Dealing with Anxiety in Adolescence
By Natasha Tanic
Anxiety disorders among adolescents are on the rise, with 32 percent of US teenagers being affected by anxiety. The most common signs of anxiety in teens involve feelings of excessive worry and fear that interfere with an adolescent’s everyday activities. Social anxiety is the most common type of anxiety because peer relationships in adolescence become more important.
Some adolescents with anxiety disorder develop mood disorders or eating disorders. Some engage in risky behaviors and develop suicidal thoughts. Therefore, it is essential to address adolescent anxiety on time to ensure your teenager gets the right treatment and support. Digital solutions like Fitango Health allow for comprehensive treatment both inside and outside the clinic, allowing adolescents to manage their anxiety disorders from home.
Anxiety is becoming increasingly common in adolescents. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 32 percent of American adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 experience anxiety at some point. Also, data from the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A) shows that 8.3 percent of them have a severe impairment. The prevalence of anxiety is higher for females (38 percent) than for male adolescents (26.1 percent).
Anxiety in adolescence is typically linked to changes in the teenagers’ body appearance and body image, conflicts about independence and identity, and social pressures, so it is not unusual for an adolescent to experience anxiety from time to time.
How to Distinguish Normal Teenage Stress from Anxiety?
If your teenager experiences particularly high levels of anxiety, he or she may struggle with feelings of tension, worry, or fear that interfere with daily activities at home and school. Excessive anxiety affects relationships, mood, and self-esteem. It may also trigger risky behaviors – an adolescent may engage in risk-taking behaviors in an attempt to deny overwhelming feelings of worry or fear. The symptoms of anxiety typically get worse over time instead of improving on their own.
The Symptoms of Anxiety in Adolescence
The most common anxiety symptoms in adolescence include a mixture of physical and emotional signs of distress. Some of the typical symptoms of teenage anxiety may include:
· A generalized fear of approaching trouble
· Inability to control feelings of fear and worry
· Sleep troubles
· Difficulty concentration
· A tendency to avoid situations or people that trigger anxiety
· Chest pain
· Shortness of breath
· Increased heart rate
However, excessive worry and fear are the stamps of generalized anxiety disorder in teens and adults. If your teenager has generalized anxiety disorder, he or she may worry about everything and perceive every event or situation in life as a possible threat, no matter how small or insignificant.
When it comes to anxiety, fear is usually generalized, not related to anything specific. However, sometimes fear can be linked to a particular object or situation. This type of fear is known as a phobia.
Most Common Anxiety Types in Adolescence
Research shows that different kinds of anxiety affect kids and adolescents at various stages of development. For example, phobias are most common in young children, while social anxiety affects teenagers when peer relationships become more significant.
The most prevalent types of anxiety in teens are:
· Specific phobia
· Social anxiety disorder
· Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
· Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
· Panic disorder
Some teenagers develop phobias – irrational and intense fears that lead to avoidance of an object or situation that causes them. While a teenager may be aware that his fear is irrational, he is still unable to control the anxiety that stems from it. These intense fears can limit a teenager’s activities and impact their overall well-being.
Adolescents with a social anxiety disorder are constantly afraid that other people will judge their behavior. This fear of being judged is paralyzing and prevents the teenager from engaging in social interactions. Also, teenagers with social phobia may be afraid of public embarrassment and humiliation, which often causes them to withdraw from school and other situations that involve social exchanges.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is anxiety rooted in a previous traumatic experience (a life event that exceeds typical life experience). An adolescent may develop strong feelings of fear, hopelessness, and helplessness after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
If your teenager suffers from a generalized anxiety disorder, she may often experience a generalized fear and worry about nonspecific situations, objects, or events. Typically, these feelings are out of proportion with the expected emotional reaction in the same situation.
With a panic disorder, your adolescent may experience a sudden, unexpected attack of intense and overwhelming fear that provokes a series of reactions such as confusion, dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, feeling of control loss, and limb numbness. Generally, panic attacks don’t last long, not more than ten minutes. However, the experience is very exhausting and leaves a teenager completely drained.
Using a Digital Health Platform to Deal with Anxiety
Fitango Health’s Active Patient Engagement tools can support adolescents who struggle with anxiety disorders and their families. For practitioners looking to provide continuous support to adolescents outside of their practice and to extend care into the home, Fitango Health has the ideal solution. Fitango Health provides customized Education Plans—resources to inform patients and their families about specific conditions—and ActionPlans, which are daily instructional guides that allow for self-assessment, journaling, habit tracking, and other personalized actions for managing anxiety disorders on a day-to-day basis. Providers can monitor their patients’ progress and patients benefits from support outside of the doctor’s office, leading to more successful long-term management of an anxiety disorder.
For example, an adolescent with social anxiety or generalized anxiety can use Fitango Health’s Assessment feature, easily accessible via mobile application on iOS or Android, to easily document a set of custom mood trackers each day. She can record her anxiety levels so that her care provider, over time, can get a better picture into environmental factors influencing her anxiety and monitor her mood over time. The provider can intervene if the individual is reporting consistently anxious or low moods and schedule a telehealth or in-person appointment directly from within Fitango Health’s platform.
An individual with panic disorder can track the frequency of their panic attacks and the symptoms associated with each individual panic attack. In his personalized ActionPlan, he can journal about the environment and stimuli he experienced before the onset of each attack, helping both him and his provider gain more clarity into provoking events that can be avoided in the future. His provider can better help prescribe appropriate medication by understanding the frequency of attacks, what thoughts and symptoms the individual experiences before and during an attack and getting a more accurate firsthand account without having to wait for an in-person appointment.
Some adolescents who experience anxiety can also develop eating disorders or mood disorders. Also, some teenagers with anxiety may develop suicidal feelings or use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate. These conditions require immediate attention and intervention. Fitango Health’s digital solution can help both patients and providers address anxiety disorders more effectively, providing insights into how the patient deals with anxiety on a day-to-day basis.