11 Minutes

Edited & clinically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Many teenagers worry about matters like passing a test, their height and weight or looks, family issues, and whether or not a boy or girl would want to be with them. Teens with anxiety disorders experience high anxiety and worry about anything and everything, even when there is no need to be concerned.

Anxiety illness can have a big impact on a teen’s ability to focus, sleep, and operate properly. It makes it difficult, if not impossible, for people to relax and enjoy themselves, robbing them of their joy. It can create academic issues, lead to substance abuse, disrupt relationships, and make it difficult to set and achieve goals if left untreated.

Related: Residential Depression Rehab for Teens

Trying to figure out what’s normal in terms of your teen’s mood, actions, and overall emotional wellness can be difficult. If you feel your teenager may be living with anxiety disorder, this quick guide will help you spot the indications and know what to do next.

The following are some facts and figures on anxiety disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders affect approximately 8 percent of teenagers.
  • Less than one in every five of those 8 percent receives the mental health assistance they require to recover.
  • Anxiety disorder is identified more frequently in women than in men.
  • Anxiety sufferers are particularly sensitive to depression, and they frequently suffer from both.
  • Anxiety disorders run in families, so having one raises your chances of getting one.

Helping teens with anxiety is a step-wise process. If you suspect your adolescent is dealing with anxiety disorder the first thing you should do is:

Have a conversation with your teen. Make it clear to your teen that you are concerned about anything you’ve noticed. Make it clear that you’d like to assist in any manner possible and that you’re available and eager to listen.

Don’t be startled if your kid rejects having a problem, becomes defensive, or pushes you away, accusing you of being overprotective or worrying too much. This is frequently due to a teen’s guilt or humiliation about the anxiety he or she is suffering. Judgment, condemnation, and humiliating your kid can only exacerbate the situation and cut off communication routes.

Get an evaluation for your teenager. Because anxiety disorders in children and teenagers are frequent, consulting your child’s pediatrician is an excellent place to start. He or she can do an initial assessment and physical examination to rule out any underlying health issues that may be adding to or aggravating your teen’s symptoms.

A mental health specialist, preferably a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in treating children and adolescents, should assess your adolescent. A recommendation or referral from your family physician or pediatrician may be possible.

Seek help for your teen. If anxiety is not treated, it can worsen over time, so getting help as soon as possible is crucial. Psychotherapy is the most common teen anxiety disorder treatment. In more severe situations or if therapy isn’t progressing as expected, medication may be recommended as part of the rehab. If your teen’s anxiety is severe, a more intensive degree of treatment may be required for a period of time.

There are numerous methods to offer support and encouragement to your kid without enabling or reinforcing his or her anxiety:

  • Learn more about anxiety disorders in teenagers so you can empathize with and understand what your kid is going through.
  • Make yourself available and willing to listen to your adolescent.
  • When you’re worried or concerned, show them how to cope in a healthy way.
  • Resist the impulse to reassure them all the time. Not only does it not assist, but it frequently promotes your teen’s needy or avoidant conduct.
  • Assist your teen in learning to manage his or her time and prioritize his or her responsibilities. This will make your teen feel more in control and less stressed.
  • Attempting to protect your teen from the things he or she is scared of will only serve to exacerbate the anxiety. Encourage your teen to confront his or her worries instead. This will assist your teen to develop independence and self-confidence.
  • Don’t pass judgment, ridicule, or criticism on what your teen is going through.
  • Even if you’re frustrated, terrified, or overwhelmed, do your best to have your wits about you. Your adolescent relies on you for support, strength, and direction.
  • Respect your teen’s dignity and privacy; your relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances don’t need to know about his or her anxiety disorder.
  • If you have worries, communicate to your kid in an open, truthful, and polite manner rather than lecturing or scolding him or her.
  • Put your teenager in a yoga course. Yoga has been demonstrated to lessen anxiety when practiced on a routine basis.
  • With your teen, start learning and practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Assist your teen in maintaining a consistent sleep routine and ensuring that his or her bedroom is conducive to restful sleep. Anxiety (and despair) are often exacerbated by a lack of sleep.

It’s better to address anxiety-provoking situations rather than avoid them. You may be amazed at what you are capable of. Here are five strategies for learning to manage anxiety:

Begin with a mindset of ‘development.’ Some people are stuck in their ways. “This is how I am,” they might think. I get nervous before giving a presentation in class. As a result, I don’t raise my hand.” People with a fixed mindset believe that nothing can change. They believe they are who they are because of who they are.

However, research has also shown that you can train your brain to react in different ways. This is something that people with a growth mentality are aware of. They understand that with effort and practice, they can improve at almost everything. Dealing with anxiety is one of them.

Take note of how anxiety affects you. Learn about the physical sensations that accompany anxiety. Make a mental note of them. Do you get ‘butterflies’ when you’re worried? Have you had sweaty palms? Do you have shaky hands? Is your heart beating faster?

Recognize that these sensations are a typical component of the body’s response to a challenge. They aren’t dangerous in any way. They eventually fade away on their own. Try to recognize the feelings the next time they occur without being annoyed that they happen. Accept them as they are. Allow them to be present. You do not want to push them away. You also don’t have to offer them your undivided attention. Allow them to blend into the background if possible.

