Teen Anxiety

Anxiety and stress levels in teenagers have drastically increased over the last few decades. As the pressures of the world around adolescents have increased, more and more teens are facing health problems both on the physical and on the emotional sides.

So why are our teens so anxious? First, anxiety conditions can be hereditary. Anxiety tends to run in families, so if a person’s mom, dad, or other close relative has anxiety, they have a higher chance of developing anxiety themselves. Second are environmental factors and life experiences. Growing up in a family where fear and anxiety are constantly shown to children by parents or role models can “teach” children to be anxious. High expectations of a child in academic or other performances can contribute to anxiety. If a child grows up in an abusive home, he or she may learn to always expect the worst.

Examples of stressors teens may be faced with are things like divorce of their parents, homework, grades in school, concern about how they look, and how they measure up to their peers, and peer pressures. Most parents are not even aware that their teens are under a great deal of pressure in many areas of their lives. Many times it is easy to chalk up teenage stress and anxiety a child is facing as just normal teen problems. Yet, serious conditions are often present and should be addressed as quickly as possible by a professional.

Anxiety can affect many aspects of a teenager’s life. It can affect a teen’s ability to make friends, perform well in school, and try new things. This will make enjoying life very difficult. Some teens who suffer from anxiety will attempt to treat themselves with alcohol, illicit drugs, or illegally obtained prescriptions drugs. One of the common reasons teens use drugs like marijuana, according to teens we have talked with at Meridian Youth Treatment Center, is that it helps to decrease anxiety. Teens with anxiety disorders are more likely to use alcohol or drugs. Paradoxically, alcohol and drug abuse behaviors may make conditions worse such as increasing anxiety, mood swings, depression, and decreasing memory and cognitive functioning.

For teens dealing with anxiety disorders, symptoms can feel strange and confusing at first. Constant worries can make a person feel overwhelmed by every little thing. All this can affect confidence, concentration, sleep, appetite, and outlook. Teens with anxiety disorders might avoid talking about their worries, thinking that others might not understand. They may fear being unfairly judged, or considered weak or scared or may feel misunderstood or alone. Stressed teens may show signs of emotional disabilities, aggressive behavior, shyness, social phobia and often lack interest in otherwise enjoyable activities. If the anxiety is mild, parents can help by first understanding the illness, then listening to their teen’s feelings, keeping calm when their teen becomes anxious, reassuring their teen when appropriate, teaching their teen relaxation techniques, praising their teen’s efforts, providing structure, setting a good example by modeling healthy reactions to various situations, and planning for transitions, as transitions can cause anxiety.

About Steven Petrus

Dr. Steven Petrus is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in psycho-educational assessment, child, adolescent and family therapy.
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