IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not written from a professional but simply what I have found in the research. If you feel concerned about your teen with mental health, contact a psychiatrist or counselor to get them professional help. These are tips and general information from research that may help if your teen has been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder by a professional.
Anxiety, Symptoms, Signs, and Research
Anxiety is characterized by chronic and excessive worry and fear. Anxiety can be about anything such as health, work, money, social life, etc. For teens, friends at school, grades, and driving are good example of possible anxiety-provoking situations.
Symptoms of anxiety vary, but common symptoms include:
Anxiety can affect your teen in ways you may or may not see as an anxiety symptom. Irritability and aggression, especially in early-middle adolescent boys, can be signs of anxiety (Meeus, Van de Schoot, Hawk, Hale, & Branje, 2016). Research has shown that self-blame, rumination, catastrophizing, and impulsive behaviors are possible signals of anxiety (Young, Sandman, & Craske, 2019).
Another symptom not commonly seen as an anxiety symptom is emotional sensitivity (Zimmer-Gembeck, 2016). This is very relevant to teenagers because teenagers seem to be more prone to sensitivity to rejection. Social rejection can be a factor in emotional sensitivity, which is like having severe mood swings and intense emotions. Emotional sensitivity is where an individual feel intense, strong emotional reaction in response to an event.
Studies and statistics show that shifts in behavior occur around age 12 and an increase in anxiety/depression around ages 15-18 (Cohen, Andrews, Davis, & Rudolph, 2018). This age is a major developmental stage with puberty and gaining more independence; this is the age where they start to learn more about themselves.
This is can be an awkward and stressful period in your teen’s life, and that can make them susceptible to anxiety and depression. This can explain why research has shown the increase in anxiety and depression during puberty and high school because that increase in stress can also lead to an increase in anxiety/depression. Poor grades, problems with interpersonal relationships, and even physical pain have been shown to be related to anxiety.
How Can I, as a Parent, Help?
Helpful Things to Say and Do:
Helpful Links for more Information
Helpful Assessment Tools
IMPORTANT: Not Meant to Replace a Professional Assessment and Diagnosis
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018). Screening tools. https://adaa.org/living- with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018). Tips for parents and caregivers. https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/tips-parents-and-caregivers
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d.). Children’s mental health: Anxiety and depression. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/depression.html
Child Mind Institute (2020). https://childmind.org
Cohen, J. R., Andrews, A. R., Davis, M. M., & Rudolph, K. D. (2018). Anxiety and depression during childhood and adolescence: Testing theoretical models of continuity and discontinuity.
Abnormal Child Psychology, 46(6): 1295–1308. doi:10.1007/s10802-017-0370-x.
Meeus, W., Van de Schoot, R., Hawk, S.T., Hale, W.W., & Branje, S. (2016). Direct aggression and generalized anxiety in adolescence: Heterogeneity in development and intra-individual change.
J Youth Adolescence, 45(2), 361-375. doi: 10.1007/s10964-015-0388-8.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (n.d.). Family members and caregivers. https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Family-Members-and-Caregivers
National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). Anxiety disorders. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml
University of Washington Medical Center & Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation (2020). Screening and surveillance. https://depts.washington.edu/dbpeds/Screening%20Tools/ScreeningTools.html#section4_ textarea26_heading
Young, K.S., Sandman, C.F., & Craske, M.G. (2019). Positive and negative emotion regulation in adolescence: Links to anxiety and depression. Brain Sciences, 9(76). doi: 10.3390/brainsci9040076.
Zimmer-Gembeck, M., J. (2016). Peer rejection, victimization, and relational self- system processes in adolescence: Toward a transactional model of stress, coping, and developing sensitivities. Child Development Perspectives, 10(2), 122-127. doi: 10.1111/cdep.12174.
WRITTEN BY Laurel Zwick