Teen anxiety affects most adolescents at one time or another. Being anxious before a big test or nervous on a first date is a normal part of growing up. However, there is a significant difference between a temporary phase of teenage stress and anxiety and a teenage anxiety disorder. About 25 percent of American teens between the ages of 13 and 18 are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point.
Teenage anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. However, teen anxiety disorder is characterized by a high level of anxiety, which gets worse over time rather than improving on its own. The feelings of tension and fear can interfere with daily activities at work and at school. Additionally, teen anxiety disorder can affect relationships with peers and family members.
Signs of teenage anxiety include a performance dip in school, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, noticeable drop in social interactions, and avoiding people, places and things that trigger anxious feelings. Furthermore, physical symptoms of anxiety can include difficulty sleeping, fatigue, loss of appetite, or other eating disturbances. Moreover, substance use disorder is also linked with anxiety disorders in adolescence, as teens are more likely to use drugs and alcohol as forms of self-medication.
It’s helpful for parents and other adults to know how to help a teenager with anxiety and depression. Normal levels of anxiety in teens can often be alleviated by better sleep habits and nutrition, compassionate conversations with family and peers, time spent unplugged in nature, and mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation. However, professional help is essential for young people suffering from teen anxiety disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and experiential therapies are all effective in helping teens recover from an anxiety disorder.
Sources: National Institute of Mental Health