Teen Anxiety – Disorders and Treatment

Teen Anxiety – Disorders and Treatment

It is often the case that anxiety is a consistent experience for a teenager. However, not all teenagers will experience anxiety to the degree of having a mental health disorder. It is the level and sources of anxiety for an adolescent that can make the difference between typical anxiety and having a disorder.

A Teen Anxiety Disorder is a mental illness in which the individual experiences an excessive or unrealistic amount of worry, anxiety, and fear. What exactly makes anxiety excessive and unrealistic? Having worry or anxiety before a major event in one’s life or prior to an exam, for example, is considered normal behavior. However, experiencing anxiety every morning upon waking might be symptomatic of a disorder. Also, those with anxiety disorders tend to have free-floating anxiety, which is anxiety that is unrelated to a realistic, known source. You might feel anxious or nervous before performing in the school play, but feeling anxious for no defined reason might point to a mental health condition. An individual who carries an underlying feeling of anxiety and tension throughout the day may very well have a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

There are different types of anxiety disorders, of which some are listed below, along with a very brief summary.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by repeating thoughts and images that might cause an individual to perform the same rituals over and over again, such as washing hands, locking and unlocking doors, or counting money. The individual typically cannot control the unwanted thoughts but get relief from the anxiety they experience as a result of repeating thoughts.
  • Panic Disorder is a mental health condition in which an individual experiences sudden and repeated attacks of fear, which are often accompanied by a feeling of being out of control. Uncomfortable physical sensations, such as a pounding heart, sweating, weakness, dizziness, and numbness makes up the experience a panic attack. An intense worry about the next attack is a common symptom.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness experienced by someone who has experienced a traumatic event, and who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety as a result. These symptoms may include flashbacks, bad dreams, and frightening thoughts. An individual might also exhibit symptoms of avoidance, such as staying away from certain places to avoid reliving the traumatic experience or forgetting the experience entirely.
  • A Phobia is an irrational persistent fear of an object, situation, or social activity. Examples of specific phobias are claustrophobia, a fear of small spaces, and agoraphobia, the fear of being in a place or situation from which escape is difficult or impossible.

Each of these disorders differ in their symptoms and so may require various forms of treatment. However, in general, psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two has been proven to be effective.

Psychotherapy, sometimes known as “talk therapy”, might include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  This form of therapy can be particularly effective because it invites the client to closely examine thoughts and related behaviors, as well as reactions to certain situations. This can help unravel the anxiety inside by untangling the mess of thoughts and feelings.

Medication for treating anxiety disorders often includes anti-anxiety medication and even anti-depressants. Although antidepressants are incredibly effective, they do come with risks. For teens in particular, it is essential to know that anti-depressants can cause suicidal thoughts and even attempts at suicide. This doesn’t mean to dismiss medication as a treatment modality, but to keep this risk at the center of your discussion with a psychiatrist. Of course, anyone taking psychotropic medication should be closely monitored, especially at the beginning of treatment.

If you feel you’re a teenager who is experiencing excessive amounts of anxiety, look into working closely with a mental health professional and visit TeenHelpAlliance.com for more advice and help.

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