If addiction runs in your family, you’re naturally going to be more hesitant to give your teenager anti-anxiety medications. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering that anti-anxiety meds can cause suicidal thoughts and behaviors in some children. That said, there are safe, effective medications available for teens.
Nevertheless, it’s always helpful to teach kids and teens how to manage the anxiety they feel. Anxiety is a natural response to stress so it’s not something that ever goes away. By having tools and strategies for dealing with anxiety, teens will be less likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
If you have a teenager who is showing signs of anxiety, we have some helpful tips for you. However, these tips are not a substitute for professional medical advice. Be sure to contact your child’s healthcare professional.
A Few Things to Know about Teenage Anxiety
Anxiety isn’t fun for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for teens. They’re already going through the challenges of adolescence so any added stress can push them over the edge. Thankfully, there are ways to curb this anxiety so that it becomes more manageable.
Before we talk about ways to do this, here are a few things to know about anxiety in teens.
- It’s sporadic. Anxiety happens because your brain thinks there’s danger, not because there actually is. This means that it can come all of a sudden and for no apparent reason.
- It’s common. About 1 in 8 young people have anxiety. And all of us suffer from anxiety at some point in time. While this doesn’t mean that you should downplay teenage anxiety, it’s important to know that your teen is not alone.
- It’s a feeling - not a personality. We’re quick to label people as “anxious” but it’s not a personality. It’s a feeling that people get when something doesn’t feel right. It comes and goes and is not who you are.
- It’s not a weakness. Feeling anxious means you’re human, not weak. The brain is a bit overprotective at times is all.
How Do I Know My Teen Has Anxiety?
The signs of anxiety in teens can look different from the signs in adults. Plus, teens are still kids and may not be able to express themselves as well as an adult might. They may also not know what to do with their emotions and then bottle them up inside. Not only can this cause issues with their self-esteem, but also it can put them at risk for substance use and mental health disorders.
Recognizing anxiety in teens is key. Here are some signs to be on the lookout for:
- Pervasive worry or emotional changes like feeling restless, irritable or “on the edge”
- Sudden avoidance of social and extracurricular activities
- Frequent headaches, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue or aches and pains
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Significant drop in grades
- Symptoms of panic attacks like dizziness and rapid heartbeat
What are Some Ways I Can Treat Teenage Anxiety?
The best way to address teenage anxiety is by helping your child recognize their emotions, understand what they’re feeling and why they’re feeling that way. This isn’t easy, especially for growing teenagers, but it’s necessary for controlling anxiety symptoms. When your teen knows what’s bothering them and why, they can take the necessary steps to prevent panic attacks.
Below are some of the most effective ways to manage and treat teenage anxiety.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy. Trauma treatment centers like Awakenings Treatment Center offer CBT. In this type of therapy, the therapist helps identify the thoughts and beliefs that cause anxiety.
- Relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques reduce negative thoughts and help the body process stress. Examples include meditation, deep breathing, yoga and listening to calming music.
- Biofeedback. This therapy uses electronics to measure how the body responds to stress. However, it's less commonly used in teens compared to adults.
- Medication. As mentioned above, several types of prescription medications are available to treat teenage anxiety disorders.
When Do Teenagers Need Treatment?
Because anxiety is a normal human feeling, parents often wonder when anxiety is too much. Excess anxiety interferes with everyday living. The anxiety is pervasive and prevents your teen from living a normal life. Here are some signs that indicate your child's anxiety is a problem:
- Feeling anxious, worried or afraid for no reason at all
- Worrying too much about everyday activities
- Continuously checking to see if things were done right
- Difficulty functioning in certain situations
Treating Anxiety Now Can Prevent Substance Abuse Later On
There is a strong correlation between anxiety and substance abuse. Symptoms of anxiety are believed to contribute to substance abuse problems because teens may self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. However, these substances can increase anxiety symptoms, starting a vicious cycle.
Teens still have a growing brain and are more susceptible to developing an addiction and requiring drug rehab in Agoura. By addressing your teen’s anxiety today, you can get them the support they need to manage their symptoms without drugs and alcohol. Most importantly, you can give them the tools they need to cope and become productive, independent adults.