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November 8, 2009

Teens and Anxiety: Navigating the Difficult Years

Filed under: teenage anxiety — Tags: — admin @ 3:33 am

Katrina is 16 years old and has been caught in the middle of a divorce battle between her parents. After being on the honor roll for many years, her grades have started to slip. She doesn’t want to bother her mother about how she feels because she knows that her mother is sad from what has happened and has her own issues to deal with.

Katrina is over-protective of her mom and continues to worry about her. She is finding it harder and harder to concentrate at school and when you look at her, she appears to be staring off into the distance. She is often seeking approval for everything and is never satisfied with her choices. After her grades dropped, she felt very disappointed (but not because of her own expectations), but because what she perceived everyone else's expectations to be of her. She definitely feels alone and has nobody to turn to.

Teens and anxiety have been an uprising issue for the last couple decades. It is a known fact that each year there is a 13% increase in teen anxiety. However, this problem isn't clear-cut. There can be several different factors involved that would lead to this conclusion. There are so many factors involved; they can include separation anxiety, social anxiety, anxiety disorders and generalized anxiety, just to name a few. However, I will focus on a couple of common stressors below.

Drugs and Violence

I know this first one is somewhat on the extreme end, but it is something that teens have dealt with in the past, today, and they will definitely deal with this in the future. As teens experiment and turn to drugs-they may not know about the anxiety that can be brought on from usage-let alone all the health risks involved.

Some teens are finding it hard to deal with life-so what do they turn to at times? Marijuana. As things get hard or they want somewhat of a "pick me up" or some induced relaxation, instead of using something harsh like cocaine-they go to something much milder and what appears to be "the safer alternative". Little do they know that it has been found that marijuana can lead to more serious mental issues, such as, increased depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia to name a few.

Unfortunately, teens and anxiety seem to be going hand in hand nowadays. In regards to dating, studies have shown that 20 to 30% of teens have experienced some form of physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse. Now it could be multiple reasons why a teen would put herself/himself through this and it leads you to asking why are they so accepting of this behavior (and we can ask the same question in regards to the perpetrator)-it could be social, environmental, characteristic, mental disorder, etc. But whatever the reason, it is happening.

All these abnormal controlling behaviors can lead the victim embarrassed, distraught, scared which can be a door opener for anxiety. Anxiety can be caused from the fear of the unknown (not sure what will happen next feeling), especially if they try to leave the situation. Anxiety is the main problem that will keep the victim in that relationship and closed to everyone else who wants to help.

Seeking Help

* If a parent has a problem communicating with their teen (this will definitely be something to resolve), but in the interim, he/she will need to speak to someone whom they can trust and open up to without feeling like they will be criticized or controlled.

* If a teen confides in you-stay encouraged and never react to what they tell you no matter how strange or shocking the news is. This will only promote more communication. It's better to know than to be kept in the dark.

* Parents should study about teen violence and drugs so they can get an idea of how their teen may be feeling.

* Parents should always recognize their child's strengths and abilities.

Teens and anxiety are a huge and broad subject, but recognizing just a tip of the problem and taking steps to help resolve it is a big start.

As a therapist, it is very therapeutic for teenagers to open up to you. Take their trust seriously. You are a mentor to them and to start preaching will be a turn off. As they are able to tell you more and more about their inner thoughts and feelings, know that you are making a difference in their lives. Often teens just go home from school, close their bedroom doors and put on music or start texting. You are a way to give them an adult perspective and help them sort out the underlying issues. Give them time to open up and develop trust. Some tips for teen anxiety can be read at Stress Reduction Tips

1 Comment »

  1. Teens have anxiety about family finances more than they show. It’s not just that they want ipods and nintendo wii games but they have friends that got foreclosed houses and think they may be next. Also their friends may take prozac and so they think they should do.

    Comment by Joey Vince — December 1, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

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