It’s a difficult job being a teen these days. So much pressure to take tests, get good grades in school, maybe work part-time or participate in sports, maintain a social life, and keep up with social media. They may just want to scream: “I’m just trying to get through high school!”
30% of Teens Will Struggle with an Anxiety Disorder by Age 18
Children’s Mental Health Report, 2018
Anxiety can be described and experienced in many ways:
- Nervousness or shakiness
- Feeling antsy
- Racing heart
- Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
- Fatigue or feeling tired all the time
- Irritability or moodiness
- Stomach upset
- Headaches and body pains
Can you see any of these in your teens? Do they struggle with any of these signs or symptoms? If so, you are not alone. Anxiety doesn’t feel good and it can get in the way with having fun and enjoying life. According to the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report, 30% of teens will struggle with an anxiety disorder by age 18, and yet anxiety is described as an “invisible condition” because the symptoms are so often ignored or explained by other issues like substance abuse or trauma.
Anxiety disorders include:
Social Anxiety Generalized Anxiety Disorder Phobia
Panic Disorder Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
And, anxiety often accompanies other disorders including depression, which can often masquerade as an anger management problem in teens, substance abuse, eating disorders, and acting out behaviors (gang involvement, breaking laws, being defiant, refusing to attend school, refusing to follow the rules at home). Some may even feel suicidal or have the urge to self-harm to numb the pain.
Teens with an Anxiety Disorder are at Double the Risk of Developing a Substance Abuse Problem
Teens with an anxiety disorder are at double the risk of developing a substance abuse problem, which often begins as a coping mechanism for anxiety. In fact, more and more teens are experimenting with vaping and getting hooked to nicotine, as a way to reduce anxiety and “be cool,” which paves the way for later experimentation with substances like alcohol, pills, and marijuana.
95% of Teens Have Smartphone and 45% are Online “Almost Constantly”
One big contributor to anxiety is social media. All it takes is 30 seconds to share a thought, feeling, accomplishment, or crisis online, and KABLAM! The whole world knows. This can leave them feeling anxious, vulnerable, ashamed and depressed. In fact, according to the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Report, approximately 95% of teens have a smartphone and 45% are online “almost constantly, and, 24% of teens reported social media has had a negative effect on their lives, most likely bullying and gossiping.
Chances are you, your teen or someone you know has experienced something similar. The good news is that anxiety is a treatable and preventable condition.
Here are some things you can do…
- Talk to someone—and adult—who you trust. A parent, teacher, coach, guidance counselor. Telling someone you have a problem is the first step.
- Identify what makes you anxious—what we usually call triggers—and then identify how you can cope in healthy ways with these triggers.
- Identify what makes you feel good and is good for you. It could be hanging out with friends, exercising, dancing, reading, or playing video games.
- Turn off the social media for at least a little while each day.
- Get help. Talk to your parents about getting a counselor whom you can talk to and see on a regular basis. The most effective treatment for anxiety is something called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, which focuses on changing unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and most counselors are familiar with this.
- Finally, don’t give up hope! It’s hard being a teen these days, but if you get help now you will be better equipped for college and life in general.
If you’d like more information or a free phone consultation just complete the form below and I’ll give you a call.
Dr. Jennifer Bruha