them not just in school, but even in the long term into adulthood.
How would you know if a teen needs anxiety treatment?
It is important to know that teens experience anxiety as a normal part of their lives. Feeling anxious in situations like standardized tests, first dates, and other events does not necessarily mean they have anxiety disorder.
If you’re a parent of a teen who’s curious if your child has an anxiety disorder, the best thing to do is to consult a mental health professional. He will ask your teen a series of questions to determine if your teen has an anxiety disorder or not.
Avoid self-diagnosing your teen. This is not helpful, and it may cause you to seek treatment when it isn’t necessary.
What are the signs to watch out for?
One particular sign to watch out for is physical manifestations. Feeling worried is normal for teens, but feeling excessively worried to the point that they get stomach pains, dizziness, shortness of breath, or tingling sensations may be a cause for concern. If these episodes happen to your teen frequently, it may be time to consult a mental health professional.
Missing school and being overly fearful of otherwise normal activities, like soccer practice, taking exams, or prom night, are more warning signs. If your teen does not feel like going to school often, there must be something triggering anxiety.
The worst part is when your teen experiences frequent panic attacks. These are characterized by intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms like a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and shortness of breath. If this is the case, consult a doctor or a mental health professional immediately, as panic attacks can get worse if not properly addressed.
What anxiety treatments are given to teens?
Most of the time, anxiety disorders are treated with psychotherapies. Your teen will talk one-on-one with a therapist, who will help him understand his condition and what caused it. The therapist will also teach your teen useful skills and coping mechanisms he can use to overcome anxiety.
One particularly effective treatment for anxiety disorders in teens is CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT trains your teen to think in new ways, replacing negative, unrealistic thoughts with more positive ones. The therapist will also teach your teen relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises, to calm down his body when feeling anxious.
With a few sessions of CBT, he can change the way he perceives anxiety-triggering situations. Eventually, he will be able to face those situations with confidence. CBT, for most cases, is a short-term treatment. Only 8 to 10 sessions can give a marked improvement in your teen’s anxiety symptoms.
In some cases, your teen may require medications to further help him manage anxiety symptoms. However, because of the potential for adverse effects, medications are not always prescribed. They are only used in more severe cases.
What are other ways to manage teen anxiety?
Alongside therapy, help your teen build healthy habits at home and in school as well. Here are a few things your teen can do to make him less anxious:
- Talk to your teen about his worries and fears. Talk to your teen about his problems in school and in life. Come from a position of help and listen genuinely to his concerns. Do not judge him or talk harshly. Instead, have a meaningful conversation.
- Make sure your teen gets enough sleep. Teens need at least 8 hours of sleep every night. When your teen is well-rested, he will feel more relaxed and less anxious the next day. Make sleep a priority and eliminate distractions in your teen’s room during his bedtime.
- Get your teen to have an active lifestyle. Being physically active is an effective way to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Do some exercises together with your teen, like walking, cycling, or jogging. If your teens like a particular sport, play with them regularly. This way, your teen can get his mind off any stressors while exerting effort with his body.