Parents, you should know that teens can experience significant anxiety to the point where it can get in the way of functioning in their day to day life. Sure, teens are going to feel certain types of psychological pressure. From friends, they might feel peer pressure, from teachers, a pressure to complete their work, and from parents, perhaps expectations to make the best choices for themselves. However, none of this compares to the level of anxiety that teens feel when they have a psychological disorder of anxiety.
One of the most common anxiety disorders among adolescents is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It’s a diagnosis given to those teens who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. It might be natural to experience anxiety right before an exam or if you’re about to go on a date. But excessive anxiety is often persistent and seems to come on without an associated trigger. Its symptoms, such as a racing heart, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, shaking, sweating palms, and feeling hot, might suddenly come out of nowhere.
Teen Anxiety Disorder:
- May be associated with a precipitating event
- May onset spontaneously, some anxiety symptoms may appear before the onset of disorder
- Functional impairment may range from mild to severe
- Long lasting or may be chronic, environment may modify but not lift anxiety symptoms
- Professional intervention is usually necessary
- May increase adversity due to resulting negative life events (for example, anxiety can lead to school refusal and avoidance of normal developmental steps like independent activities with peers
- May lead to long term negative outcomes (social isolation, low self esteem, lack of independence, depression, substance abuse, etc.)
- Social supports and specific psychological interventions (counseling, psychotherapy) are often helpful
- Medications may be needed but must be used properly
One of the dangers of Teen Anxiety Disorder is that it may come with risk-taking or dangerous behavior in teens. One of them being the use of drugs. If teens are experiencing severe anxiety, they may turn to drinking or drug use as a way to manage their symptoms. In fact, hookah smoking is form of smoking tobacco that has been a big sell for those teens with anxiety. A hookah is a type of pipe that burns charcoal which in turn heats up tobacco and produces smoke. The fumes are cooled by bubbling through a water-filled chamber before being inhaled. Inhaling the smoke after its been cooled is easier on the lungs. However, the cool smoke and pleasant scents are misleading. They can trick the body in thinking that this kind of tobacco smoking is not harmful, but indeed it is.
Anxiety may also lead to long term negative outcomes, such as social isolation, insomnia, low self esteem, lack of independence, and depression. If your teen has an anxiety disorder, it’s necessary to get the right mental health treatment, and not only address his or her symptoms but also explore the underlying causes of that anxiety for full recovery.
Form of mental health treatment for teen anxiety include medication and therapy. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these forms of treatment also come with a stigma. Many teens don’t want to admit that there is “something wrong with them”, especially during a life stage in which peer acceptance is critical.
As parents, it’s important to take all of this into consideration when determining the best way to provide support for your child. However, it’s always best to contact a mental health professional. He or she can further assess whether mental health treatment is necessary.