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School can be a source of great anxiety for teens

The teen years are a stressful chapter of life, hands down. Kids in this age group are on the way to adulthood, feeling both fear and joy about the turn of events. Becoming an adult can seem scary.

While in school, there is a lot of pressure to make all the right choices about college. Teens feel pushed by parents and teachers to make plans for their future, and to live up to high expectations.

In fact, according to an APA report, about 83% of teens are feeling stressed out about school. They may struggle to keep up with their course load, or feel unprepared to take college entrance exams. They may compare themselves to their peers and feel less than.

Teens that have school-related stress may begin to see their grades fall, or may just give up on school all together. As a result, they may be truant often, or stop turning in their work. Getting treatment for the anxiety is key to helping these teens better cope with school stress, and to succeed.

School Anxiety Triggers

The school setting does not just revolve around studies and college planning. School is also a social setting, a place where young people practice the social skills they will need as adults. If a teen is showing signs of anxiety, it is time to look into the issues that are acting as triggers for this stress.

School anxiety triggers may involve:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of schoolwork.
  • Feeling a lack of support for subjects that the teen is struggling in.
  • Not knowing what career path to focus on.
  • Having poor time management skills and falling behind in class
  • Feeling like a social outcast at school.
  • Being bullied by peers.
  • Feeling pressure to “do it all,” such as being involved in sports and clubs.
  • Struggling with making or keeping friends.

Signs of School Anxiety

Parents may have a hard time discerning whether a teen is truly having a problem with school. They wonder if the mood swings, anger, or refusal to go to school are just classic teenage traits, or not. Some signs do indeed point to a school-related source of the stress, even if it isn’t clear at first. These signs include:

  • School refusal. The most clear sign of school anxiety it the teen being unwilling to attend. They may put up a big fight every morning, or just skip school.
  • Physical symptoms. Some teens express their anxiety through symptoms like frequent headaches, stomach aches, and nausea.
  • Change in eating habits. Teens who feel stressed may over eat or restrict their food intake. Food is used as a way of coping or self soothing the anxious feelings about going to school.
  • Increased anger. Your teen may not know how to express their fears about going to school, so instead they lash out in anger. Anger often is an overt sign of an underlying issue that they are not equipped to manage.

Other Common Types of Teen Anxiety

Teens in a constant state of fear will likely show other signs that also point to an anxiety disorder. These signs might include obsessive thoughts, panic attacks, or intense fear of a person, place or thing.

There are many things that can spur teen anxiety. A brain chemistry imbalance, past abuse or trauma, feeling bullied, hormone shifts, social pressures, and genetics, to name a few. Certain types of anxiety disorders are more common in teens, such as:

  • 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.
  • Specific Phobia. Specific phobia involves an intense fear of an object, person, or setting, leading to avoidance actions. Teen phobias might include fear of public speaking, fear of spiders, fear of germs, enclosed spaces, or fear of crowds.
  • 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 Disorder. 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.

How to Help Teens with School Anxiety

Treatment for school anxiety in teens may first be sought through the family doctor. The doctor will check the teen for any health issues that may explain the anxiety symptoms. A thorough exam and lab work is usually the first step in looking into what is causing the symptoms. If there is no health problem noted, the teen will be referred to a mental health provider.

Many teens respond well to CBT and exposure therapy, which can help them change their thought patterns. But if therapy does not help their symptoms, the teen may benefit from a teen inpatient program. These offer a much more focused and tailored approach to treating teen school anxiety.

The inpatient setting will be designed just for teens. They will participate in group social skills training and role-playing activities that can help them learn coping skills. Other holistic methods used in the program can help them learn how to reduce stress. With a custom treatment plan, the teen will be able to overcome their school-related anxiety.

BNI Treatment Centers Provide Teen Inpatient Mental Health Services

If your teen is battling severe school-related stress and anxiety, BNI Treatment Centers is here to help. Our program offers a safe, stress-free space where teens can work through some of their struggles with school. While they are enrolled, school support is provided so they will not fall behind during their stay with us. Contact us with any questions about our teen program at (888) 522-1504.

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