Combating Teen Anxiety
Combating Teen Anxiety
By: Tori O’Brien
With more pressure than ever to perform and social media making every move public, students’ anxiety levels have risen significantly over the last decade. Studies show that up to 10% of kindergarten-aged children suffer from an anxiety disorder – a rate that jumps to more than 15% for high school students.
It is normal for kids and teenagers to experience anxiety on a low level, especially when a test, competition, or new event is approaching. Anxiety is the body’s natural reaction to stress and can be a healthy way to prepare you to deal with a tense situation. But too much anxiety can hinder a person socially, educationally, and emotionally. Thinking positively and preparing can keep the negative anxiety at bay. According to WebMD, about 13 percent of teenagers have anxiety levels high enough that they should seek treatment, The ADAA reports anxiety disorders affect one in eight children.
Abnormal anxiety is consistently very intense or severe, it lasts for weeks or months or longer, and it is so distressing that it gets in the way of a young person’s ability to learn, socialize, eat and sleep. Even when anxiety problems fall below diagnostic thresholds, the daily lives of anxious adolescents differ meaningfully from those of their peers in because it affects their emotions, behaviors, and decisions (see article references below).
Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, they miss out on important social experiences, and they often engage in substance abuse. An article in Psychological Medicine by Silk et.al discusses a study examining if there is a connection between anxious children and depressed teenagers. The study found that children with an anxiety disorder show a particular risk of developing depression during adolescence and this can be exacerbated by puberty. One study found that high-anxiety teenagers, compared with low-anxiety teenagers, expressed higher levels not only of anxiety and stress but also of negative feelings of anger, sadness, and fatigue, along with lower levels of happiness and well-being. They reported fewer conversations and less recreational activity but heightened eating and urges to use tobacco use (see article references below).
If anxiety disorders are left untreated in a developing young person, long-term consequences for mental health and development could ensue because chemical changes affect how the brain responds to stress. Anxiety disorders often co-occur with depression as well as eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sleep deprivation.
Raisingchildren.net provides a page on anxiety symptoms that you can talk with your son/daughter about. There is a strong link between the quality of parent-teenager relationships and young people’s mental health. Strong family support and positive relationships can help to protect teenagers from mental health problems. If symptoms persist for two weeks or more, you should take your child to a health care professional. You can find the list of symptoms HERE.
If you suspect your child or teen might suffer from abnormal anxiety, know that there are a plethora of treatment options. Also, it seems the earlier help is received, the better it is for children, even long term. The main treatment options are medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques.
If your child has mild or moderate anxiety, or while your family works to figure out the best treatment plan if your child has severe anxiety, here are three options that you can use immediately in your house to combat anxiety effectively.
- Rescue Remedy – A completely natural blend of five flower extracts that ease stress with no side effects. There is both an adult version and a child version. These products have been used for several decades and are available in many grocery stores, online retailers and in Whole Foods Markets. It may seem expensive ($20.00), but it will be worth it and the drops and lozenges last awhile! Many people have taken it and have found it to be helpful for all kinds of anxiety inducing situations, even non-severe anxiety.Check out Bach Kids’ Remedies HERE
- Essential Oils are a resurfacing option that has become popular recently are essential oils. These are oils made from herbs, flowers, and plants. The oils are super concentrated and help to relieve, heal, reduce, and improve all sorts of ailments. For stress and anxiety, lavender and peppermint are great. You can diffuse it in the air while a child does their homework. You can dilute it and put a few drops behind your kids’ ears or on their wrists or even put a drop or two in their water bottle to smell and sip through class or during an exam.
- Relaxation Techniques and Positive Thinking are very effective and help kids learn how to deal with stress responses. Deep breathing calms the nervous system and turns off the fight-or-flight response (which is what amps up when someone is stressed or scared). When fight-or-flight is ruling the body, rational and logical thoughts are hard to come by. Turning this response off enables a student to remember, recall, and perform better in a stressful situation. A great way to learn these types of techniques is through yoga – the breathing, stretching, and mindfulness naturally calms a person and can be used during stressful situations. Teach your kids that anxiety can be a good thing too and it can be managed by our thoughts. Check out the Learning Foundations Summer Program, Radiant Yoga class for kid-friendly yoga techniques and tricks that will help your student learn natural coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress.
At the end of THIS article are some great simple coping strategies that you can use with your child. It’s encouraging to note that the cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for all ages, and young children are unlikely to be (or need to be) prescribed medication for their anxiety.
The ADAA website provides links to check out about this topic and even one describing the changing and growing of the teen brain and how it relates to potential mental health issues. Definitely worth a click HERE to see what they have to offer.