Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. You have undoubtedly had it yourself: sweaty palms, a pounding heart, tightness in your abdomen, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping. All of it together can make you on edge and stressed.
Most of the time, anxiety occurs for a reason. For example, you might experience anxiety in these common situations:
- a job interview
- a public speaking engagement
- an unanticipated expense that is making you feel off-kilter
When these short-term situations resolve, the associated anxiety usually goes away, too.
For people with an anxiety disorder, however, it’s not as simple. They can experience the troubling symptoms of anxiety without there being a specific reason. Other times, grief, substance abuse, or other mental health issues contribute to the feelings and until they’re addressed, the situation won’t resolve. Here are some ways that an anxiety disorder can affect various parts of someone’s life.
Physical Affects of Anxiety
The physical manifestations of stress include some of the symptoms mentioned above:
- a racing heart
- shortness of breath
- digestive issues
Those are just the acute problems that you might experience during a stressful situation. When you have short-term anxiety that resolves after a short period of time, there’s no lasting problem.
When anxiety is long-term, however, like it usually is when there’s an anxiety disorder involved, it can begin to negatively affect your health. Some people with high levels of anxiety develop hypertension (high blood pressure), which can lead to heart disease, stroke, or kidney disease. The immune system can be affected, which means that someone with a lot of anxiety can find themselves coming down with colds and influenza more often. People with anxiety also tend to experience headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue.
Mental Affects of Anxiety
Anxiety is, in itself, a mental health condition. It can encompass the following mental health conditions:
- Social anxiety
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
These disorders can cause depression, which not only can raise anxiety levels but can also lead to different physical issues, including and up to suicide.
Some people with an anxiety disorder become unable to leave their homes. They can develop what is called agoraphobia, or the fear of open places and crowds. One reason for the development of this condition is that if a person has a panic attack in a certain situation, they might begin to associate the situation or place with the attack. For example, if a teen has an attack on the school bus, he or she might refuse to take the bus again, correlating the incident with the bus itself. When it’s just one place or one type of situation, it might not be a life-changing issue, but it can progress to the point where the victim does not want to leave the safety and security of their house or bedroom.
Social Affects of Anxiety
Anxiety sometimes includes social anxiety, which is when the person is fearful of various types of social situations. They are often afraid of judgment or embarrassment even when it seems irrational. Teens, in particular, tend to be self-conscious and might be susceptible to developing social anxiety.
Social anxiety can cause someone to avoid public places or to avoid going out with friends because they are afraid they will do something stupid or have a panic attack. Friends can misinterpret the anxiety as flakiness or laziness and might pull back.
In addition, anxiety can cause someone to be impatient or angry when it comes to family members, so the condition affects family relationships and might remove a level of support for the one struggling.
How Anxiety Affects School and Work
People with an anxiety disorder tend to have difficulties in school. For example, a teen might not feel that they can raise their hand or approach the teacher to ask questions. They might be very anxious about going in front of the class to give a presentation and would rather take the zero on the assignment. If they are worried about other concerns, they might not have the energy left to take care of schoolwork. Psychosomatic symptoms of illness can keep them out of school and impact their attendance and grades.
Adults or older teens who have jobs might find that the condition affects their work. They might not take criticism from superiors well or they might have a hard time with customer service. In some cases, sleep deprivation from anxiety can cause them to do poorly at their jobs. Social anxiety can also cause someone to stop socializing with coworkers, which can lead to social issues at work. Getting fired from a job can lead to financial issues that then can lead to more anxiety, so it creates a vicious cycle.
Getting Help for Your Teen’s Anxiety Disorder
Although anxiety disorders can affect many different facets of a person’s life, there is help available. If you think that your teen has too much anxiety, the best first step is usually to visit your teen’s primary care doctor. He or she can test you teen for physical problems that often masquerade as anxiety. Treating these issues can often make the anxiety better. If there is no medical problem or treatment doesn’t work, your teen will be referred to a mental health care specialist. This might be a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a counselor.
During anxiety disorder treatment, your teen might receive therapy, often cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. In some cases, people with anxiety take anti-anxiety medications. There are some potentially serious side effects to these medications, particularly in young people. Talk to your doctor about whether medication is right for you or your child. With help, your teen will be able to combat the anxiety and go on to enjoy good physical health, a healthy social life, success in school or work, and more.
Don’t let your teen suffer from anxiety. Contact your doctor or mental health care provider to begin treatment as soon as you notice signs of anxiety in your teen. So many different parts of life depend on good mental health, so talk to a professional about taking control of the situation.