Teen Anxiety – Tips for Idaho Parents
Teen anxiety is a big problem in Idaho, and it is something that both adolescents and parents may have a difficult time managing. The National Institutes of Health states that close to 1 in 3 teenagers may experience some type of anxiety disorder during adolescence. That means that there are many youths in our own communities that are struggling with this condition, and we may not even know it.
Anxiety can be debilitating, and when it is left untreated, it can quickly take over a person’s entire life. Idaho parents need as much help as they can to learn how to support their teens if they are struggling with anxiety. That is what we would like to discuss here.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a broad term that can be described as occurring when worries threaten to take over your life. People who are anxious spend a significant amount of time feeling nervous or uneasy. It can be characterized by sleeping problems and intrusive thoughts that can become overwhelming and unbearable.
Anxiety disorders develop when those worries do not go away on their own. A person can find themselves ruminating over certain thoughts or just feeling anxious about everything in general.
Anxiety Disorders Vs. Normal Anxiety
Mild anxiety is completely normal, and it is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. But it is important to understand the difference between anxiety disorders and what might be called “normal anxiety.”
When a person has an anxiety disorder, the feelings they experience can become overwhelming and uncontrollable. These conditions involve irrational feelings of dread of everyday situations and problems. Those feeling are obsessive and excessive, and they may make it hard to function in everyday life because they are so debilitating.
Normal anxiety is quite different. This is something that everyone experiences because it is how we are designed as human beings. People often worry when their lives get hectic and complicated. It is a natural reaction that serves an important function in nature. Anxiety acts as our alarm system that gets activated whenever we perceive a threat or danger.
But when people experience normal anxiety, those feelings tend to go away fairly quickly. People do not dwell on them and they do not threaten to take over their lives.
What are the Different Types of Anxiety Disorders?
Teens in Idaho who suffer from an anxiety disorder are very likely to have one of the conditions on the list below.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a chronic mental health problem that is common in teenagers. A teen with GAD will develop a lot of worry and fear that may not have a concrete cause. They may worry about any of the following:
- Being accepted by their friends at school.
- Things they have done in the past.
- What will happen in their future.
- Issues taking place within the family.
- Their performance in school.
While some level of anxiety is normal, when it becomes debilitating, it is anything but. Sometimes those fears simply do not go away, and they can interfere with the teen’s normal activities.
Fear is one of our basic human emotions. Everyone has it to some degree and it is instinctual because it is programmed into our central nervous systems. It helps protect us by letting us know about dangerous situations so we can protect ourselves. But sometimes fear develops into something more – a phobia.
Phobias are intense fearful reactions to situations or things. But people who have them experience a level of fear that is out of proportion to the presenting danger. For example, let’s say a teenager is deathly afraid of heights. They have a phobia that might cause them to avoid going on high carnival rides or to the top floor in elevators.
Phobias can be exhausting because of the penetrating sense of dread that accompanies them. Teens may have to miss out on activities they really would enjoy otherwise because of phobias.
Social Phobia (Social Anxiety)
In many ways, teenagers are pre-disposed to some form of social anxiety. Many of them are afraid of what other people will think of them or how they will be perceived. But when these feelings become extreme, they can be a sign of a social phobia or social anxiety in teens.
Social anxiety can cause teens to feel extremely self-conscious and anxious. This can progress to the point where they are afraid to be in social situations at all. It becomes a powerful fear, and at that point, teens will do anything to avoid having to socialize with other people.
Social phobia can cause a lot of problems in a teen’s life, such as:
- Constant feelings of being lonely.
- Feeling disappointed because they miss chances for fun and friendships.
- Hurting them academically because they may be too afraid to participate much in class.
- Missing opportunities to learn new skills.
- Not being able to share their talents with their friends and family.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme symptoms that develop after having experienced a traumatizing event. Some of those symptoms include:
- Feeling jittery.
- Having problems sleeping.
- Problems with concentration.
- Flashbacks of the event that took place.
- Becoming detached from the world
PTSD can develop as a result of many types of horrific or upsetting events. It can be related to situations that involved serious injury or death. It can also be related to unexpected natural disasters or significant changes in the teen’s life. Even events that other people might consider to be minor can result in PTSD in a teenager, depending on their perception.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is actually one of the most common mental health issues affecting teenagers today. While it was once thought to be rare, OCD has been reported in as many as 3% of teenagers. It is not uncommon for teens with this condition to first start experiencing symptoms between the ages of 10 and 12 years old.
