Occasionally, anxiety can be good. It can serve as a motivation to get a challenging task done. It can help us study harder for an exam or elicit our talents in greater ways when we are faced with a difficult task. However, anxiety isn’t good for everyone, especially when it becomes excessive and frequent. Although teens might commonly experience anxiety as a result of the pressures they feel from parents and teachers, this kind of anxiety can become a mental illness if it becomes excessive. When a teen is experiencing anxiety to the point that it affects his or her daily functioning, grades, and/or relationships, then it could be considered a mental illness.
There are different forms of anxiety disorders, depending on a teen’s symptoms and experiences of anxiety. These are:
- Generalized anxiety Disorder
- Social Phobia
- Other types of Phobias, such as fear of small spaces – claustrophobia
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are about 8% of teens ages 13-18 who have an anxiety disorder. Teens who have a psychological illness of anxiety tend to begin experiencing symptoms as early as 6 years old. However, sadly, teens don’t always get treatment for their disorder. Only 18% of those who are diagnosed with an illness of anxiety tend to get the right treatment. It’s very common for people, including teens, to believe that their symptoms are a regular part of life. If adolescents (or their parents) are not aware that symptoms of feeling stressed, tense, or overly anxious for an extended period of time is abnormal, they may continue live with those symptoms throughout their adolescence and even into adulthood. Often, it is when those symptoms become so debilitating that something if finally done about it.
Fortunately, there is treatment for anxiety and particularly treatment that can address anxiety among teens. For instance, the Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (CAMS) found that high quality Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can effectively treat anxiety disorders among teens and children. Even if this sort of treatment is provided without medication, results were found to be significantly effective. Furthermore, another study found that behavioral therapy was more effective for teens and children than antidepressant medication (which is often prescribed to treat teen anxiety).
Because much of the American people live their lives full of stress, and the Western culture seems to thrive on stress and anxiety, it can be easy to go through life with the notion that anxiety is normal. And because teens are often learning from their parents and the adults around them, they might easily adopt the notion that stress is a natural part of life. As mentioned above, stress can be a driving motivating force in some situations, and therefore a good presence in one’s life. However, when stress and anxiety become debilitating, affecting a teen’s performance in school, work, or at home, it might be considered a mental illness and deserves the proper type of treatment.