Anxiety in teens is on the rise, according to The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The report notes that anxiety in teenagers and children went up by 20% between 2007 and 2012. The NIH also notes that 1 in 3 teenagers aged 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder. While the data focuses on the US, the unsettling trend is likely similar in other countries.
Receiving the appropriate intervention early on is essential. Good mental health often begins with parental awareness. With that in mind, what are effective ways to address anxiety issues in teenagers?
Why anxiety is on the rise
Unfortunately, these young people do not always get the professional help needed for mental health disorders, for various reasons. In some cases, they have limited mental health knowledge, while others feel embarrassed, perceive a social stigma, or do not have the financial costs associated with therapists.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a big role in the rise in anxiety in teens. A recent survey revealed that almost half (47%) of 977 parents of teens said their child’s mental health condition worsened since the coronavirus outbreak. Increases in worry and negative impacts on sleep were among the changes noted. Among the possible reasons for the link between mental health issues in youths and the pandemic include feelings of uncertainty and higher levels of stress in parents.
3 ways to address anxiety in teens:
1. Open up communication about emotions
Adolescence is a period of high emotional turmoil that results from biological, hormonal, and social changes. For a lot of teenagers, it can be hard to put their sensations into words.
Being able to understand exactly what they feel is crucial to expressing their emotions and fears. Supportive material, such as social emotional learning books teens, can prove helpful in identifying and articulating their feelings. If they can’t voice their thoughts for lack of a word, they may bottle them up, contributing to mental health issues.
Parents can also introduce an emotional talk, encouraging the discussion with teenagers. Journaling can be a useful tool for youngsters too, helping them work through their thoughts by putting them down on paper.
Some teenagers may also prefer to leave messages for parents to read and comment on if they are not ready for face-to-face conversations. The main thing is finding a form of communication that works for the unique child and parent.
2. Prepare an intervention when appropriate
Everybody develops a coping mechanism. Not all coping mechanisms are helpful or healthy, though.
Anxiety and substance abuse may link together for some young people who turn to alcohol or drugs to manage their emotional whirlpool. Unfortunately, substance abuse can also increase anxiety disorder, which means that parents may need to stage an intervention.
However, it is essential to remain open-minded and understanding. Ill-timed interventions can backfire.
The reality is that teenagers are likely to experiment. Therefore, misreading signs and planning an intervention that isn’t necessary could irremediably damage trust in the parent-child relationship.
Alternatively, parents can introduce healthy coping strategies to their children. Some examples are mindfulness, sports, or therapy to manage anxiety.
3. Identify triggers and how to manage them
Teenagers have an acute sense of awareness of their social, academic, and emotional environment. A variety of events in their lives and the world can act as triggers for an anxiety disorder. Some triggers are removable, such as changing schools to put an end to bullying or social isolation.
Others are a non-movable part of life. However, parents and teenagers can work together to come up with a plan to manage their fears.
The pandemic and alarming updates about climate change can significantly affect young people, keeping them awake at night. They may worry about the future of the planet, the health of loved ones, and more.
Academic stress is also a consistent factor for teens, who worry about their test results in hopes of getting into a good university. Concerns about the lasting effects of the pandemic on jobs could also make them restless and feel hopeless.
Concluding thoughts on anxiety in teens
Anxiety is on the rise among all generations. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to high stress as they are in the middle of a hormonal and emotional journey. Encouraging conversations and mutual understanding can help them establish a trusted and supportive relationship with parents.