Anxiety in Adolescents
You are most likely reading this because you are worried about your teenager and the amount of anxiety they are having. Let’s try to figure this out together. Everyone will experience some anxiety, some worry, and some stress. It is simply a part of the human experience. It is normal for your teen to have some anxiety and stress. For example, everyone has anxiety before he or she has to give a school report or take a big test. This normal kind of stress causes them to prepare well. However, if they are spending countless hours preparing and practicing and still are unable to rest and feel ready, then they may be up against something more serious. Sometimes the anxiety causes them to freeze altogether and not be able to finish projects at all, or even refuse to go to school. When normal activities of everyday life overwhelm your teen and take away his or her joy, even to the point of not being able to function, then we have a bigger problem.
Does your teenager seem like they have a constant feeling of dread or that something really bad is about to happen to them or a loved one? Does your teen get angry or irritable easily? Does he or she feel tense, jumpy, or restless a lot of the time? Does your child often complain of a stomachache, headache or other “phantom illnesses”? Do you worry about how often they have diarrhea with no medical reason? Do you experience your teen having irrational meltdowns for what seems like irrational fears? Or do they isolate themselves to “hide from the world”? If ANY of these sound familiar, your child may be up against some form of anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
There are many different kinds of anxiety. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by a constant over vigilance about life. It leaves the person feeling unsafe most of the time and exhausted by always having to be on guard. An adolescent with GAD will often have chronic, exaggerated worry about many facets of life.
Some people have Social Anxiety Disorder. This is more than just shyness. Social anxiety causes intense fear about social interaction, often driven by irrational worries about humiliation (e.g. saying something stupid or not knowing what to say). A teen with Social Anxiety disorder may refuse to take part in conversations, contribute to class discussions or offer their ideas, and may become isolated. Panic attacks are a common reaction to anticipated or forced social interaction.
Panic disorder is diagnosed if your adolescent child suffers at least two unexpected panic or anxiety attacks—which means they come on suddenly and for no reason—followed by at least one month of concern over having another attack, losing control, or “going crazy.”
Specific fears can develop in the teenage years, often between the ages of sixteen and nineteen. People who suffer from a specific phobia may experience an intense, irrational fear of a specific object, such as a dog, or a situation, such as flying. While common childhood phobias include animals, storms, heights, water, blood, the dark, and medical procedures, teenagers more commonly develop phobias surrounding social situation such as school and social activities.
An increase in school avoidance is often noted in middle school years surrounding school performance and social interactions. This often begins a cycle of anxiety due to the ripple effect of missed assignments, leading to falling grades which causes more anxiety. It is associated with physical symptoms, both real and imagined, but are very real to the teen experiencing them.
If any of these descriptions resonate with you about your teenager’s anxiety, they are not alone. Anxiety is the most common mental health issue and affects over 40 million people in the U.S. The CDC reports that as many as 6 out of 10 children suffer from anxiety at some point, so you are not alone! These statistics are just of those who have sought out help for anxiety! No one knows how many more are suffering without help. That doesn’t need to be YOU or your child!
It can be so hard to find the right help for your teenager. Who can you trust with one of the most precious people in your life? Will they agree to counseling? At Core Values Counseling we want to personalize your child’s experience. We have compassionate and well-trained counselors along with Neurofeedback therapy and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy that can help your family begin this journey successfully.
We use a Neurofeedback program called Brainpaint. Neurofeedback is a scientifically proven way to improve how we feel and function in the world by enhancing how our brain operates. Neurofeedback is especially helpful in working with adolescents because their brain is being developed. It can help your teen’s brain heal and recover from the impact anxiety has had on his or her life. Clients have noticed significant decreases in anxiety, alleviating feelings of depression, sleeping better, fewer nightmares, and increased the ability to cope with life’s challenges. This type of therapy works well when done in conjunction play therapy, family therapy, and other therapies.
Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)is also offered through Core Values Counseling. EAP is a new model for the treatment of anxiety and has been found in recent research studies to help people overcome anxiety by interactions with horses on the ground (vs. riding). Horses have mirror neurons which they use to mirror the emotions of the people working with them. At Core Values Counseling we welcome families to come to a farm outside of Newberg where we offer this unique form of therapy in conjunction with other therapies to address anxiety in many different ways rather than only the traditional talk therapy and medications. We also offer group therapy for anxiety using EAP when we have enough youth to form a group.
When your teenager is struggling it can be so painful. It can be so confusing trying to find the right path forward for them. All you want to do is find some relief for your child and from the havoc anxiety has put your family through. We understand and we will need your help in helping your teen. Even though teenagers are almost adults, they still can’t independently solve these issues. They need everyone in their family working together, so we will be doing a combination of family therapy, talk therapy and incorporate Neurofeedback and or Equine assisted Psychotherapy when necessary. The more approaches we use with teenagers the more support you will all feel. We also understand there are no easy or quick solutions. It takes time for change to happen, and we are here to partner with you and your teenager as you move forward.
Counseling is both scary and intimidating. Making the investment of time and money, along with adding something else to your family’s busy schedule can be difficult. Your teenager and your family are worth the investment! Your child’s future and his or her healing are worth every minute and every penny. We will give them and your family tools that will last a lifetime of dealing with anxiety.
With the variety of tools and resources we have at Core Values Counseling, from warm, safe and compassionate therapists, to Neurofeedback, to Equine Assisted Therapy, we can personalize your teen’s counseling experience and tailor the therapy to what works best for his or her healing. We also have resources and referrals if medication or physical therapy would be helpful. We will work with your pediatrician and school counselors to ensure all the professionals are working together to benefit your family best.
We are here for you. You can read the profiles of our therapists here. You are welcome to contact us here to ask questions or set-up an appointment, we will get back to you within 24 hours. Taking the first step toward healthy change is courageous and powerful.
To read more about anxiety in adolescents you might find this website from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry helpful.