Your teen may be worried or stressed over school requirements, friendships, or romantic relationships, but this should not last long. However, if their stress is causing physical issues, such as severe headaches, loss of appetite, or sleeping disorders, then your child may have anxiety.
Some signs of anxiety may seem minor, but the best steps to take are to understand their condition, avoid what triggers them, and consult a mental health professional specializing in teenage anxiety and behavioral therapy programs.
Recognizing Teenage Anxiety by the Numbers
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently tallied children and teenage anxiety statistics. Approximately 4.4 million children and adolescents of ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with anxiety, making it the third-highest mental disorder on the list, next to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and behavior issues. Anxiety is also seen as a condition that co-occurs with other mental disorders like depression. More than 32% of children with anxiety suffer depression, while almost 38% have behavior problems.
Cases of anxiety among children and teens have been continuously rising at an alarming rate. The numbers increased from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011-2012. This year, the cases increased again to 7.1%. The same survey results also showed that anxiety gets more prevalent with age, meaning that 3-year olds are at least ten times less at risk than 17-year olds.
Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 31.9% of teens aged 13-18 have anxiety and that women (38%) have a higher prevalence than males (26.1%). Around 8.3% of teens also suffer severe impairment caused by anxiety.
Identifying the Causes of the Rise of Severe Anxiety in Teens
Teenage hormonal imbalance can affect the brain’s functionality in many ways. The stress hormones receptors increase while the relaxation hormone receptors decrease during puberty. The changes in these two hormone receptors increase the vulnerability of teens to mental health problems such as anxiety.
Furthermore, the sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) spike and fluctuate during adolescence. When estrogen levels in women increase, the production of serotonin decreases. Serotonin is the hormone responsible for mood stabilization and happiness, so lower values may cause sadness, stress, or panic. Meanwhile, extremely high estrogen levels and low testosterone levels may lead to irritability and teenage angst.
Another concerning factor is that not all kids diagnosed with anxiety can get proper treatment. Only six out of ten children with anxiety are able to receive treatment. The CDC survey concluded that receiving anxiety treatment is affected by a child’s age and their family’s economic status.
The recent pandemic and lockdown also caused a tremendous toll on everyone’s mental health, particularly teens who had to switch to distance learning. With the continuous pile-up of academic requirements and the coronavirus worries, teens are more pressured than ever. Shootings, wars, and terrorist attacks can also make people feel unsafe and stressed out, especially in public places.
Teen anxiety is highly associated with substance use disorders (SUDs). Teens struggling with mental health problems may resort to drug use to ease the pain and stress. Similarly, drug-addicted teens may experience anxiety as a side effect of taking drugs. Both reasons increase the cases of teenage anxiety, especially since access to marijuana, cocaine, and heroin is now easier than ever.
Teach Your Teens Coping Skills
You can help your child develop coping skills and teach them the resilience they need when facing adversity. When your teen is feeling anxious, try teaching them to do the following:
- Spend time outdoors, like walking in the park, setting up picnics, or going to the beach.
- Take the necessary breaks.
- Exercise daily and serve well-balanced foods.
- Take breathing exercises.
- Avoid heated arguments and try to compromise.
- No alcohol or drug consumption.
- Communicate feelings more often.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Teens with Anxiety
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that is proven to be beneficial for various mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, alcohol, and drug abuse issues, and severe mental illnesses. According to several studies, it improves the person’s functioning and quality of life significantly. The therapy involves shifting negative thinking patterns into positive ones through the following ways:
- Acknowledging one’s problems and pessimistic thinking, and learning to reconsider and evaluate their responses.
- Understanding their own behaviors and reactions toward other people.
- Coming up with healthy and logical problem-solving skills for challenging situations.
- Developing a greater sense of responsibility, worth, and confidence in oneself.
- Encouraging to face one’s fears rather than ignoring them.
- Learning to relax and calm one’s mind and body.
With CBT, the patient is actively engaged in their rehabilitation, has a sense of stability and control, and learns skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. Learning about the condition, taking notes during visits, and accomplishing homework relating to therapy techniques are all examples of CBT activities. Patients are also required to practice the skills they learned on a regular basis to see better results.
CBT therapists focus on the teen’s present life rather than the past. Although being aware of the root causes of their issues is important, the focus is generally on moving forward in order to come up with more effective coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress management skills.
Although it often comes and goes, teen anxiety should never be neglected, for it may have consequences on your child’s mental health or lead to harmful outcomes such as teen substance addiction. The latter can take a toll on their behaviors and brain functioning. At Key Transitions, we can help your teen suffering from anxiety with special anxiety treatment programs catered specifically to them. If your teen talks to you about their anxiety or if you think they are exhibiting its symptoms, feel free to contact us today.