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Teen Anxiety: Don’t Wait, Find Effective Treatment Now

Teen girl experiencing anxiety under a blanket

Updated on June 26, 2024

Strategies to Help Teens to Cope and Build Resilience

Teen anxiety is a trending topic! There are over 5 million posts on TikTok related to teen anxiety. The movie Inside Out 2 main topic relates to anxiety as Riley becomes a teen.

Online searches on anxiety-related topics are off the charts, and on Facebook, more and more support groups can be found every day.   Teen anxiety is paralyzing, scary for both the parent and the teenager and affects every aspect of your family’s daily life.

TroubledTeens.com family advisors receive many requests for information and questions on how to help children and teenagers with crippling anxiety. In recent years, we have heard about kids as young as 6-year-olds experiencing panic attacks and struggling with childhood anxiety. Leaving us to ponder: 

  • What is contributing to this negative trend?
  • What’s changed, and how can we help our kids learn to cope and build resilience?

Many online articles discuss the impact of social media on anxiety. While we agree that technology is obviously a factor, today, we will discuss other causes and issues that contribute to and even exacerbate anxiety in teens.  For instance, we will look at how anxiety affects a teen’s mental health and well-being and what parents can do to help and support their teens when they are struggling.

First and foremost, we need to acknowledge and hopefully agree that anxiety severely impacts teens and is a significant contributor to teen angst. Teenage anxiety has a profound effect on an adolescent’s mental health and daily life and can seriously affect their future.

In this article, we will explore teen anxiety therapies and delve deeper into anxiety disorder symptoms and effective treatment options for teens suffering from anxiety.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Anxiety in Teens

There are many misconceptions about teen anxiety but the most harmful is the belief that teens are “acting out” — being dramatic or seeking attention.  How do you know for sure? Like many parents, I asked myself that question right until I saw real pain in my son’s eyes. 

With so much noise, it’s easy to attribute the warning signs and symptoms of anxiety until your child becomes crippled or paralyzed by it. My advice, w when in doubt, assume it is not teen drama! Anxiety is real; it is devastating, and more kids today are affected by anxiety than ever before.

Teen Anxiety Statistic

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an alarming 31.9% of adolescents struggle with anxiety disorders, with girls facing a higher risk than boys.

For 8.3% of these teens, anxiety is so severe it significantly impairs their daily lives.

It’s imperative that we recognize that anxiety disorders are a serious mental health condition that requires treatment and should be dealt with head-on. It is much more than “normal teen angst.” 

There are many myths about teenage anxiety, but the facts are that anxiety disorders affect a teenager’s daily life in many ways. If you suspect your child may be struggling with anxiety, look for these anxiety signs and symptoms:

  • Headaches and stomach aches
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heart rates
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Behavioral changes
  • Lower grades or absenteeism
  • Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Tendency to isolate themselves
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Negative self-talk
  • Angst or edginess, fear and worry

Sadly, teens are more likely to hide their emotional struggles than to freely share their feelings with their parents. Often, parents notice many of these signs but don’t realize the level of anxiety their child is experiencing.

As optimistic parents, we want to believe that whatever they are going through won’t last. Sometimes, that is just wishful thinking. We go out of our way to encourage them to do more activities and go out more, and we tell them that if they do, they will feel better. And while that is good advice if your child is well, it is not the encouragement a teen struggling with anxiety needs.  

For those of us who know our teen needs help, we put all of our hope into therapy.  We convince ourselves that finding the right therapist and making sure they go to their appointments is the answer. 

However, what do we do when treatment doesn’t work? Is it normal to feel helpless when we see little or no change? Yes, it is, but we cannot give up; for some kids, therapy is just not enough!

A Mom’s Desperate Cry for Help: Her Daughter Struggle with Anxiety

I need help. I don’t know what to do. My seventeen-year-old has crippling anxiety and panic attacks. She’s completely stuck in her life. She has no friends. She’s been bullied online, since then she doesn’t want to go or do anything. Her anxiety prevents her from speaking to anyone. Her self-esteem is nonexistent, and she assumes the worst in every situation.

She’s in talk therapy and takes sertraline. They prescribed her Vistaril for panic attacks, but it doesn’t help. She goes into a full-blown panic attack whenever she leaves the house. How is she going to go to college, make friends, get a job, or have a life?

She’s so lonely and scared, and I have no idea how to help. It’s been like this since Covid. It’s killing me to watch her suffer, and I have no idea how to help her overcome this or if it’s even possible, given how severe it is.

Do you ever feel like our desperate mom? If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, you likely feel overwhelmed, helpless, worried about their future and most likely desperate to find the right help. 

There is a lot of information about treatment online. Some of it is confusing, a lot of it is accurate, but how do you know what your child needs?

The Most Effective Treatments for Teen Anxiety

Exploring Anxiety Therapy Methods

There are various therapeutic methods that can make a real difference in treating anxiety:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps the patient understand their thoughts, related feelings, and behavior that results from those feelings. We’ve seen tons of evidence that CBT is extremely helpful for teens. It teaches them to recognize and change their negative thinking and how they can improve their mood and behavior.
  •  Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) –  a therapy that helps patients face their fears safely. It usually involves slow or gradual exposure to their fears and to situations that trigger anxiety. It may sound daunting, but the fact is that by confronting fears instead of avoiding them, teens learn to control their emotions better and reduce anxiety.  The downside is that ERP doesn’t work overnight; it’s a slow process, but there’s a lot of evidence that ERP is very effective in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic disorders, phobias and social anxiety disorder (SAD).
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – a therapy method that teaches how to manage feelings and our responses. It helps us to better cope with stress, understand our feelings and avoid or change harmful behaviors.  I have seen firsthand how DBT can be transformative to a teen’s ability to face life-challenges.

