Conversations about anxiety tend to focus on adults. However, did you know that roughly one-third of Americans between the ages of 13 and 18 have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? It can get chalked up to teenage angst or mood swings but if left unchecked, anxiety can truly disrupt a young person’s life.
This makes it vital for parents to become familiar with anxiety disorders and how they manifest in teenagers. Your awareness and support can reduce symptoms and get them back on track quickly. With that in mind, let’s learn more about teenage anxiety and how to recognize it.
Anxiety and Teens
It’s a troubling paradox. Everyone knows how much pressure a teen can feel. At the same time, this stress gets downplayed as a “part of life.” But it’s not easy to navigate:
- Peer pressure
- Academic responsibilities
- Extracurricular activities
- Hormonal changes
- Making friends
- Budding relationships
- Feeling independent
- Planning for college and your future
Of course, they feel anxious but they feel self-conscious talking about it. That’s when parents can make a big difference by knowing what to look for.
Signs of Anxiety in Teenagers
- Inability to concentrate both at home and school
- Noticeably tense and unable to relax
- Negative self-talk
- Decline in academic performance
- Losing interest in activities they usually enjoy
- Spending less time with friends and flakily members
- Avoiding situations and people that make them stressed
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Sleep disruptions and nightmares
- Sudden changes in appetite (with either weight loss or gain)
- Fatigue, low energy
How To Help Your Teen When They Have Anxiety
Acknowledge Their Feelings and Encourage Them to Talk About It
Don’t dismiss their anxiety with lines like, “Wait until you’re in the real world and have reason to be stressed.” Also, resist the urge to suggest that they “stop worrying.” This teaches them that worry is something negative and invalid. Instead, let them know you appreciate their struggles and that you’re available to talk to and support them without judgment.
Naming and talking about their emotions can go a long way in describing the anxiety they feel. Make yourself available to listen. Offer advice and solutions when this input is welcomed.
Help Them Develop Coping Skills
This can include:
- Practicing self-compassion
- Challenging their anxious inner critic
- Engaging in positive self-talk
- Getting comfortable with asking for help
In addition, teach them some basic relaxation techniques, e.g.
- Deep breathing
- Visualizing places or people who make them feel relaxed
- Grounding skills like naming all the things in their vicinity they can see, feel, hear, smell, and taste
Encourage Them to Develop a Daily Self-Care Regimen
Work with them to guide them toward healthy lifestyle choices like:
- Prioritizing regular sleep patterns
- Healthy eating habits that include the avoidance of substances like caffeine that can cause anxiety
- Daily physical activity and exercise
It can go a long way if you serve as a good example by modeling such behavior.
Make Your Home a Safe Space
- Spend time with your child but also learn how to read the signs when they need some solitude and/or independence.
- Invite them to do things together like cooking, exercising, watching a movie, etc.
- Create family routines that inspire feelings of security and relaxation
- Be mindful of who is invited to your home and how this makes your teen feel
Connect With an Experienced Therapist
Everyone — at any age — has moments of nervousness or worry. An anxiety disorder, however, is a diagnosable mental health condition. What this means is that you’ll need a qualified guide. If your teen is showing signs of anxiety, we invite you to reach out today to learn more about teen counseling.