Teen General Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Teens who suffer from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience uncontrollable anxiety, nervousness, or even outright panic and fear on an extremely frequent basis. Unlike within Panic Disorder, teens who are suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder often experience nervousness and anxiety in response to everyday situations that don’t normally cause distress. Others may experience low-grade, chronic anxiety with no identifiable cause.

GAD suffers can and do experience anxiety to very normal triggers, too (such as heights, taking tests, or spiders). The main difference is that the level of anxiety they experience as a response is much, much more severe.

What Does Teen General Anxiety Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens suffering from GAD often develop a negative cycle where their anxiety causes them to feel anxious about being anxious. This can gradually cause symptoms to become worse and worse to the point where they are totally unable to cope with everyday experiences.
  • In GAD, standard self-soothing and coping mechanisms often don’t work. Someone who is experiencing anxiety around money, grades, social status, or physical health may be unable to effectively calm themselves with relaxation alone.
  • Teens with GAD often also experience crossover symptoms from other disorders, and may even be diagnosed with co-occurring disorders. These symptoms include compulsions, obsessions, anxiety attacks, and panic.

Signs of Teen General Anxiety Disorder

Inability to self-soothe

Inability to self-soothe

Difficulty sleeping

Difficulty sleeping

Stomach cramping or aching

Stomach cramping or aching

Migraines or tension headaches

Migraines or tension headaches

Anxiety attacks

Anxiety attacks

Cold or hot sweats

Cold or hot sweats

Shaking and trembling

Shaking and trembling

Causes of Teen General Anxiety Disorder

Genetic Predisposition – Research tells us that one of the biggest causes of teen General Anxiety Disorder is genetics. Teens who have a parent, grandparent, or immediate family member who experiences anxiety or other mental health complaints are much more likely to experience GAD themselves. This includes anyone who experiences brief, yet transient, episodes of intense nervousness.

Drug Use – Teens who use certain drugs, including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine or stimulants like amphetamine and meth, may develop or worsen GAD as a result. These chemicals excite the same areas of the brain responsible for anxiety.

Environmental Factors – Extremely disturbing or traumatic experiences, including prolonged high levels of stress, may contribute to the development of teen Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Teens may start out experiencing flares of anxiety, only to later develop GAD when they don’t seek treatment after these incidents.

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Teen General Anxiety Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


years – the standard age when teen GAD suffers first experience symptoms.


of all teens report being diagnosed with GAD.


as as many female teens are diagnosed with GAD compared to men.

How Can I Help My Teen with a General Anxiety Disorder?

Be Understanding – Having teen Generalized Anxiety Disorder is really hard, especially for your teen. It can also be extremely challenging for parents and loved ones or even the teen’s friends. Try your best to support, love, and assist your teen in feeling secure and confident, but don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals for support. Remember that every teen experiences GAD in a slightly different way; get to know your teen’s treatment and what works for them, and work with them when it’s safe to do so.

Learn to recognize the difference between normal stress and anxiety and out-of-control anxiety or panic. All teens experience some anxiety (e.g., before a test or the night of their first date). These experiences are a normal part of growing up, and give them the opportunity to learn how to cope. Allow your teen to work through stress and anxiety, but don’t be afraid to step in and offer help when you know they’re really struggling.

Learn About Anxiety – Anxiety is really an umbrella term for a broad range of disorders and symptoms relating to stress and fear. Dig into this topic by reading books, researching reputable online sites, and talking to professionals. There are an endless number of approaches, treatments, and opinions on the subject, as well as plenty of unestablished facts, so it’s important that you get the right information. By better understanding GAD, you will be more readily able to be the supportive team member your teen needs to get well.

Tell Them It’s Okay – Teens with GAD often experience a persistent cycle of worrying about the anxiety they may experience in the future. They may also experience anxiety over whether they’ll be equipped to cope in the future, or whether something bad will happen to them in the future. Rigid thinking causes them to have a very specific idea of how the future might unfold; they believe that if this vision doesn’t come true, they will lose everything at once and be left in a position of devastation. Reassure your teen that occasional bumps are simply a part of life, and that being flexible and adaptable will ensure they’re always ready, no matter where life takes them.

What Types of Teen General Anxiety Disorder Treatment Are Available?

Few people are aware they have an anxiety disorder from day one. In fact, most teens simply recognize that they experience intense episodes of stress and fear. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead teens to assume these feelings are normal, meaning they wait to seek teen general anxiety disorder treatment until they’re severely affected. The longer GAD is untreated, the worse the symptoms become – creating a compounded anxiety issue that’s harder to treat.

