Teen Anxiety Treatment
Nearly 20 percent of all American teens are diagnosed with an Anxiety disorder before they turn 18. An anxiety disorder is much more than simply feeling nervous or afraid; teens may be plagued with debilitating fear and worry. When teens experience anxiety, their symptoms often occur on a spectrum ranging from chronic levels of general unease through severe and disabling anxiety attacks, agoraphobia, and other avoidance symptoms. Treatment options for anxiety disorders depend on which type of anxiety the teen is experiencing.
What Does Teen Anxiety Look Like?
- Teen anxiety disorders cause a broad range of symptoms. The severity of symptoms is often directly tied to how much control teens feel over the cause. Flashbacks, dissociation, nightmares, and obsessive thoughts, may be tied to trauma, while other symptoms are generally associated with anxiety itself.
- Teens who experience chronic anxiety may develop panic attacks, which can be disabling and terrifying. These attacks include extreme fear and intense physical symptoms, such as high heart rates, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.
- Panic and anxiety symptoms not only put strain on the heart, but can also create a self-defeating cycle in which teens isolate out of fear of having an attack in public. Anxiety treatment is critical to halt the cycle and provide guidance on how to manage symptoms.
Signs of Teen Anxiety
Chest pain and lung pain
Different Types of Teen Anxiety
Teen anxiety disorders manifest in a number of different ways. For this reason, experts break Anxiety disorders into several specific conditions. Teens may experience symptoms from one or more of these disorders; this may make getting a diagnosis challenging. Most therapies and treatment protocols focus on addressing the whole person, instead of disorder-specific symptoms. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an excellent example. You may suffer from PTSD-like symptoms as a result of trauma, yet still be diagnosed with an Anxiety disorder due to the intensity of your symptoms. In the therapy word, we call this “comorbidity” or codependency between disorders. The label is less important than how you experience it.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – GAD is one of the most common Anxiety disorders diagnosed in the United States. The number one symptom is a constant fear that “something negative” is about to happen, even if you are in a safe, comfortable place. Even if you know these feelings are irrational, you may find yourself struggling or freezing up physically and emotionally. GAD sufferers often withdraw or self-isolate to subconsciously or purposefully avoid the potential for a “negative event.”
Social Anxiety - Social Anxiety occurs when someone experiences high levels of anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and awkwardness in social situations. Often, just the thought of social interaction is enough to trigger anxiety symptoms. Teens experiencing Social Anxiety may withdraw, refusing to go to school or engage with family members. Unfortunately, isolation often compounds the problem, causing even more Social Anxiety.
Phobias – A phobia is an extremely intense fear triggered by a specific situation, object, person, or experience. Some of the most common phobias include fear of spiders (Arachnophobia), fear of flying (Aerophobia) and fear of heights (Acrophobia). Simply thinking about, let alone encountering, these situations may cause extreme anxiety or panic attacks that don’t subside until the trigger is removed.
Panic Attack – Panic Attacks are the physical manifestation of extreme anxiety. Both the mind and the physical self enter a state of panic as the brain’s “fight or flight” system triggers, believing the teen is in danger even if they aren’t. Attacks may cause a feeling of intense dread, terror, high heart rates, palpitations, difficulty breathing, sweating, chest pain, and numbness severe enough to mimic a stroke or heart attack.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – OCD is characterized by extreme obsessive and compulsive behaviors the teen cannot otherwise control. This includes obsessing over certain habits, topics, or behaviors, such as washing your hands. Often, intrusive thoughts beyond the patient’s control force the sufferer to engage in ritualistic behavior (such as touching the corners of a doorway a specific number of times) in order to soothe intense feelings of anxiety. Teens suffering from OCD often cannot control whether or not to perform the behavior associated with the ritual.
What Are The Causes Of Teen Anxiety?
Teen anxiety is caused by a broad range of feelings, issues, and situations. In fact, teens can experience intense anxiety even outside of having a specific anxiety disorder. The most common contributor is high levels of stress and having “too much on your plate, either at home or at school.
