Anxiety is a reaction or state of mind and body in response to stress or fear. Everybody faces anxiety or apprehension as part of daily life. For example, if a work deadline is approaching or a family function is around the corner. However, sometimes, the feelings of nervousness and anxiety take on a new dimension when a person cannot control these feelings and they start affecting daily life and activities.
Anxiety in teenagers or adolescents
Teenage life or adolescence is a complicated time for a child, because of the rapid changes in a teenager’s body, mind and thoughts. Adolescence is also a turning point in a child’s life with many important life decisions relating to career and friendships. These myriad events and mixture of feelings can create anxiety and panic in a teenager’s life.Read More: 8 Marvelous Ways of Easing Separation Anxiety among Children
Anxiety Disorders in Teenagers: Signs and Symptoms
Anxiety in teenagers may take many forms. As a parent, you can look out for the following signs and symptoms if you feel your teenaged child is facing anxiety-
1. Extreme worry over trivial issues
A teenager may worry about exams, relationships with friends or his/her appearance as part of normal life. However, if this worry and tension are frequent, unrealistic and disproportionate to the cause – for example, extreme anxiety for an exam that is 6 months away – then your child is probably dealing with anxiety issues. This type of anxiety is called generalized anxiety disorder and persists for 6 months or more.
A teenager with anxiety has trouble sleeping and resting. This is because the mind is in overdrive and constant anxiety – ridden thoughts creep in that make the child restless and anxious.
3. Muscle aches and headache
Anxiety may reflect through physical symptoms as well. This may take the form of frequent body aches, muscle pain and/or headaches. These occur more frequently before a major stressful event such as an exam or public function.
Panic is an extreme form of anxiety. A teenager feeling panic and anxiety will have severe frightening symptoms such as palpitations, rapid heart rate, sweating, feeling of suffocation and/or fear of dying. Many situations may induce panic such as being in a closed space such as elevators, movie hall or classroom. Teenagers may feel that they have to escape the situation that gives them panic. They may also begin to avoid going to the places where they feel panic. This can affect daily life in a bad way. For example, a teenage may avoid going for a movie with friends if going to a theatre give him/her panic and anxiety. This will affect his/her friendships and self confidence.
5. Fatigue and tiredness
A teenager with anxiety feels easily tired, irritable and restless. This is because the mind is not relaxed. As a result, the body remains tense and does not get adequate rest. This results in chronic fatigue and low energy levels.
6. Social phobia
Phobia is a specific type of anxiety related to a specific situation. Social phobia is common in teenagers. A teenager with social phobia feels that everyone is judging him/her. He/she avoids social situations and feels intense fear and anxiety if a public appearance is to be made. This interferes with daily life events such as stage speaking, meeting and mingling with new friends and socializing with new people – which is required to develop personality and confidence.
7. Low self esteem
A teenager with anxiety has low confidence and self esteem. This is because he/she feels anxious and scared in many situations and is unable to overcome it. This constant social fear leads to self doubts and poor self regard.
8. Poor school performance
Anxiety leads to difficulty in concentration and decreased focus. This affects the school performance and marks of a teenager. Since adolescence is a time to make career choices, anxiety is detrimental to the academic achievements of a teenager.
Chronic anxiety leads to feelings of depression in a teenager. A teenager will appear to be irritable, restless, with frequent mood swings, crying bouts and thoughts of suicide and dying.
10. Over eating or under eating
Teenagers with anxiety disorders may begin over eating or binge eating to counter feelings of stress and anxiety. Conversely, a teenager who is anxious about his/her appearance or weight may drastically stop eating and develop anorexia. They may also start vomiting out food to prevent weight gain, which is called bulimia nervosa. This is more common in teenaged girls who are under social pressure to appear thin as per social norms. An anxious teenager may become obese or emaciated in appearance.
11. Drug or alcohol abuse
Teenagers may resort to use of drugs or alcohol to relieve anxiety. These habits are addictive and hard to shake off. This is a dangerous complication of anxiety disorders in teenagers.
Anxiety in teenagers or adolescents is a common feeling. However, when it begins to disrupt everyday activities and create tension and stress, it needs to be looked at more seriously. An anxious teenager has low concentration, physical aches and pains as well as low confidence and self esteem. These feelings are complicated for a teenager to understand. A parent who is tuned into the signs and symptoms of anxiety will be in a better position to lend a sympathetic ear to his/her child and help him/her get through this phase. If left untreated, anxiety can take on a debilitating course that will affect the child lifelong.
Be alert to what your teenager is trying to tell you through his or her behavior!