Take a deep breath. Take a couple of deep breaths slowly. You could take a four-count breath in and a six-count breath out. You could count 4 or 5 breaths with your fingers. Anxiety does not go gone by taking a few deep breaths. However, it is possible to lessen it. It can assist you in paying less attention to nervous feelings and thoughts. It can assist you in resetting and preparing to go on.

Make a mental note of it. It’s natural to tell yourself things like “I can’t do this” when you’re anxious. “What if I make a mistake?” Instead, tell yourself something that will give you the courage to face the situation: “I can do this.” “It’s OK to be nervous,” for example. I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.”

Don’t wait for your nervousness to subside before confronting the matter. You may believe that you will postpone speaking in class until you are no longer nervous. But that isn’t how it works. It is facing the anxiety that allows you to better handle it. This is referred to as exposure.

It takes a lot of patience and time to learn to cope with worry. Most importantly, it requires experience and the willingness to confront situations that cause worry. It all begins with a single modest step. The more you practice, the better you will get at coping with worry.

Psychotherapy and medication are two of the most common treatment options in anxiety treatment for young adults. Depending on the severity and length of the anxiety disorder, they can be given at various levels of healthcare. This section will go over rehab and treatment options in treating anxiety in adolescence and the various levels of care.

Individual psychotherapy – Also known as “talk therapy,” consists of one-on-one sessions with a therapist. Psychotherapy can help your kid understand why he or she is worried and anxious, as well as the underlying issues that are causing it. One of the most effective methods of therapy for addressing anxiety disorders in both adolescents and adults is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It focuses on identifying and modifying anxiety-feeding negative and unreasonable thought patterns and beliefs.

Medication – In the treatment of anxiety, medication can be quite helpful. Medication is typically used in conjunction with psychotherapy rather than as the single or major type of treatment, at least at first. This is because counseling can help your kid develop the essential coping skills to control his symptoms, reducing the likelihood that he or she will need medication in the future.

The following medications may be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can also aid with anxiety symptoms. Two drugs in this group are paroxetine and escitalopram.
  • SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are identical in function to SSRIs in that they inhibit serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake. The FDA has approved duloxetine for children and teenagers’ anxiety treatment (above seven years of age).
  • Benzodiazepines — These fairly quick-acting anti-anxiety medications should be used with great caution because they’re controlled drugs with a high street value, and abuse can lead to addiction. They’re only meant to be used for a limited period of time.

If your teen needs anxiety medication, it is strongly advised that it be provided and managed by a psychiatrist.

Teens with anxiety face two major dangers: co-existing depression, and relying on harmful or obviously self-destructive coping techniques. Suicidal ideation and behaviors more likely occur in teens with anxiety who have co-morbid depression. The use of drugs and alcohol is one of the most popular self-destructive coping techniques among teenagers. Substances impair judgment, can lead to erratic conduct and may increase the likelihood of acting on suicidal thoughts. Any of these factors can lead things to spiral out of control, jeopardizing your teen’s – and possibly others’ – safety. If this happens, don’t be afraid to seek assistance. You can do the following:

  • Contact your child’s treatment provider as soon as possible.
  • For instant assistance or support, take the services or help of a trusted friend or family member.
  • Contact an emergency hotline.
  • Take your youngster to an emergency department at the nearby hospital 
  • Make a 911 call.

Individual therapy or a mix of counseling or therapy and medication works effectively for teens with mild to moderate anxiety symptoms. However, some teenagers will require, at least temporarily, a more severe degree of rehab than individual therapy can provide. This applies to teenagers who:

  • Have moderate to serious depression, another anxiety-related disorder (– for example, PTSD, panic disorder, or OCD), an eating disorder, or any other major mental health issue that necessitates more intense therapy.
  • Have significant symptoms that make it difficult for him or her to perform at school or in other aspects of his or her life.
  • Suicidal in nature, threatening or contemplating suicide, and/or making suicide attempts or hints and gestures.
  • Are consuming drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.
  • Self-harm that isn’t suicidal, like burning or cutting, is common.

Treatments that are more intensive are as follows:

  • Psychiatric day therapy/Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP)
  • Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
  • Teen anxiety treatment in a residential setting
  • Psychiatric Treatment in an inpatient setting

In relation to the amount of time being spent in treatment and how many times per week, your teen is forced to attend, intensive outpatient or psychiatric day treatment might vary. These programs are frequently the next step up after outpatient therapy.

If your teen has an anxiety condition as well as a substance use disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is generally required. Substance abuse nearly always stymies therapy progress and can lead to major complications if medication is prescribed. A dual diagnosis program addresses both anxiety and substance abuse problems at the same time.

Your youngster will live in a non-hospital treatment center that specializes in treating anxiety in teenage girls and boys and other mental health challenges. Residential therapy lasts anywhere from 30 to 180 days, depending on the severity of your teen’s symptoms and how well he or she is doing in treatment.

The best and most intensive degree of treatment for teens with anxiety disorders is inpatient psychiatric treatment in a healthcare setting. When safety is the main issue (– for example, after an attempted suicide or thoughts of suicide) or when there is acute mental health distress, like serious depression or a manic episode, inpatient treatment is usually required. Patients are watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and inpatient periods of stay are usually brief.

Each of these more severe stages of treatment often includes daily or biweekly psychiatrist appointments as well as a variety of treatment modalities.

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