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
Increased physical complaints (i.e. headaches, stomach pain)
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Unexplained Outbursts or Mood Swings
Avoiding social interactions with friends
Feeling Worthless or Low Self Esteem
Changes in academic performance
Excessive worry about specific situations or everyday life
Thoughts of Death or Suicide
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 children has grown steadily over the past couple of decades there remains concern regarding the safety of some medication use in children. For more information regarding the use of medications in treating anxiety in children click here to visit the NIMH website on the matter.
Family therapy is also commonly recommended for anxiety 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 child. Individual therapy with children is more effective when parents and/or caregiver take an active role in treatment.
Mindly Helpful Tips
The beginning of a New Near is a time for reflection and resolution setting, right? More than half of New Year’s resolutions fail. Sometimes we are over achievers. Sometimes we don’t know what change can really look like when it arrives. Keep reading below for information on setting realistic and attainable SMART goals for the New Year.
New Year’s resolutions should be as clear and specific as possible. Vague goals are challenging to achieve. It is more helpful to identify the who, what, how, and when of the goal. If necessary, break the goal into smaller, more attainable steps.
- Instead of, “I want to be more outgoing,” try, “I will make two new friends in two months, or I will go out to 1 activity with my friends each week.”
It’s important to have measurable goals so you can track your progress. In setting a measurable goal, you want to be able to identify and measure the following: How much? How many? And how will I know when I have achieved my goal?
- For example, if you have identified that you want to do better in school (e.g., how?), what will your grades look like in one month? And, are there ways, other than grades, that will alert you to the fact that you have accomplished your goal?
Set realistic and attainable goals. It’s great to aspire to get all A’s or be more social in the new year. However, make sure that your goals are not too wide-reaching. It can be helpful to consider setting smaller goals on the way to the big one.
- If your goal is to be more social, but you don’t hang out with anyone outside of school, consider setting a more realistic goal, such as going out with 1 friend after school or over the weekend.
Make sure that the goal you have chosen is important to you and that it is in line with the issue/problem you are trying to solve. It is also helpful to make sure that you are have the resources you need to achieve the goal. If your goal requires transportation, make sure you are talking with your parents or others to help you achieve your goal.
Set a deadline for your goal. Whether it is two weeks or six months, make sure that you have a time-line for when and how you are going to achieve the goal.