As a parent, you may have noticed increasingly unusual behavior in your teen and wondered if he or she was developing an anxiety disorder. While it’s normal for people to feel anxious based on everyday stress, an anxiety disorder is more serious, especially in teens.
Today’s teens are faced with a wide variety of stressful situations, from school to jobs to friends to thinking about their future. It’s fine for teens to feel stressed and anxious about some things, but when those feelings start to prevent the teen from engaging in his or her environment normally, then parents have something to worry about.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a condition where the body prepares for threats and danger, whether real or perceived. The brain receives signals from the body of a potential danger, so it floods the body with chemicals designed to help confront or flee from the danger. Anxiety helped human ancestors survive in a harsh, dangerous world.
Today, the human body still reacts the same way to stress by entering into an anxious state. You may recognize the symptoms of anxiety when you have to speak in front of a group, get a work evaluation, take a big test or meet new people. Fear of making a mistake or being rejected are also modern triggers for normal anxiety.
However, anxiety disorders are when people feel anxious and fearful more frequently and stronger than normal. It’s not uncommon for those with anxiety disorders to feel extremely worried over things that typically are not worrisome. Anxiety disorders can interfere with a teen’s ability to function normally every day, and if left untreated, can have a severe impact on his or her life.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Parents should watch for symptoms of anxiety disorder in their teen so that they can seek out medical help in diagnosing and treating the problem. Here is a list of common physical symptoms that teenagers may experience when struggling with anxiety:
· Rapid, shallow breathing
· Sweaty palms and armpits
· Nausea, vomiting and stomach pains
· Trembling and shaking
· Crying and weeping
· Chest pains
· Muscle tension
· Pounding heartbeat
Teens may present these physical symptoms all at once or they may build gradually. Some teens only have some symptoms while others may display most or all.
Mental symptoms of anxiety are harder for parents to spot, but may provide the best glimpse of whether or not a teen is struggling with an anxiety disorder. Here are some typical mental symptoms of anxiety:
· Lack of focus
· Change in diet
· Insomnia or restless sleep
· Irritability or anger
· Withdrawing from friends and activities
· Excessive fear or worry
· Compulsive rituals, like grooming or cleaning
· Avoidance of groups or gatherings
· Never making eye contact when speaking
· Irrational fears
What Parents Can Do
When you think your teen may be suffering from anxiety, it’s important to seek out help as soon as possible. If treated, anxiety can be minimized to the point where your teen will feel better and find more success in school, at work and socially.
Anxiety treatment options generally consists of therapy and medication, which are both designed to help retrain the teen’s body on how to deal with real or perceived stress. New coping mechanisms will allow your teen to regain control of his or her body and mind and not be subject to the grip of an anxiety disorder.