Every anxiety disorder is slightly different. Furthermore, teens who experience anxiety often have highly individual “triggers,” meaning that your condition may feel very different compared to other diagnosed friends and family members. Nearly all patients report that extreme stress directly plays into their anxiety disorder, causing feelings of anxiety that lead to a worsening of symptoms.
Anxiety disorders may be caused by many different physical and emotional factors:
- Extremely rare adrenal tumors that trigger “fight or flight”
- Drug use, drug abuse, addiction, and withdrawal
- Respiratory conditions (Asthma)
- Thyroid conditions (Hyperthyroidism)
- Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes
- Genetic predispositions to anxiety
- Current and past trauma
- Comorbid mental health conditions
of teens age 13 to 18 experience Anxiety.
of adolescents never receive the right treatment
Americans with an untreated anxiety disorder attempted suicide in 2018
How Can I Help with Teen Anxiety?
As a parent or a friend of a teen with an anxiety disorder, you have an important role to play in helping your loved one heal from anxiety. What is most important to know is that you can’t simply use logic to resolve anxiety disorders, nor can you force them to “toughen up” through tough love, bullying, or ignoring the problem.
Start by opening a dialogue with the teen who is anxious or struggling. Take it slow and ask them how they feel. Then, really listen to what they have to say. Offer the opportunity to see a therapist and share that you believe it will help them feel better over time.
If your teen is ready for professional mental health help, or if you need additional assistance, speak to their therapist or reach out to your doctor for coping tips and guidance. Ask your teen what you can do to reduce their anxiety or make them feel more comfortable.
What Types of Teen Anxiety Treatment Are Available?
Teen anxiety treatment comes in many formats. Therapists generally try to match the treatment with the type of anxiety for best symptom resolution. If the teen's anxiety symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily life, or if symptoms prevent the teen from accessing other therapies, your doctor may want to try medication first to lessen intense emotions.
Psychotherapy, more commonly known as talk therapy, gives you a non-judgmental safe space in which you can share your feelings. Therapists can help you reprogram your thoughts and change self-destructive behaviors that limit healthy and productive thinking. Over time, talk therapy can be enough to break triggers and identify the root cause of an anxiety disorder.
When anxiety symptoms become so severe that you are no longer able to cope with everyday tasks, such as attending school or hanging out with friends, medication is often required. Doctors treat anxiety disorders using a long list of medications, including benzodiazepines, SSRIs, SNRIs, and other mood-stabilizing drugs.
You may also benefit from relaxation techniques, including massage, meditation, yoga, acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, or simply indulging in activities you enjoy. Transcranial magnetic stimulation may also help a number of anxiety patients when other options fail to reduce symptoms.
Teen Anxiety Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco
Anxiety is extremely difficult to deal with on your own. You may feel overwhelmed with worry or fearful to the point that you become seriously debilitated or completely unable to function normally, especially if your condition is progressive. If it feels like each day is harder and harder to deal with, getting mental health help is the best way to get back on track.
At Paradigm San Francisco, we create a safe space where teens can escape stressors and influence to relax, calm down, and refocus on resolving anxiety. Our holistic process addresses both physical and mental health to help teens achieve overall wellness. You can talk about your feelings, get help dealing with your emotions, and even talk to peers who understand what you’re going through. With our help, you can learn to manage your emotions instead of letting them manage you.
“ Our 16-year has been struggling with anxiety and severe depression and seemed stuck. We felt we had nowhere else to go. After 40 days, I feel like we've gotten our daughter back! It’s been an amazing experience. She now has tools, perspective, improved self love and a resilience we haven't seen in two years. “
– Rebecca J.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Anxiety
Will I Get Better?
Anxiety often occurs on a spectrum from better to worse; you may feel better one day and worse the next. Over thinking or dreading future anxiety may make you more anxious, so it’s important to get mental health help as soon as possible. Working with a therapist, either one on one or within a group, can help you find better ways to cope with your anxiety and feel better.
I’m Afraid to Talk About it in Case I Get Worse!
When you come to therapy at Paradigm San Francisco, you have full control over your anxiety treatment process. You will never be forced to talk about something that makes you uncomfortable. The goal of therapy is to help you better understand yourself and gain insight into your situation while also providing comfort and understanding.