All of us feel nervous and worried at times however, adolescent anxiety is more than this; the feelings cannot be controlled and have a significant impact on daily life.
Causes of Anxiety
There are many reasons why anxiety might become a very real problem during adolescence; some of the common causes include bullying and/or conflict with peers; low self-esteem; trying to meet high expectations (either the teens’ or their parents’); stressful event/s; significant changes (eg divorce of parents); troubles with schoolwork; or a family history of anxiety.
Anxiety can have an extremely significant impact on the adolescent’s life, largely due to the following symptoms:
- Racing heart;
- Constant worry;
- Striving for perfection;
- Social withdrawal;
- Dwelling on thoughts/overanalysing thoughts;
- Need constant reassurance from others;
- Distress if mistakes are made or things don’t go according to plan;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Trouble concentrating and maintaining attention;
- Shortness of breath;
Treatment for Adolescent Anxiety
An Acceptance and Commitment Therapy approach is very helpful for adolescent anxiety. Useful strategies include:
- Understanding the cause of the anxiety. Feedback I often receive is that when people have therapy sometimes the focus is mostly on reducing symptoms. However if you don’t address the cause of the symptoms and work at resolving it (eg bullying), often the anxiety will remain;
- Deep Breathing;
- Talking about how they are feeling rather than internalising;
- Improving diet and exercise (for example reducing caffeine and junk food);
- Relaxation techniques;
- Learning to cope with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings as they are part of life;
- Enhancing Self-Esteem;
- Establishing their values and setting goals.
It is also helpful for parents to learn strategies regarding how to help their adolescent manage their anxiety, and this is something that your psychologist can help with.
What about Medication?
This is a difficult decision for parents and experts have mixed opinions. Medication is not a cure for anxiety; however sometimes teenagers suffer such severe anxiety that they are unable to utilise the strategies learned, and thus don’t gain much needed benefit from therapy alone. Medication can provide some relief of the severity of symptoms in order for the teenager to gain the most out of therapy. If the anxiety is persistent and severe, it would be worth discussing medication management with your child’s consulting doctor, paediatrician or psychiatrist.
If your teenager is suffering from anxiety and you would like further information and support for them please feel free to arrange an appointment with me to address the above strategies in more depth.
Leia’s main area of interest is clinical adolescent and child psychology, although she can treat individuals and couples of all ages. She has training and experience in a variety of evidence based treatment approaches.
To make an appointment with Clinical Psychologist Leia Redman try Online Booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- Mash, E. J., & Barkley, R. J. (2003). Child Psychopathology. 2nd Edition. New York: Guilford Press.