Teens Coping With Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal condition for children, teens and adults, however anxiety disorders are a serious condition that goes beyond teens coping with anxiety. Anxiety disorders occur when physical and mental responses to perceived dangers are so severe that they disrupt a person’s ability to function normally in society, whether that’s school, work or home.

 

Teens coping with anxiety on their own without getting professional help are at a greater risk of developing more serious issues. It’s important for parents and caregivers to learn to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and to identify the ways that teens attempt to cope with the condition, generally unsuccessfully.

 

When teens suffer from anxiety disorders, there are several ways they attempt to cope before their actions are noticeable enough for parents and caregivers to intervene.

 

Avoidance

One common method that teens coping with anxiety use is avoiding known triggers for anxiety attacks. Anxiety is a reaction in the body to real or perceived threats, and the brain triggers a flood of hormones and chemicals to prepare for fight or flight.

 

When the body is in this heightened state, people experience rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, dizziness, nausea, sweating and more. Mentally, people experience clouded thoughts, difficulty concentrating, worry, fear and panic. During an anxiety attack, the sufferer cannot get his or her body to calm down and everything intensifies.

 

Teens who are trying to control anxiety attacks will avoid people, situations and places that might have the smallest possibility of triggering one. It’s common for teens to avoid group activities, classes, gatherings and even friends in order to isolate themselves from a possible anxiety attack.

 

Obsessive Rituals

As irrational as it may seem to those with little to no anxiety, teens often develop rituals that help their brains and bodies deal with the challenges they face with the disorder. Obsessive rituals can be formally classified as obsessive compulsive disorder, and can manifest in a range of ways. Some examples of obsessive rituals might include repetitive grooming, such as washing hands frequently or showering several times per day.

 

Other repetitive activities, such as tapping, knocking or touching, may also help to soothe anxious teens. Pacing the house at night, checking in with parents too frequently, only wearing certain clothes or hairstyles or even refusing to leave the house unless the weather is just so are other examples of ritualistic behaviors that can become obsessive.

 

Substance Abuse and Self Abuse

Certain substances like drugs or alcohol can have a soothing effect on anxious teens and when they are not receiving professional help with their anxiety disorder, they often self-medicate this way. A teen with an untreated anxiety disorder is at a higher risk for developing a substance abuse problem. While some parents may just see drugs and alcohol abuse as typical teen rebellion, it could be masking a deeper mental health issue.

 

Other more dangerous behaviors can be linked to severe anxiety disorders. Examples include cutting, eating disorders, trichotillomania (pulling out hair, such as eyelashes or eyebrows), severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

 

With Treatment Comes Success

The good news is that anxiety disorders have a very high rate of success when treated with a combination of medicine and therapy. Teens who get help with anxiety early in life are more likely to regain the confidence and abilities suppressed by the anxiety disorder.

 

It’s entirely possible that teens who have a good support group of parents, doctors, therapists and more will overcome the challenges of their anxiety and go on to lead happy, successful lives. 

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