Think being young is easy? Think again. Being a teenager is so much more than temperamental mood swings, first kisses, and collegiate dreams. It’s more than just the awkward transition from childhood to adolescence, and it’s more than the phase encapsulated by strange makeup trends, acne, and menstrual cycles.
Adolescent anxiety is a real phenomenon plaguing today’s youth. Unfortunately, most of these problems remain either minimized or undetected altogether. With that in mind, awareness is essential for change. Let’s get into what you need to know.
Understanding Adolescent Anxiety
Anxiety is a global phenomenon, and it’s one of the leading causes of disability around the world. While everyone feels anxious at times, anxiety disorders refer to disproportionate levels of fear, worry, and concern about the present and future.
Research shows that the number of adolescents diagnosed with anxiety has increased in recent years, with over 2 million teenagers struggling with anxiety disorders.
While adolescence can be a strange and trying time, anxiety isn’t just usual teenage nervousness. It isn’t just a mild reaction to the normal stressors plaguing today’s students. Instead, anxiety represents a cluster of both physical and emotional symptoms that may include:
● Excessive worrying
● Racing thoughts
● Increased agitation and frustration
● Panic attacks
● Nightmares and other sleep problems
● Difficulty with concentration and focus
● Muscle tension and chest tightness
● Irrational fears and phobias
● Avoidance of certain people or situations
All anxiety disorders exist on a continuum. That means that they can range from mildly distressing to severely disturbing. The severity of the disorder depends on the severity of symptoms and their impact on your quality of life.
Many mental illnesses emerge in adolescence. Unfortunately, they can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Some teenagers do not feel comfortable expressing their struggles openly. Other teenagers have attempted to share their feelings- only to feel rejected or criticized by others.
Finally, some girls do not have the language to understand their feelings. They may believe that they are not “strong enough” or that they are being overly dramatic. They may worry that sharing their feelings could be burdensome to loved ones.
What Causes Anxiety?
Like any mental illness, there isn’t a single origin for anxiety disorders. Instead, most experts agree that a variety of environmental and genetic factors can attribute to anxiety. These factors may include:
● Medical issues
● Family history of anxiety
● History of trauma
● Neurobiological factors
● Co-occurring mental health issues (depression, substance use, eating disorders)
● Current environmental issues (school stress, issues with peers, low self-esteem)
The symptoms prevalent in anxiety interferes with the quality of your daily life and may impact your relationships, school, or other significant responsibilities. When left untreated, these symptoms can progress and result in short and long-term consequences for your physical and mental well-being.
Are Teenagers More Anxious Than They Were In The Past?
This is a complicated question that doesn’t have a simple answer. On the one hand, people are now talking about mental health (and its ramifications) more openly than ever before. In the past, many youth were often dismissed for their feelings and struggles. Because they were young, it was falsely assumed that their problems were somehow less important.
Today, we’re paying more attention to sensitive issues. There is more societal discussion about the taboos related to problems like teen suicide, self-harm, and cyberbullying. In other words, the more we keep talking, the more we understand our youth.
However, one could also argue that teenagers are facing more stress than ever before. The challenging combination of social media and “online images” coupled with treacherous academic pressure can create a frustrating paradigm for even the most resilient teens.
Many adolescents don’t feel “good enough.” They want to impress their friends, teachers, and families, but they often don’t know how to attend to their own emotions. To solidify this difficult phenomenon, a recent poll found that 45% of high school students indicated feeling stressed “all the time.”
Getting Help For Adolescent Anxiety
Unfortunately, adolescent anxiety doesn’t just go away on its own. It’s not a teenage phase that somehow disappears once the girl turns eighteen. In fact, most people who struggled with anxiety as teenagers also struggle with it in their adult lives.
Therapy can provide a safe, compassionate, and nonjudgmental space for the struggling teenager in your life. Therapy offers both emotional support and practical coping skills for managing stress and anxiety. Likewise, it can help your teenager feel more empowered and confident in her journey towards adulthood.