Does your teenager show signs of anxiety? Do you see your son or daughter avoiding social situations and isolating more? Are they more irritable and struggling with sleep? Get to know the anxiety symptoms in teens so you can guide them toward the help they need.
What is Teen Anxiety?
An astounding 31.9% of teens in the U.S. struggle with an anxiety disorder, and of these 8.3% have a severe impairment. More females (38%) than males (26.1%) are affected by anxiety.
The teen years are difficult – there is no disputing that fact. Teenagers worry about everything. But when fear and worry are so pronounced that it causes impairment, the teen may have an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety symptoms in teens can be severe enough to result in avoidance behaviors and isolation, which only causes more angst. For instance, if the teen struggles with social anxiety or school-related anxiety, they may skip school or drop out. This can have a devastating impact on their future.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Teens
Symptoms of teen anxiety disorders vary based on the specific form the anxiety has taken. The most common anxiety disorders among teens are generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder, although obsessive-compulsive disorder, trauma disorder, and phobias are experienced as well.
In general, symptoms of an anxiety disorder involve:
- Irrational feelings of fear and dread.
- Trembling or shaking.
- Muscle tension.
- Excessive sweating.
- Dry mouth.
- Blushing easily.
- Irritability, agitation.
- Shortness of breath.
- Brain fog.
- Self-harming behaviors.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Sense of panic.
- Stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea.
- Excessive feelings of self-consciousness.
Different Types of Teenage Anxiety
Anxiety can present in different ways. Here are the most common types of anxiety in teens:
- School anxiety. Teens today are very pressured to get into a good college. Student stress can become so severe that it results in an anxiety disorder. This happens when worries about school are pronounced enough that the teen shuts down and gives up. School anxiety can cause physical symptoms like frequent stomach aches, nausea, or headaches. Teens also may express more anger than usual, or change their eating habits.
- Social anxiety. Social anxiety, or social phobia, pertains to a teen’s intense fear of being judged harshly by peers in public. This can cause real problems in school when the teen won’t engage in class for fear of being judged. By not participating in certain lessons, their grades will suffer. Fear of judgment can also impact their success in sports and other social activities.
- Panic disorder. A teen may have panic attacks that come on without warning. During a panic attack, the teen will feel out of control. They may show symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, racing heartbeat, sweating, shaking, headache, nausea, and dizziness.
- Generalized anxiety. With GAD the teen has intense worry and fear in daily life and is unable to relax. This can result in somatic symptoms, like stomach problems, chronic headaches, vomiting, fatigue, and sleep problems.
- Phobias. A phobia is an extreme fear of an object, person, or situation. Even though the object or situation isn’t harmful, the teen reacts with intense feelings of terror and dread. Some examples are the fear of spiders, the fear of enclosed spaces, the fear of germs, and the fear of open places.
- Body dysmorphic disorder. This is a type of OCD that centers on a hyper-fixation on a perceived flaw in appearance. The teen may be thin but is convinced he or she is overweight and obsesses over it. They often engage in compulsive, repetitive behaviors, like excessive grooming, mirror checking, or weight lifting.
How to Support Your Teen
Teens with anxiety symptoms may or may not respond to a parent’s attempts to help them. It is important to at least try to help your teen as they are struggling with anxiety.
Some things you can do as a parent might include:
- Listen without judgment. Instead of dismissing your teen’s worries and fears, validate them. Share a time in your life when you were afraid and stressed out. Give them plenty of room to share their feelings freely, and ask them what they can do to change things.
- Help them develop healthy habits. Mental health is affected by our habits, good or bad. Maybe your teen is not getting enough sleep or is eating junk food and drinking too much caffeine. If so, this is only adding to their anxious mental state. Guide them toward changing these bad habits and replacing them with good ones.
- Suggest relaxation techniques. There are lots of resources to help a teen learn how to relax and calm their mind. Look into smartphone apps they can use for meditation, deep breathing, or sleep assistance. Also, suggest they try taking some yoga classes.
- Cultivate a calm home life. If home life is noisy and chaotic, it will not provide a setting that is helpful for your anxious teen. Make an effort as a family to create a quiet, peaceful home life. Have family meal time, turn off the TV, clean and organize the home, and minimize arguing.
- Help them with time management. For teens with school anxiety, you can help them by suggesting new time management techniques. Check out some time management smartphone apps, and teach the teen how to prioritize and schedule their homework and projects.
Getting Help for Teen Anxiety
If your teen is still struggling with anxiety, he or she may need a higher level of care. A psychiatrist provides either outpatient or inpatient care. Inpatient treatment is more intensive, and includes these interventions:
- Psychotherapy. The teen will engage in one-on-one talk therapy sessions where he or she is able to openly discuss their fears. The therapist will guide them toward forming new healthy thought patterns.
- Group therapy. Group therapy sessions involve discussions among peers that are facilitated and guided by a licensed therapist.
- Family therapy. Family therapy can be beneficial for not only the teen but the entire family. Family sessions can identify unhealthy dynamics, and help foster better communication between family members.
- Holistic. Activities that help reduce stress include yoga, equine therapy, art and music therapy, surf therapy, drama therapy, dance therapy, and mindfulness.
If you notice anxiety symptoms in your teen, it is best to get them treatment as early as possible. Reach out for help today.
BNI Treatment Centers
BNI Treatment Centers offers a residential mental health setting designed for teens. We use evidence-based therapies along with holistic and experiential activities. To learn more about our program, please reach out to us today at (888) 522-1504.