Adolescent anxiety is a topic that needs to be constantly debated. This stage of life is crucial for the development of good habits, values, and socio-emotional skills (empathy, emotional intelligence) that guarantee well-being in the next stages of life.
Various research works have established that between 10% and 20% of adolescents have mental health problems, but they are diagnosed and treated wrongly. Therefore, it is essential to know the signs of mental disorders to identify symptoms and alleviate the suffering of young people through appropriate treatment.
Adolescence is a phase in which there is an explosion of emotions, thoughts, ideas, and experiences that impact adolescents’ self-image and self-confidence. It’s normal to be confused by so much news. The problem is when excitement and confusion turn into anxiety.
Anxiety in Adolescence
Teens go through a series of changes during puberty. Physical, emotional, and psychological changes make adolescence an exciting but confusing time.
The search for identity, the first romantic relationships, the influence of friendships, the first achievements, and the increase in responsibilities permeate the minds of adolescents. Amid so many never-before-lived experiences, anxiety can surface and start to drive the teenager’s actions and decisions.
As they approach the age to take the entrance exam, new concerns arise. What profession to follow? What course to take? Which university to choose? The number of decisions that will change the course of the adolescent’s future also increases anxiety significantly.
As adolescents are in a discovery phase and have the little life experience to deal with them, they are more susceptible to developing anxiety or depressive disorders than adults.
Parents may have difficulty noticing the symptoms of these conditions as difficulty controlling emotions is characteristic of this phase. Adolescents defy rules, question parental authority, react intensely to situations, and believe they are always right, making it difficult to distinguish typical adolescent behaviors from signs of anxiety.
Signs of Teenage Anxiety
Anxiety in adolescence has symptoms similar to anxiety in adulthood. However, teenagers tend to deal with them in different ways due to their low emotional range.
As they don’t know that what they are feeling is linked to anxiety, they believe it to be a personality trait. So when someone comments, they quickly become defensive. “It’s just my way!” they reply.
The acquisition of knowledge about what anxiety is and how to manage it helps adolescents to identify signs in their behavior, facilitating the search for adequate treatment.
Typical symptoms of anxiety are:
- Excessive worry, especially about small things;
- Fatigue and daytime sleepiness;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Unexplained muscle pain;
- Loss of appetite or excessive appetite, causing considerable weight loss or weight gain;
- Shortness of breath;
- Constant apprehension about the future;
- Difficulty socializing;
- Low self esteem;
- Biting your nails or pulling your hair out;
- Inattention and memory loss;
- Sadness; and
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that you once enjoyed.
In addition, it is common for teenagers to withdraw from their parents and friends, refusing to talk about the causes of their afflictions. In this way, parents must be always attentive to the behavior of their children so that they can seek psychological treatment at the appropriate time.
Causes of Teenage Anxiety
Many factors can cause anxiety in this age group. The characteristic concerns of adolescence, such as appearance, disappointment in love, popularity, professional future, self-esteem, dating, and identity, can be the cause of constant anxiety.
Parental separation, friends moving to another city or school, lack of family support, bullying, living in stressful environments, and inability to deal with frustration also contribute to the emergence of anxiety.
In addition, children of parents who have had or have an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop anxiety or depression at some point in their lives.
How to Help Teenagers with Anxiety?
Anxious teens tend not to want to go to certain places or engage in certain social activities, as they know they will be tense. They may also appear to be down most of the time, not knowing what to do to remedy their mood.
Parents can help children who suffer from anxiety find emotional well-being in everyday life. For this, they need to have patience and perseverance since the children may be unwilling to cooperate in the first attempts.
Understand that to overcome anxiety it is necessary to take one step at a time, respecting the limits of the anxious person and providing constant encouragement.
1. Encourage the practice of physical exercises
Physical exercises are great for controlling anxiety, reducing stress from constant worries, and promoting individual or group fun. If your teen doesn’t want to participate in a team sport or go to the gym, encourage him to go for a walk or exercise at home. Participate with him in these activities to show support.
2. Offer to overcome fear together
Anxious people’s fears are usually of everyday situations, which virtually every individual must experience at some point. So, offer to help your teen overcome a fear along with him. It could be something simple, like making a purchase at the local bakery or attending a weekend course. Situations are not so frightening when lived together.
3. Talk about feelings
Encourage sincere dialogue about feelings. Don’t be judgmental or pressure your teen to change overnight. Offer silent listening and ask before offering any advice. Sometimes, teenagers just want to let off steam, without looking for answers to their dilemmas. That way, he will know that he can count on his parents in times of difficulty.