How Can I Help My Teen With Anxiety?

Group teens walking down the street with their arms around each other

Anxiety is an all-encompassing term that spans a number of anxiety and panic disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A common theme among these disorders is extreme or excessive fear and worry, irrational thoughts, and feelings of impending doom.

Anxiety is much more than feeling nervous before a big event or stressing out over an exam or a job interview. Anxiety disorders can be debilitating, interfering with daily life because of the severe symptoms. It is essentially a constant state of being in fight-or-flight – which is incredibly stressful on the body.

Teenagers have a lot going on in their lives, and they’re still learning how to process the floods of new emotions. Over the span of a few short years, your teen will have their first real crush, make and lose close friends, do homework and study for exams. All this while focusing on maintaining good grades, learning to drive, pursuing a collegiate degree, playing sports and preparing to move out of their childhood home can make life difficult.

Some teenagers experience all of this and more while suffering from chronic illnesses, witnessing their parent’s divorce, grieving a loss in their family, or living in an unstable home environment. This is a lot for anyone to go through, let alone fully developed adults. Teenagers with heightened risk factors or who are otherwise predisposed can develop an anxiety disorder when the stress of it all builds to a boiling point.

What are the symptoms of teen anxiety?

If you believe your teenager might be suffering from anxiety, be on the lookout for these signs and symptoms:

  • Hyperventilation, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
  • Restlessness, or appearing on-edge
  • Spacing or zoning out
  • Irritability
  • Excessive worries and fears
  • Insomnia
  • Startling easily
  • Frequent stomach aches, vomiting or headaches
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nail-biting or picking at skin
  • Avoidance of situations that may trigger anxiety
  • Isolation from friends and family

If you do notice any of these symptoms, be sure to check in with your teen. Ask them how school is going, whether their extracurriculars are manageable or if you can help lighten their load in any way.

What can I do about my teenager’s anxiety?

  • Be empathetic, even if you don’t fully understand what they are going through or why they feel this way.
  • Help find the root cause of their anxiety, whether it be their friendships and relationships, school stress, college pressure, family obligations or a traumatic event.
  • Validate their feelings, without judgment or making fun of them.
  • Ask questions about what they are feeling, and really hear them out when they tell you.
  • Make an effort to understand their anxiety and show them that you are interested in helping them.
  • Refrain from punishment or belittlement when they open up to you.
  • Be a safe space for them to share when they are feeling anxious. Through both actions and words, let them know they can come to you at any time.
  • Trust when they say something is anxiety-inducing, even if it may not be to you.
  • Work together to confront triggers, talk through feelings of anxiety and find a treatment plan.
  • Encourage healthy habits, like eating balanced meals and exercising. This will not cure an anxiety disorder, but it can help burn off excess energy.
  • Offer to meditate or practice mindfulness with them.

Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare offers treatment options tailored specifically to teenagers experiencing anxiety. Our specialty lies in our intensive outpatient program, which provides teenagers the opportunity to process their feelings of anxiety in a safe and supportive environment while still being able to live at home, go to school, and see their friends. This program is made up of several components, each serving a distinct purpose:

  • Group psychotherapy: Also known as talk therapy, this form of therapy promotes sharing feelings and emotions with others in similar situations who can provide support, understanding, and encouragement.
  • Group psychoeducational therapy: Psychoeducation, in addition to being therapeutic, provides fact- and science-based information on the disorder in question such that the patients gain a better understanding of how to cope with it. 
  • Group cognitive-behavioral therapy: Perhaps a deeper dive into the psyche than psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy in this context encourages patients to confront, interpret, and accept their feelings of anxiety.
  • Experiential group therapy: Experiential groups offer a more relaxed approach to anxiety treatment, featuring de-stressing techniques, mind/body activities, mindfulness, art therapy and communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Weekly individual therapy: One-on-one therapy allows the patient to be more vulnerable about their anxiety, especially if they are not quite comfortable doing so in group settings.

If you’re reading this article, you likely know the importance of cultivating strong family relationships. Family workshops and regular family therapy are also great options for addressing teen anxiety together.

Call today at 678-274-4936 to discuss which treatment would be best for helping your teenager manage their anxiety.

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