Anxiety is a common mental heath condition characterized by changes in mood, behavior, and functioning that persist for at least several weeks and cause difficulties in functioning. For teenagers this might mean academic or behavioral difficulties at school, difficulties interacting with peers, or withdrawing from family. Anxiety is more than simply being in a bad mood, feeling sad, or having a negative attitude and includes other significant psychological, biological, and behavioral changes.
Anxiety Signs in Teenagers
Increased Time Spent Alone
Difficulty Falling or Staying Asleep
Increased Physical Complaints (i.e. headaches, stomach pain)
Unexplained Outbursts or Mood Swings
Avoiding Social Interactions with Friends
Feeling Worthless or Low Self Esteem
Changes in Academic Performance
Thoughts of Death or Suicide
Excessive Worry About Specific Situations or Everyday Life
Teenage Anxiety Treatment
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most researched and scientifically proven psychotherapy for treating anxiety in teenagers. CBT is a very practical and easy to understand treatment approach that emphasizes the here-and-now and the development of effective coping skills and strategies. In teenagers, emphasis is typically shared between behavioral interventions and the development of insight.
Psychotherapy (i.e., talk or behavioral therapy) is an effective treatment for anxiety in teenagers and for mild to moderate anxiety is recommended as a first-line treatment. For more severe cases of anxiety a combination of medication and psychotherapy is typically recommended.
Certain medications (i.e., SSRIs) are commonly used to treat anxiety in children and like psychotherapy have been proven to be effective. While the use of medication to treat anxiety in teenagers has grown steadily over the past couple of decades there remains concern regarding the safety of some medication use in teenagers. For more information regarding the use of medications in treating anxiety in teenagers click here to visit the NIMH website on the matter.
Family therapy is also commonly recommended for teenagers who are experiencing anxiety. Family therapy aims to help parents and caregivers learn how to more effectively provide support create a less stressful environment for the teenager. Individual therapy with teenagers is more effective when parents and/or caregivers take an active role in treatment.