teen anxiety

The Anxiety Epidemic in America’s Teens

November 23, 2017

Centuries of social evolution and scientific breakthrough have crafted a wealth of medical resources that extend and nourish human life from infancy into adulthood. While our success with physical injury and disease continues to improve, our understanding and treatment of mental health hasn’t progressed quite as swiftly. Anxiety is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses, and its presence in teens seems to be on the rise. It’s important that parents be observant of their children so that they can seek treatment when necessary, and facilitate a healthier, happier transition into adulthood.

Symptoms of Anxiety

Mental illness can often be hard to surmise by appearance alone. There are many individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other mental health problems that may not be obvious from brief observation. However, there are aspects of behavior you’ll want to keep an eye on.

Teenagers who used to excel in school may show a marked disinterest that results in poor performance in class work and extracurricular activities. This apathy may extend to hobbies and other interests, fostering a desire to isolate. Children who are prone to social anxiety may have issues in basic social interactions, particularly when a lot of expectation and focus is on them. The fear of being judged, ridiculed or compared to peers can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Anxious thoughts may be intrusive and repeat in cycles of rumination.

Physical manifestations of anxiety may include insomnia, lethargy, muscle tension, rapid heart rate and panic attacks. The “flight or fight” response will also be triggered more often. Chronic anxiety often manifests alongside clinical depression and teenagers may try to cope with negative feelings in various ways. Negative aspects of this may include underage drinking, smoking, drug use, disordered eating, self harm behaviors and suicidal thoughts.

Potential Causes

Teen anxiety certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, but it seems to have grown in recent years. This is likely do in part to the current technological age, which encourages an onslaught of information sharing across social media platforms. Engaging online with other young people struggling with anxiety and depression can help teens feel less alone and more empowered to escape their mental demons.

The Internet can also be detrimental, as it fosters a more intense need for perfection. People constantly flaunt a persona of themselves online that is void of flaws. This veneer can trigger anxiety in teenagers who are trying to fit in with peers or compete with them. Teens that are active on social media may feel like their every word and action is being judged, and cyber-bullying can be emotionally draining. In addition to fueling anxiety, the Internet can also be a place where adolescents avoid the real world.

By disengaging and avoiding the object of their fear, they may enhance their feelings of anxiety when faced with reality, which ultimately makes the problem worse. Environmental stressors such as school, poverty, family and internalized insecurities can be a factor in anxiety disorders, and it’s also thought to have a genetic component. Often, teenage anxiety manifests as a core fear of failure that can branch into every facet of one’s life.

Treatment Options

While it is commonly encouraged to visit a doctor when one is suffering from a physical ailment, many people are discouraged from seeking similar treatment for symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. While modern society’s approach to mental health care has improved over the years, there are still large gaps in the level of accessibility.

Many people with mental illness may feel ostracized by family and peers, and teenagers are especially susceptible to such pressures. When one is suffering from particularly adverse and disturbing symptoms, the thought of opening up to a counselor may seem scary and overwhelming, but the results can be life changing.

Facilities like the Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center specifically combat anxiety in teens by utilizing techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to alter the way young people think about and process information. Teenagers suffering from anxiety often get stuck in negative loops of thought, and engaging in therapy can act to reconstruct neural pathways and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Medication may also be prescribed to help balance brain chemistry and physiological symptoms, allowing people to function more successfully in everyday activities.

When anxiety symptoms are severe, it’s important that professional guidance is sought. Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center can help young people evolve and grow beyond the shackles of mental illness and addiction.