According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. These numbers have been rising steadily; between 2007 and 2012, anxiety disorders in children and teens went up 20%. These stats combined with the rate of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers also doubling over the past decade leaves us with many concerning questions.
What is anxiety?
It’s completely normal to worry when things get hectic and complicated. But if worries become overwhelming, you may feel that they’re running your life. If you spend an excessive amount of time feeling worried or nervous, or you have difficulty sleeping because of your anxiety, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. They may be symptoms of an anxiety problem or disorder. Now on the other hand, Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that involve excessive amounts of anxiety, fear, nervousness, worry, or dread. Anxiety that is too constant or too intense can cause a person to feel preoccupied, distracted, tense, and always on alert.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions. They affect people of all ages — adults, children, and teens. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, with different symptoms. They all have one thing in common, though: Anxiety occurs too often, is too strong, is out of proportion to the present situation, and affects a person’s daily life and happiness. Teens are more susceptible than in the past to certain anxiety disorders.
• Generalized anxiety. With this common anxiety disorder, a person worries excessively about many things. Someone with generalized anxiety may worry excessively about school, the health or safety of family members, and the future. They may always think of the worst that could happen.
Along with the worry and dread, people with generalized anxiety have physical symptoms, such as chest pain, headache, tiredness, tight muscles, stomachaches, or vomiting. Generalized anxiety can lead a person to miss school or avoid social activities. With generalized anxiety, worries can feel like a burden, making life feel overwhelming or out of control.
• Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). For a person with OCD, anxiety takes the form of obsessions (bad thoughts) and compulsions (actions that try to relieve anxiety).
• Social phobia (social anxiety). This intense anxiety is triggered by social situations or speaking in front of others. An extreme form called selective mutism causes some kids and teens to be too fearful to talk at all in certain situations.
• Panic attacks. These episodes of anxiety can occur for no apparent reason. With a panic attack, a person has sudden and intense physical symptoms that can include a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, or tingling feelings causes by overactivity of the body’s normal fear response. Agoraphobia is an intense fear of panic attacks that causes a person to avoid going anywhere a panic attack could possibly occur.
A teenager that has been anxious since childhood has probably constructed an entire lifestyle around their anxieties. They may have trained their family, friends, and teachers to accept it, Bea says. That’s why it’s more difficult to treat anxiety the longer a child has lived with it. They have likely developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage it, and like a malfunctioning machine, they shut down when the system fails them. This is why it is important to reach out for psychological expertise when you know that your teenage child is coping with anxiety. It is the best way to give them all the skills needed to live a happy and healthy life.