There are several ways to treat teen General Anxiety Disorder, including both at home and in clinical settings. These options include talk therapy, medication, relaxation, developing hobbies, and growing new skill sets.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy, is a process in which teens spend time one-on-one with a therapist who has special skills to help them work through their anxiety. This approach is often remarkably effective for teens suffering from GAD. By slowly unraveling the anxiety and its root causes, and giving the teen new skills to cope with sudden flares of anxiety, the teen becomes better able to look at the future with excitement and hope. Therapists also help teens identify negative self-talk, harmful behaviors, or illogical thought patterns that may contribute to the anxiety, reducing how often they experience it, too.


There is no medication to cure teen Generalized Anxiety Disorder; however, physicians and psychiatrists may prescribe medication temporarily to reduce symptoms. Drugs like buspirone, SSRIs, and SNRIs may all slightly lessen the intensity of generalized anxiety and stress, while benzodiazepines are sometimes used when anxiety becomes completely uncontrollable. These medications should be viewed as a temporary fix, not a long-term solution – a method for making it easier for the teen to attend therapy and heal.

Relaxation Techniques

Teens who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder often find it extremely difficult to calm down, despite their best efforts. In some cases, even attempts to calm down (e.g., breathing exercises) will cause anxiety to turn into a full-blown panic attack. Relaxation strategies teach teens how to better handle the emotions they feel during flares and on a daily basis. This includes everyday worries, like stress before taking tests or the stress of being sick with a cold. Because every team is different, this process can take a while; it's important to find the right strategy for each individual person. The best way to do that is to have teens pair up with a qualified therapist who can guide them in effective relaxation skills.

Skills and Hobbies

Teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder often struggle significantly with low self-confidence, self-esteem, self image, and self-assurance. Developing new skills and hobbies, and exploring what they’re good at, can help them to realize they really do have something to offer the world. Over time, small successes add up and increase the teen’s confidence, letting them feel more self-assured and better at coping with life.

Developing new skills and hobbies can also be beneficial in other ways. As teens experience small successes with their new experiences, their confidence grows, and this can help to combat negative self-talk and flawed thinking. Their successes become a constant reminder of how equipped they are to cope and how valuable and special they really are. Each moment becomes a teaching moment, eventually leading teens to become excited and anticipatory about the future lives they’ll lead.

Teen General Anxiety Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Treating teen Generalized Anxiety Disorder isn’t always easy. Because every patient is unique, teen general anxiety disorder treatment must be tailored to the needs of the patient – cookie cutter fixes won’t work. That said, there are certain treatment factors that speed the process along.

A Calming Environment

Many teens with GAD struggle to heal and stick to therapy practices at home; interference from loved ones, daily stressors from school or social spheres, and even distractions like electronics and academic stress can inhibit the process. When teens come to Paradigm San Francisco, they enter a welcoming environment designed to cater to their needs and provide an enjoyable escape from real life. Contrary to what the movies would have you believe, teens often have fun spending time with us!

During your teen’s stay at Paradigm, they will have time to relax, socialize, explore nature, hang out with peers, and listen to (or even play) music. They’ll also take part in a long list of therapy programs and classes to help them learn how to relax and cope.

Among Other Teens

Paradigm San Francisco keeps groups small; we believe this is better for ensuring teens get one-on-one help. However, teens who enter the program do get time to spend with their peers, and are encouraged to “hang out.” This may help teens with GAD become more tolerant of socialization, increasing social confidence and interaction skills.

“ This place literally saved my life. The staff is incredibly dedicated and loving. They were extremely supportive and welcoming of me. Thank you so much for all you have done for me. “

– Katrine R.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen General Anxiety Disorder

Will the anxiety ever leave?

Typically, anxiety disorders will not resolve on their own. While it’s possible that you may grow out of having anxiety, or develop coping skills that lessen your anxiety to the point you no longer struggle with it, you can’t simply wait it out. Seeking help early is by far one of the best ways to relieve the symptoms you’re experiencing. This is true whether you experience anxiety all the time or even just once in a while.

Will my kids have anxiety too?

It’s difficult to say. There is a genetic tie that raises the risk of future generations experiencing anxiety if you have GAD yourself. However, an increase in risk is not necessarily a guarantee, and seeking treatment before you have children may even eliminate some of the risk. The percentage of the population who develops an anxiety disorder is very, very small – less than one-fifth of the world’s people. Seek treatment early and stick with it for best results.

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