Anxiety Disorders in Adolescents & How to Help Your Teen Through It 

Mental disorder, finding answers, confusion concept

The Covid pandemic left no stone unturned. It affected everyone in some form or another. For young people, the challenges were substantial as they attempted to navigate their way through finishing high school and maintaining a sense of normalcy in a world of uncertainty. The last two years meant a stop or pause on activities they loved, time with friends, and normal interactions with other students and teachers. During the first few months, this meant taking online classes and being in front of a screen all day. The toll that has taken on young people is still to be seen, but there are indications that many adolescents experienced or are experiencing some anxiety. 

And while some anxiety comes with the territory of being an adolescent, an anxiety disorder deserves careful consideration and treatment. 

What is an Anxiety Disorder? 

Let’s start with the basics. Humans are built to respond to stress, and —in some cases— this can be beneficial and necessary. As stress levels rise, the body’s senses become hyper-focused. This state of alertness and reaction helps people survive or get out of difficult situations. That response system is built for survival, but when it gets triggered too often, it takes a toll on the body.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders. They range from normal nervousness to episodes of severe stress, fear, and anxiety. Anxiety manifests itself as fear or nervousness about an upcoming event or situation. This can lead people to avoid those situations and slowly allow fear to cripple people’s ability to function in their day-to-day lives. Generally speaking, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the symptoms must be out of proportion with reality or hinder a person’s ability to function normally. 

Several Types of Anxiety Disorders 

Although people use the term anxiety in their day-to-day life, there are several types of anxiety that qualify as a disorder. These include: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder 

According to the NIH, an estimated 31.9% of adolescents have had an anxiety disorder. Of the adolescents that showed they had one anxiety disorder, about 8.3% showed severe impairment. According to the data, anxiety disorders are more prevalent in female adolescents than in males.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Teen Suffers from Anxiety? 

The teenage years can be difficult for many young people. Some will be more prone to feeling anxiety and nervousness than others. Some anxiety might be normal day-to-day stuff, but if you suspect your teenager is having trouble coping or losing focus due to their anxiety, it may be time to talk to your primary care provider. 

What symptoms to look out for? 

Anxiety can have many signs, but some of the most common manifestations in generalized anxiety disorders include: 

  • Intense fearfulness 
  • Becoming easily fatigued
  • Highly irritable
  • Having problems sleeping or staying asleep
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking 

For panic disorder, a more severe type of anxiety, the symptoms are augmented. These are similar to symptoms of a panic attack, which some teens may experience. They include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating 
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • The feeling that one has lost control
  • Fear of dying

Some teens will experience a panic attack and feel overwhelmed and confused. These episodes are the body’s overreaction to stress and are accompanied by many of the above symptoms. If you suspect your teen is having a panic attack keep these things in mind: 

  • Stay calm. Mirroring their panic will only heighten the situation. 
  • Walk them through it. Help your teen by telling them to take deep breaths and explaining what is happening to them and that they are not in any real danger. 
  • Empower them to face what makes them anxious. It is a common defense mechanism to avoid places that make one uncomfortable. However, for teens, this might be school or band practice or any other activity. It can be important to help them face these situations and slowly uncover that they can work through the nervousness. Otherwise, anxiety can worsen and start to impact a teen’s ability to function in certain situations. 
  • Encourage your teen to get physical activity and better sleep. These are day-to-day things that can help mitigate the symptoms of anxiety and help your teen feel better. 

You’re not in this alone, however. You can seek help from your primary care physician or mental health specialist to get a better sense of what your teen might be going through. Anxiety management can be very useful in empowering your teen to better understand their own nervousness and triggers so they can cope better. 

How Do You Seek Help for Your Teen’s Anxiety? 

Your primary care provider might be your first stop. The first move is usually to rule out any physical condition that might be causing the problem. At Transmountain Primary, we also offer anxiety management to help people better understand what causes their anxiety and how they can work through it. 

The Role of Your Primary Care Provider in Mental Health 

As the world returns to some normalcy, some teens are suffering from increased anxiety. If you suspect your teen’s life is being affected by extreme nervousness or anxiety, your primary care provider can help you assess what’s going on. 

Want to learn more about the services we offer? Call Transmountain Primary today. 


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