Anxiety is a feeling that virtually every teen will experience during their adolescent years in response to changes, pressures or stresses they encounter in life. While occasional anxiety is completely normal in teens, it is important to understand how you can help your teen cope with feelings of anxiety, and properly manage stress in a healthy manner. Learning how to handle occasional bouts of anxiety that will occur in life will help your teen cope better during hard times, and ensure their mental health stays strong.
According to WebMD, however, 13 percent of teens experience levels of anxiety that require professional intervention and treatment to remedy. For this reason, it is also vital for parents of teens to understand anxiety, and the role it plays in the life of their teenager. This understanding and attention will help you better identify how you can help your teen deal with occasional moments of anxiety, as well as understand what to do to help them if you think your teen suffers from an ongoing anxiety disorder.
What is an Anxiety Disorder?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety is an emotional response to stress brought on by many aspects of life. Anxiety is normal for both adults and teens, and should typically subside naturally as you adjust to changes or eliminate stressors from your life. While anxiety is a normal part of life, particularly for teens, it should not linger or last for any substantial periods of time. If your teen is expressing anxiety frequently, it is possible they could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
In order to differentiate between occasional anxiety and various anxiety disorders, you can use these indicators to identify if your teen is having issues handling anxiety over prolonged time periods.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Frequently restless, wound up, or on edge
- Easily tired and frequently fatigued and worn down
- Excessively worrying
- Extremely tense muscles
- Suddenly changing sleep patterns, or having trouble sleeping
- Repeatedly experiencing sudden attacks of fear or worry
- Losing control, or feeling out of control
- Worrying excessively about when another panic attack will happen
Social Anxiety Disorder
- Feeling very anxious around people, and having extreme difficulty speaking to others
- Worrying in advance about a future event where interaction with people will take place
- Trembling, blushing, or sweating when speaking to others
- Feeling inadequate and unworthy of others
- Difficulty making friends
How Can I Help My Teen Cope With Normal, Occasional Anxiety?
Whenever your teen is under heightened stress, they will be more likely to experience feelings of anxiety. Tests, sporting events, oral reports, moving and changing schools, and going on dates are just a few of the many life events and occurrences that can lead to your teen having anxious thoughts and feelings. This type of anxiety is inevitable, and your teen can benefit greatly from being guided through their anxious moments, so they know how to handle them in the future where they are bound to occur again.
You can help your teen cope with occasional, normal anxiety by trying the following exercises:
Recognize and name the emotion as anxiety, as it occurs.
Ask you teen speak openly about what they are feeling, and what is causing them stress. This will help them both name and understand the feelings they are having, and help them cope more calmly in the future.
Admit a situation is stressful, and brainstorm ideas to resolve the cause of the stress.
Sometimes, just admitting that you’re under an abnormal amount of stress can cause great relief. Talk with your teen, and help them know it is okay to admit stress, and then help them think of some ways that they can resolve the stress and resulting anxiety they are feeling.
What Can I Do if I Suspect My Teen Suffers From a Serious Anxiety Disorder?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of teens with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not being treated, so it is very important to get your teen the help they need if you notice they suffer from much more than just occasional anxiety.