People with OCD have repetitive thoughts or images in their minds that they cannot control. These thoughts and images lead to anxiety, which causes them to have impulses that can be distressing and time-consuming.
Some obsessions and compulsions teens might experience include:
- Feeling the need to count when performing activities.
- Washing their hands over and over to avoid germs.
- Having to redo their homework until it is perfect.
- Feeling the need to rearrange items in a specific order all the time.
- Becoming obsessed with themselves or their loved ones getting sick.
What Causes Anxiety in Idaho Teens?
In addition to the genetics and environmental influences that play a role in causing anxiety in teens, there could be other contributing factors as well. For example, teens may develop anxiety disorders for any of the following reasons:
- They may feel too much pressure to succeed in school.
- They may feel pressured to go to college or another higher form of learning.
- They may worry because of what they have seen on the news or on social media.
- They may be concerned that their friends will not accept them the way they are.
- Their hormones are changing and this can sometimes result in feelings of anxiety.
- They may also be depressed, and the two can sometimes go hand-in-hand.
- They may be drinking alcohol or using drugs.
Tips for Idaho Parents: How to Support Your Teen’s Struggle with Anxiety
Regardless of the cause behind the anxious feelings your teen is experiencing, you need to know how you can best support them. These tips can help:
- Make sure you know the signs of anxiety, just in case your teen may be hiding them from you. They can include worries about everyday parts of life, dropping grades in school or substance abuse.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Talk with them about the stress in their lives and help them find different ways to cope with it.
- Keep appropriate expectations for your teen. Make sure they have enough time to spend with their friends and doing activities they enjoy.
- Encourage them to take breaks from social media, which can really contribute to their anxious feelings.
- Never dismiss their fear or the feelings they are having. The anxiety teens often experience is very real to them and they need to have it validated. Show your teen that you are taking it very seriously and that you want them to get the help they need.
- Encourage them to do things that might make them anxious, but do so in a gentle way. Never force them to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Work with them on setting small goals that they can accomplish easily. This will help to build their self-esteem levels.
- Take strides to manage your own anxiety well, if you have it. Demonstrate to them that you are taking the necessary steps to get help so that they will be encouraged to do the same.
- Make sure to show them plenty of affection and love. They need to know that you accept them in spite of what they are going through. Your teen is not their anxiety, and they have your full support and understanding.
- Encourage a healthier lifestyle for your teen as well as for your entire family. They should be getting plenty of sleep and physical activity. They should also be eating healthy, nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water.
Getting Your Teen into a Mental Health Treatment Program in Idaho
Once you have done all of the above, your teen may have formed enough trust in you to want to get treatment. Your support will mean the world to them, but sometimes a professional approach is needed when it comes to actually treating anxiety.
It can be helpful for teenagers to talk with another adult about what they are going through who is not their parent. Even if you have the closest relationship with your teen, they still might not feel comfortable enough to tell you everything. But a professional setting might be different.
Individual counseling sessions can help your teen by giving them the opportunity to form trust with another adult. Group therapy can introduce them to other teens who are facing similar challenges. They learn that they are not alone in the struggles they are dealing with. Family sessions can help to improve your relationship with your teen and show you new ways to help them cope as they stabilize.
Our Adolescent Day Treatment Program in Idaho – Imagine
Our teen mental health program is called Imagine, it is for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. It includes schooling, support group participation, individual therapy sessions and psychiatric care, as well as many other services.
Teens who come to Imagine receive a full mental health evaluation and psychosocial assessment. We want to know exactly what their struggles and goals are with treatment. Each client gets their own treatment plan that is designed specifically to meet their unique needs.
Crisis intervention and case management services are also available to teens as a part of the Imagine Program. Our goal is to offer them the level of support they need to be successful and get stabilized. We accomplish that goal by providing evidence-based treatment that has proven to be effective.
Teen Anxiety in Idaho: Get Professional Support for the Whole Family
At Ashwood Recovery in Idaho, we understand how hard it is for teens to deal with anxiety. It is something that can affect every aspect of their lives, but many are too afraid to ask for the help they need. We hope this guide has been helpful in providing you with the information you need to offer your teen as much support as possible.
Would you like to learn more about how to help your teen with their anxiety? We can help. Please contact us today.