This time of year comes with several exciting and challenging milestones for teenagers. Final exams, prom, graduation and other end of the school year activities can be exciting as well as anxiety producing. In recognition of Mental Health Month, Adventist HealthCare Behavioral Health & Wellness Services is sharing some helpful information about anxiety from one of its adolescent psychiatrists, Dr. Neda Kaveh.
What is Anxiety?
Dr. Kaveh: Anxiety is a natural and adaptive emotion we experience to signal a danger or threat. Sometimes, anxiety can become an exaggerated response that interferes with a teenager’s ability to enjoy or complete daily activities, such as going to school, sleeping, or trying new things – this is when normal anxiety becomes an anxiety disorder.
How Common is Anxiety in Children and Adolescents?
Dr. Kaveh: According to 15-20% of children and teens will experience an anxiety disorder. It is more common in females.
What are Symptoms of Anxiety?
Dr. Kaveh: Anxiety symptoms can differ from person to person, but they typically include excessive fear or worry, feelings of inner restlessness, and excessive vigilance (i.e., being more aware/alert) even in the absence of danger or threat. Teens with anxiety may seem more withdrawn or dependent in social settings and experience physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches. They can also get “stuck” on a worrying thought and have difficulty moving past the worry, even when presented with a logical explanation.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Dr. Kaveh: Anxiety disorders are caused by a combination of genetics, life events, temperament, and biochemical factors.
How can I Respond to My Teenager with Anxiety?
Dr. Kaveh: It can be helpful to listen to your teen’s fears and worries. Without discounting their feelings, you can provide reassurance and try to brainstorm ways to cope with those feelings. A helpful strategy can be to think back to similar anxious situations where your teen was able to succeed and draw on those strategies they used to get through past anxiety. Remember to praise them for sharing their concerns and point out that you are proud of them for facing their fears and worries.
If worries begin to take over your teenager’s life and limit their normal activities, it is important to seek professional help.