Anxiety is a common mental health concern that affects people of all ages, including teenagers. Teenage years can be a time of significant change and transition, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Some common causes of anxiety in teenagers include academic pressure, social anxiety, family conflicts, and hormonal changes.
What are the symptoms of teenage anxiety?
- Constantly feeling tense, agitated and/or restless.
- Very sensitive to criticism and/or being extremely self-aware.
- Consistently worrying about things that might not happen.
- Avoiding situations that make them anxious, this includes old and new situations.
- Being withdrawn.
- Struggle to start or finish schoolwork.
- Struggle to concentrate.
- Change in eating and/or sleeping habits (2).
Signs of an anxiety attack.
- Feelings of impending doom or danger.
- Fear of death and/or loss of control.
- Rapid, pounding heart rate.
- Trembling or shaking.
- Shortness of breath.
- Tightness in your throat.
- Hot flushes.
- Abdominal cramping.
- Chest pain.
- Dizziness, light-headedness or feeling faint.
- Numbness or a tingling sensation.
- Feelings of detachment (3).
Current issues that can trigger anxiety in the teenager.
- Change or uncertainty.
- Pressure at home or school.
- Housing problems or homelessness.
- Climate anxiety or eco-anxiety.
- Losing someone close to you.
- Feelings of isolation.
- Being bullied, abused, or harassed (4).
How to help your teenager when they are experiencing a panic attack.
- Stay calm.
- Gently let them know that they are having a panic attack and you are here for them.
- Encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply.
- Encourage them to sit somewhere quietly where thy can focus on their breath until they feel better (4).
Very important, you should never encourage someone to breathe into a paper bag, as seen on tv, when they are having a panic attack. This is not recommended and might not be safe.
How does a counsellor help?
Counsellors assist their clients to understand anxiety and empower them with healthier and more effective ways to cope. By means of CBT (Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy), counsellors help their clients to identify and manage the triggers that contribute to them experiencing anxiety.
Counsellors help their clients to change their thought patterns to reduce the likelihood and intensity of the symptoms. This is done by teaching them techniques to reduce undesired behaviour with anxiety attacks. Therapy is a collaborative process there the client and the counsellor work together to develop coping strategies (1). It is important to trust the process, and not to rush the process.
In conclusion it is essential to address anxiety in teenagers early to prevent it from becoming a more severe mental health issue. Treatment options for anxiety may include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes and coping strategies. It is crucial for parents, teachers, and caregivers to create a supportive and understanding environment for teenagers struggling with anxiety.
Encouraging open communication and providing a safe and non-judgemental space for teenagers to express their feelings can help them manage their anxiety and improve their mental health. Overcoming teenage anxiety needs understanding compassion and patience.
1. American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/disorders#:~:text=Through%20the%20cognitive%20component%20of,and%20intensity%20of%20anxiety%20symptoms
2. Health Direct, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/anxiety-in-teenagers
3. Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021
4. Mind, https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anxiety-and-panic-attacks/causes/
Author: Corey Human, B Th (Hons), M Counselling, Dip Youth Work, Dip Youth Justice, Dip Couns, Dip Pentecostal Theology, Dip Ministry.
For nearly 20 years, Corey has been providing counselling to adolescents, adults and couples experiencing various challenges such as depression, anxiety, addictions and relationship struggles. He can provide counselling in both English and Afrikaans.