Is Your Teen’s Anxiety Affecting His Or Her Ability To Feel And Function Well?
Are you concerned that your teenager is experiencing heightened or abnormal levels of anxiety? Is he or she suffering from reoccurring, worrisome, racing or other anxious thoughts? Has your teen complained of a skipping or quick heartbeat, discomfort in head or stomach, sweating not brought on by heat or increased jumpiness? Does he or she appear jittery, irritable or prone to overreacting? Has there been a change in eating or sleeping patterns? Does your teen appear to stress over everything – school, friendships, getting into a good college, performing at top notch in everything, all of the time? Are you feeling frustrated and worried by your child’s behavior – questioning if what he or she is experiencing is deeper than normal teenage angst? Do you feel that all your attempts to help calm your teen have failed and wonder what you can do to help?
We live in a culture that puts so much emphasis on success and, unfortunately, many adolescents begin to feel a building pressure to perform perfectly during the teenage years. And, it can become a double-edged sword as some teens develop so much anxiety that they become paralyzed to function. Identity issues and social development are also the big issues that teens struggle with during these years – and with that may come high anxiety. It can be concerning to watch your child struggle to calm anxious thoughts or behaviors. And, it can be highly frustrating to not know how to help.
Many Teens Are Affected By Higher Than Normal Anxiety
Teenage anxiety is a very common issue. Most, if not all, teens experience some level of significant anxiety during the adolescent years. These years are, by their very nature, a struggle. Teens are charged with figuring out who they are and how they fit into the greater world. The formation of personal identity and first attempts at navigating a new and broadening social landscape are not easy tasks. Add to that, the stress to excel, an increasingly demanding and full schedule and a still developing frontal cortex, and some level anxiety seems inevitable.
While many teens do an okay job of managing the stresses that inescapably come with being a teenager, some may be more susceptible to developing heightened anxiety and worry. Teenagers who have recently experienced a major loss, trauma, significant life transition, or who have a family history of mood disorders may be at increased risk.
Whether your teen’s anxiety is situational (caused by an event) or pervasive (ongoing), it’s important that he or she learn how to manage stress in healthy ways. Getting help during the teenage years can help mitigate meltdowns and burnout and prevent unhealthy coping patterns from becoming entrenched.
Therapy Can Help Your Teen Cope With Anxiety In Healthier Ways
The good news is that help is available. Therapy has been shown to be extremely effective in helping teens through times of high anxiety. Anxiety is treatable. The process is workable. And, with the help of a good therapist, most teenagers can work through their anxious feelings and behaviors without medication intervention.
A BPS therapist highly trained and experienced in anxiety counseling for teens will work with your teen to get to the root of what’s causing his or her anxiety. Like adults, teenagers go through experiences and develop memories that carry a high emotional charge. Your therapist will help your teenager understand those challenging feelings and experiences and learn how to move through them. With help, your teen can learn how to recognize anxious feelings and develop skills to stay calmer and more relaxed.
Your teen can also learn body awareness tools and develop an appreciation for their mind/body connection. Our bodies send us signals that indicate that we are taking on too much – going into overload and becoming highly anxious. Developing an increased awareness of body sensations and learning ways to calm the body and mind can yield dramatic results. These are skills that can help your teen now, as well as valuable ones that he or she can draw on throughout life.
While there is no quick fix for anxiety, countless teens suffering from both pervasive and situational anxiety have developed effective strategies to cope with stress and create better balance in their lives. With help, it is very possible for your teen to develop these skills and feel and function better on a regular basis. And, learning these skills now can help your teen to be better prepared to maintain emotional, mental and physical wellbeing as he or she enters adulthood. Learning these life-long, healthy coping skills and relaxation techniques during the teenage years can set your child up for future success in all realms of his or her life.
My teen says there’s no anxiety problem and refuses to talk about it.
While your teen might not believe that he or she is suffering from anxiety, if YOU think that there’s a problem, consider a referral assessment to help determine if treatment is indicated. While it’s your job to initiate the process, it’s your therapist’s job to ease your teen into opening up and addressing their anxiety issues. Your BPS therapist is highly trained and experienced to work with teenagers experiencing anxiety – whether your adolescent recognizes the problem or not – and can help your teen learn healthy ways to better cope with stress and complex emotions. As for getting your child into therapy, in order for the work to really be effective, it needs to be on your teen’s terms. You can try involving your teen in the process by giving him or her the power to choose the therapist. You can tell your child that he or she is going to therapy – not negotiable – but offer him or her the opportunity to interview and select a therapist.
If your teen’s refusal continues, you may want to seek parenting advice from a family therapist. Family therapists are trained to offer parental guidance and support. They can help you navigate difficult barriers – such as your teen’s refusal for help – and strategize different and more effective ways for you to communicate with your teen. It’s also important to note here that an adamant refusal for therapy may be indicative of a deeper problem and a higher level of intervention may be needed. A family therapy can also help you make this determination.
I’m not sure if my child really has an anxiety problem. He or she is a high achiever, but how is that a bad thing?
It’s important to recognize that teenagers need balance in their lives. While achievement may be celebrated, the stresses associated with perfection can compromise mental health and also lead to long-term physical health problems. If balance isn’t created, your highly anxious teen may be headed toward a meltdown.
In therapy, your teen can learn how to create balance in his or her life. He or she can learn relaxation techniques and how to manage tasks and time demands in ways that don’t feel scary or overwhelming. Your BPS therapist can help your teen develop a flexible and sensible structure that makes it easier to manage school, extracurricular activities, friends and even time for your teen to still be a kid. It’s important for you and your teen to recognize that the teen years are not all about working – your teen has the rest of his or her life to do that.
I think that my teen might benefit from therapy, but I’m not sure how we can work weekly sessions into our schedule.
First, an overly busy schedule may be one of the factors contributing to your teen’s anxiety. Making time for therapy now can help your teen to begin to feel and function better immediately. It can also help prevent your teen from burning out down the road – which is a very real possibility if his or her anxiety goes untreated. Your BPS therapist can help your teen avoid burn out. In therapy, your teen can learn strategies to reduce anxiety and make lifestyle changes that can lead to healthier mental, emotional and physical health now and in the future.
We encourage you to schedule a referral assessment with a BPS therapist, trained by BPS Director Dr. Jan Hittelman. We will work with you to determine what your teenager’s specific issues are and ensure a good match between you, your teen and a BPS therapist in terms of personality, style and expertise.
You can also check out our free, online therapist directory, which will match you and your child with a therapist who has expertise working with teenagers and anxiety issues.