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Teen anxiety often does not look like typical worry. Teens may be angry, defiant, refusing to go to school or get out of bed, begin to experience drops in grades, or begin using drugs due to an underlying anxiety disorder.
The example below is a typical presentation for a teen boy with anxiety.
Case Study: Adam
Adam was a fourteen year old boy who
had recently been resistant to engaging in the same activities he had been in
the past. He had a peer group who he had withdrawn from, and had recently been
caught smoking pot. His parents were drug testing him regularly. His dad was
convinced that he needed more discipline, and that the primary problem was he
was lazy. He mother was convinced he was depressed and something else was
wrong. After exploring with Adam some more
of what was going on it was obvious that he had some intense social anxiety. As
was the case here, teen anxiety can lead to some maladaptive behaviors and also
some depression. Adams social anxiety was so debilitating that it became a
cause for depression. In Adam’s case, we worked on
treatment of the social anxiety and education regarding where his feelings and
behaviors were coming from. After working on those issues, were able to
implement a plan to improve his coping skills. Specifically we replaced his
substance abuse with better coping mechanisms. He began to confront his anxiety
and face it.
This page will give an overview of teen anxiety, and will also link to other pages about teens and about anxiety.
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Anxiety In Teens: Specific issues
Behavior can mask the symptoms
Teen anxiety may often be expressed through defiance and avoidance, especially in boys but also in girls, appearing to be bad behavior. Truancy, mild drug use, and oppositional or argumentative behavior at home. Parents often unknowingly will reinforce a child’s anxiety if their symptoms are primarily behavioral because they avoid doing things that upset the child, thus feeding their anxiety. If parents are not tip toeing around the teen anxiety than they are engaging in conflict over the teens behavior, thus leading to a stressful and uncomfortable home life and at time contributing to depression.
Teen anxiety can be caused by life stressors, especially if the teenager was already prone to stress. Girls in particular are very vulnerable to anxiety over dating issues. Girls are often at a loss for how to behave and what to expect when dating. Honestly, half of the time I spend with my teenage clients’ amounts to dating advice. Teen anxiety around dating is particularly likely if there haven’t been explicit discussions in the house about dating and an open attitude that cultivates and exchange between the teen girl and her parents, they are left to fend for themselves on their own. Without the skill to pick good dating partners, to know how to make good choices within that relationship and how to stand up for themselves, they are overwhelmed. Dating is a huge source of teen anxiety. This is the case with teenage boys as well.
Body image issues are another source of teen anxiety. Girls are under a tremendous amount of pressure to be thin and beautiful. As far as women have come over the past few decades, this remains and issue we have not been able to escape from. Teenage girls are judged by their appearance and are surrounded by media images of perfectly gorgeous and thin women who don’t exist in reality. I have noticed, in particular, that girls who present with anxiety over body images are more likely to have mother’s who have body image issues.
Poor Communication Skills
Girls who have not mastered the skill of assertiveness and have trouble verbalizing their thoughts and feelings are prone to anxiety as well. This is an issue of constant focus in my therapy practice. I will hear stories in therapy about how they were feeling when someone criticized them or ignored them or stepped on their feelings. When I ask “what did you say”, the response is nothing. Walking around with your feelings stuffed inside all day long will cause you anxiety and depression!
Please Get Help Early
Specifically social anxiety, panic
attacks and panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are the diagnoses
I see most commonly with teen anxiety. Some teens also have separation anxiety
disorder. It is very important if you have a teenager suffering from anxiety to
get help for your teen. Studies show there is a strong likelihood that a teen
who has depression and anxiety will become an adult with depression and
anxiety. The earlier you learn the tools to conquer depression and anxiety the
better! Most retrospective studies of adults with these disorders indicate that
the illness began in adolescence or earlier. In addition to the anxiety disorder
diagnoses, many kids who have anxiety also suffer from depression, physical
problems, school problems, and eating disorders. If you have an anxious teen,
please get them some help immediately. If you a question about your child,
please email me and I will send you to a link to schedule a consultation.
Treatment for Adolescent Anxiety
Treatment for teen anxiety consists of
1. Helping teens to recognize their anxiety and the signals that they are anxious
2. Helping teens to learn how the thoughts that are inaccurate lead to anxiety
3. Helping teens to learn strategies to confront and deal with their anxiety rather than to avoid it.
If you have a teen with anxiety, we can set up an email, skype, or chat consultation.
Email consultations are 30 dollars.
Skype consultations are 100 dollars( One hour).
EJ, Garland. (2001). Rages and Refusals: Managing the Many Faces of Adolescent Anxiety. Can Fam Physician , 1023-1030.