Medication for Anxiety

The most common prescriptions for teens with severe anxiety are Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors. (SNRIs)  These medications enable teens to actively participate in therapy and take on more daily activities, as they reduce both symptoms of anxiety and the teen’s emotional reactions.

Alternative Anxiety Treatments

Along with therapy and medication, alternative treatments and practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga are effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety. Herbal supplements, like St. John’s Wort and Ginkgo biloba, have shown potential benefits for some patients. However, before you use any of these, consult with your healthcare provider, as often these herbs interact with other medications.

How to Help Your Teenager Manage Anxiety

If you are reading this article, you are obviously concerned about your teen’s anxiety and seeking ways to help your child find relief and get better. While some of these recommendations may seem familiar, success lies in combining these strategies. 

The more you know, and the more active you are in your child’s treatment, the more effective you can be in supporting your teen manage and eventually overcome their anxiety.   

  • Be vigilant, don’t dismiss the symptoms as teen behavior
  • Intervene promptly, getting the right help is crucial. Go beyond the therapist, instead find a team of mental health professionals. Trust me, it can makes a huge difference.
  • Be empathetic, patient and understanding. It’s not easy, but they must feel they have your support.
  • Learn more about the condition and how to help effectively. Knowledge is power!
  • Set healthy boundaries, this is not the time to be too lenient or too restrictive.  Do not overcompensate because you feel bad or guilty. Your child needs you to be the parent.

The Risks of Untreated Teen Anxiety

When anxiety goes untreated, it worsens and affects a teen’s ability to thrive as an adult. Studies have shown that these teens become adults who suffer from depression and addiction and aren’t able to keep a steady job.

Helping your teen now can make a significant difference in their adulthood; thereby, we must monitor their progress and seek alternatives when treatment is not working.

Teenage girl in a field symbolizing growth and healing from anxiety with effective treatment

A New Hope: Residential Treatment Offers Intensive Support for Struggling Teens

What to do when everything else fails?

When traditional therapies and outpatient treatments aren’t enough, it is easy to feel hopeless and frustrated. But don’t lose hope. This is the perfect time to consider a reputable residential treatment center for teens that specializes in teens with anxiety. RTCs offer an immersive environment where your teen can receive intensive, individualized care and support.  

Residential therapeutic programs are effective in treating anxiety disorders because going to a treatment center helps teens step away from the triggers and everyday life stressors, even if it is only temporary. 

Being away from their everyday lives and working with a supportive clinical team allows them to focus on healing and learning new coping skills in a safe and supportive setting. Think of it as a retreat with 24-hour safety.

There are many benefits to residential treatment, but the intensity and the focused approach help expedite healing. Treatment is intense, and these centers look at the whole child, not just their symptoms.

Children with anxiety disorders often have co-occurring conditions like depression, substance misuse, self-esteem issues, OCD, learning disabilities, mood disorders, etc.  

The outcomes of teens who participate in these therapeutic programs are very high, and teens get to understand their feelings and triggers as well as learn how to manage their anxiety and thrive.

If you’ve exhausted other options, contact us to explore residential treatment as a path to lasting relief and a brighter future for your teen.

FAQ ~ Answers to Parent Question About Anxiety

As a parent, you play a vital role in supporting your teen’s journey through anxiety. Encourage them to explore different coping strategies, such as:

  • Problem-solving: Help them identify the root of their anxiety and brainstorm solutions.
  • Relaxation techniques: Teach them deep breathing exercises, mindfulness practices, or yoga to calm their mind and body.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Ensure they get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet.
  • Open communication: Create a safe space for them to express their feelings and worries without judgment.
  • Seeking support: Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult, therapist, or counselor.

Teens dealing with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD might require additional treatment beyond these coping skills

Managing anxiety can be approached through various techniques, including:

  • Talking to someone trustworthy about your anxieties can provide significant relief.
  • Actively manage your worries by setting aside specific times to focus on them.
  • Prioritize your physical health, as it plays a crucial role in emotional stability.
  • Practice breathing exercises to help calm your mind.
  • Maintain a diary to document your thoughts and feelings, which can help in identifying anxiety triggers.
  • Explore complementary and alternative therapies for additional support.

Recommended Books

Helping Your Anxious Teen: Positive Parenting Strategies to Help Your Teen Beat Anxiety, Stress, and Worry by Kathleen M. Hooper: This book is a comprehensive guide for parents who want to understand and support their anxious teens. It provides practical strategies based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) principles, along with real-life examples and exercises.

 

Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety: A Complete Guide to Your Child’s Stressed, Depressed, Expanded, Amazing Adolescence by Dr. John Duffy: This book explores the unique challenges facing today’s teens and offers a roadmap for parents to navigate the complex landscape of adolescent mental health. It addresses issues like social media, academic pressure, and identity development, offering insights and strategies to help teens thrive.

 

Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour: This book specifically addresses the unique challenges faced by girls and young women in today’s high-pressure environment. It explores the root causes of stress and anxiety in girls and provides actionable advice for parents on how to support their daughters’ mental health.

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