When Anxiety Attacks Your Teen
Anxiety is like fire:
It can keep us safe and warm, or completely devastate our property and our lives. It’s good to be a little anxious at times. When walking down a deserted street at night, anxiety keeps us on alert. We are ready to fight or take flight should a dangerous situation arise.
But for many, especially adolescents, anxiety can become the norm. Walking into a classroom or being with a group of people they don’t know can become a crisis. Without proper treatment, the anxiety will snowball and grow in size. This is critical to know about anxiety. It is also why it is vital to notice the early warning signs of teen anxiety.
Anxiety Refers to Physical Symptoms Associated with Negative Thoughts
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches us that our feelings come from our thoughts. There are two major unhealthy thought processes or “Cognitive Distortions” that cause anxiety. The first has been termed in the therapy world as “Mind Reading.” Mind-reading occurs when a person believes they know what another person is thinking. Examples of mind-reading thoughts are:
- He/she hates me
- They think I’m stupid/boring/ugly
The second type of cognitive distortion is “Fortune Telling.” Examples of fortune-telling thoughts are:
- I am going to fail this test
- I’m going to get into trouble
- I’m not going to fit in
When your teen thinks these thoughts, they will understandably start to worry. Teens need to learn how to not only shift their thinking but also cope with physical stress. This may include telling themselves “This will feel awkward but I’ll be okay”, or taking slow, deep breaths. This will help kids know without a doubt they can handle uncomfortable feelings instead of avoiding them.
The adolescent mind is more sensitive to environmental stress
Their minds are a jumble of chemical changes that can make any situation seem like time spent in a funhouse. These hormonal changes make adolescence a particularly challenging time to cope with anxiety.
Anxiety is a vicious cycle
When young people are anxious, it’s easy for the adults around them to become anxious as a response. But, the more anxious parents and teachers are, the more controlling and inflexible they may become. As adults, we must manage our own anxiety around our kids and students. By doing so, we can manage the situation in more effective ways.
Here are three simple things you can do as a parent to help your teen:
First, be aware of your own mind reading and fortune telling thoughts.
Try to avoid predicting negative outcomes if they are creating undue fear and stress. Challenge your thought processes. Think to yourself: “Is this a fact-based thought or a worry that may not come true?”
Second, don’t dismiss your teen’s worries.
But, you can challenge them in a calm manner. Take a position of curiosity, such as, “Did she say something to you that led you to believe she hates you?” “Do you not know any of the content on the test?” You could also try asking, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if you fail the test?” And, “If you fail; is there anything you can do to bring your grade up?”
Last, have your teen talk to a trusted professional therapist.
Having your teen talk to a trusted anxiety therapist is one of the best gifts you can give your teen. Doing so helps to ensure their emotional health.
An anxiety therapist trained to work with your teen will teach healthy coping skills. This includes helping them to:
- Regulate their emotions
- Teach them to have better responses to difficult situations
- Improve parent-child and peer relationships
- And boost self-esteem and confidence
It is also very normal to seek professional help for yourself. Parents may do so to receive the appropriate tools to help their teens.
When you should seek professional help:
- If your teen appears to be isolating
- If your teen is avoiding activities that they once loved
- When your teen is making statements that are unkind towards themselves frequently
- If you notice excessive weight loss/weight gain
- Inability to sleep
If you or a loved one is struggling, therapy for anxiety can help. If you’re interested in exploring treatment, please contact us today. We would be happy to speak with you about how we can help.
Begin Therapy for Teens in South Jersey
- Fill out the online form, call us at (800) 845-0336, or e-mail us at [email protected].
- Our assistant will contact you within one business day. They will answer any questions you may have & set up with a professional anxiety therapist.
- You will fill out a series of online forms before your first appointment.
- Last but not least, you will show up for your in-person or online therapy for anxiety appointment.