By Nabeeha Atif
What is Anxiety?
Teenage anxiety is a feeling of worry, restlessness, and overthinking. It is usually caused by stress and certain fears. When you’re experiencing anxiety, your heart rate increases, you sweat excessively, overthink minor situations and dread the future.
Entering your teenage years is like entering a new phase of your life. As a teenager, you face mental, physical, emotional, and social changes. Teenagers are experiencing new, different, and challenging experiences every day. This can be pretty overwhelming.
Anxiety is a pervasive feeling in teenagers. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 31.9% of teens have some kind of anxiety disorder.
Difference Between Anxiety in Children and in TeenageAnxiety
Changing from a child to a teenager changes your perception of anxiety too. The way a child looks at the world differs from a teenager’s since they’re more mentally developed.
Children don’t realize that they’re anxious and have separate ways of expressing it, like throwing tantrums, crying, having bad dreams, uncontrollable emotions like anger, and bothering their parents, so it can be more challenging to get them under control. The stressful situations that cause their anxiety are more childlike too.
They’re scared of monsters under their beds in their closets, darkness, bugs, getting their shots and being alone.
Whereas teenagers can identify and demonstrate their anxiety differently. Their stress causes their anxiety to be comparatively worse. Teenagers fear things like failing in school, losing their job, backfiring relationships, and negatively overthinking their future.
Symptoms of Teenage Anxiety
· Feeling restless, tense, stressed or uneasy
· Fearing the future
· Having an increased heart rate
· Excessive fatigue
· Biting your nails
· Unexplained agitation
Common Causes of Anxiety in Teenagers
Puberty. During the process of turning into a teenager, you go through puberty. You experience both physical and mental changes. Your body begins to mature, hence releasing a substantial number of hormones. You also experience bold bodily changes like a growth spurt, change of body shape, acne, and growing hair. Your emotional behaviour begins to develop, and you feel more vulnerable. All of these back-to-back changes can make one feel quite anxious.
As teens begin to develop mentally, they experience new thoughts and feelings. They worry about situations such as fitting in, achieving popularity, making good friends, appearing mature, fearing judgement, dealing with bullies, and achieving perfection at school. Since it’s pretty apparent that all of this can’t be done at once, anxiety, unfortunately, finds its place in the teenage mind.
Teens that undergo any traumatic circumstances like parental divorce, accidents, being bullied, suffering injuries or health issues.
Encountering terrible situations like violence or suicide, or experiencing physical or mental abuse and being unable to find a healthy way to deal with them can become a patient of anxiety as well.
- Social Media & Teenage Anxiety
Almost everyone has accounts on various social media platforms, especially teens. Spending time on social media can cause stress because teens tend to compare themselves to others and feel worse about themselves. This lowers their self-esteem, and some teens find social media challenging because they want to do their best to get the most “likes”. This can be frustrating. Not only does social media affect their self-esteem, but it also causes teens to waste their time and sit in one place instead of doing something productive. This can have an effect not only on their mental but physical health too.
Children usually look forward to achieving independence in their future, but sometimes it can’t be as easy as they imagined. Teenagers have to take on more responsibilities like cleaning up after themselves, doing their own laundry, dealing with others, and making their own decisions. This can be especially challenging if you don’t have emotional support from anyone.
- Substance abuse
Alcohol and drugs can interfere with the hormonal changes in the teenage body, causing numerous issues. These usually enter their lives when they’re trying to fit in. Peer pressure, sometimes in this case cause teens to start drinking. It is also noticed that teens try to find their way out by doing drugs when their lives or situations become too hectic or stressful. This can disrupt their mental feelings, causing anxiety and sometimes depression too.
The surroundings of a teenager can have a major effect on them. Staying in a hostile environment with toxic people can cause a teenager to feel anxious. Tense situations like fitting in at school, dealing with destructive peers in their neighbourhoods, and encountering parental fights can make their lives stressful.
Types of Anxiety
There are various kinds of anxiety disorders teens suffer from, but the most common are:
- Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder causes teenagers to feel anxious and self-conscious in social situations because they’re worried they’ll be criticized, embarrassed, or rejected. This kind of anxiety leads them to avoid being in public, speaking to new people, blushing, feeling lightheaded and having low self-esteem. Social anxiety can disrupt teens’ lives because this is the point where they’re growing into adults, so they need to explore society and learn how to deal with people and situations around them.
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is when teenagers have repetitive or obsessive thoughts, causing them to do something repetitively. This affects teenagers by forcing them to excessively overthink situations. This can lead them to check and make sure everything is fine repetitively, like they’ve turned the stove off in case they don’t burn down their house, wash their hands constantly so germs don’t get to them or arrange things in a certain way to make them look perfect and satisfying them. Overthinking these things and situations can cause a lot of anxiety because they’re constantly troubling their mind.
- Panic Disorder
Panic disorder is when teens go through frequent panic attacks. This usually happens when they’re overwhelmed, uncomfortable or worried. They think something terrible is going to happen and the littlest things scare them, hence leading their mind to react through a panic attack.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder is when teens have suffered from a traumatic event in the past or in their childhood. They keep having flashbacks, fear the same thing will happen again, have bad dreams, and suffer from insomnia. Their lives become unsettled because they don’t enjoy things or have the same reactions as they did before the trauma.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized anxiety disorder causes teens to feel anxious and excessively worried about everything, like different situations, things, and activities. Anything will alarm you and cause you to feel on edge all the time.
A phobia is when teens tend to be scared about certain things or situations, making them believe the object or situation will cause them great harm when it isn’t really a danger. Specific phobias include fears of heights, clowns, flying, choking and more.
Solutions of Anxiety
If any of the symptoms of anxiety are noticed, one mustn’t feel helpless or fearful. Accept that it’s a familiar feeling and it’s okay to experience it. Take control of the situation by applying the following solutions.
- Get help quickly.
The longer you wait will worsen the anxiety. It’s best to get help from therapists, psychologists, or psychotherapists as soon as possible. They can help solve your issues and give you great advice.
- Avoid the company of toxic people and stay in a positive and friendly environment.
Being in a positive environment will help you get rid of your negativity.
- Get enough sleep.
Sleeping will help relax your mind and give your brain rest.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol use.
These mess with your neurons and how your brain is functioning. It also makes you extra sensitive. If you’re addicted to these, seek help from a doctor to quit them.
- Talk it out with a friend or trustworthy companion.
Expressing your emotions instead of keeping them inside you will help. You’ll feel lighter and less anxious when you talk to someone you’re comfortable with.
- Participate in activities that you enjoy.
Distract yourself by participating in enjoyable things like listening to music, reading, watching a movie, or painting.
- Go for a walk and get some fresh air.
Going for a walk will help loosen your mind. Watching greenery and connecting with nature can soothe you. It is also reported that 20% of the fresh oxygen you breathe in is used by your brain, so you’ll have clearer thoughts and won’t overthink things.
Meditation is one of the best ways to help reduce stress. While you meditate, your mind becomes peaceful and disturbing thoughts are eliminated.
- Eat healthily.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet by consuming nutritious and rich in carbohydrates food help lower your anxiety and keep your body healthy.
- Exercise regularly.
This is another way to keep your body healthy. Exercising can help healthily express your stress and causes your brain to release good brain chemicals, causing you to feel better.
When you’re a teenager, there is a lot to contend with. You have to deal with many different things. Don’t forget that you are not the only one. You can connect with the Teen Tempo community through our social media pages and comments section. Join in the discussion and be a part of it.
For a detailed analysis of trends in teenage anxiety, check the Pew Society’s report.