7 Ways to Tell if Your Teen is Struggling with Anxiety
Though you may remember your own teenage years as carefree, many teens today are plagued with worries and fears that can feel overwhelming at times. While these feelings are normal on occasion, when they start to affect schoolwork, relationships, and self-esteem, there may be a bigger issue that needs to be addressed.
According to the WHO, it is estimated that 1 in 7 adolescents and teens ages 10 to 19 experience mental health conditions globally, with anxiety disorders being the most prevalent among teens.1 Find out how to spot the warning signs of anxiety in teens, what causes their anxiety, and how to get help.
How to Spot Warning Signs
While younger kids may worry about monsters under the bed or the dark, teens’ fears tend to be more complex. After all, this is a time of great change, physically, emotionally, and socially. Even more, in their aim to be more independent, your teen may not come to you with their fears and worries, making anxiety warning signs harder to spot. If you suspect your teen has anxiety, it may also be helpful to talk to their teacher to see if there have been any signs at school.
While they will be different for every teen, the following symptoms may indicate your teen is struggling with anxiety:
1. Lack of Sleep
Teens who struggle with anxiety are also likely to suffer from insomnia and depressive symptoms.2 Typically, these teens ruminate on worries about what happened during the day or what may happen tomorrow–whether that’s failing a test or saying something embarrassing in front of their friends. Long-term, lack of sleep can have significant impacts. Not only can insomnia affect their academics and physical health; studies show that the risk for alcohol and illicit drug abuse increases when teenagers have insomnia along with anxiety and/or depression.3
To help your teen get better sleep, encourage them to follow a regular sleep schedule, getting up at the same time every day and going to sleep at the same time, even on weekends. This will help maintain their circadian rhythm. It has also been found that the blue light from screens can disrupt sleep, so be sure that your teen is not using devices too close to bedtime or in bed at all. Following a healthy diet and exercising can also help your teen feel more balanced in their mind and body during the day to support better sleep at night.
2. Difficulties with Academics
Anxiety can make it difficult for your teen to complete their schoolwork or study. Your teen may also want to skip classes to avoid triggering situations, although this can only make their anxiety (and their grades) worse. If your teen has anxiety, they may need to work with a school counselor or therapist to help them get back on track. You can also talk with their teacher about possible interventions like allowing your teen to have extra time to complete assignments, promoting relaxation techniques in the classroom, pairing them up with a peer and more. Studies show that 81 percent of teens with anxiety responded positively to teacher intervention.4
3. Social Withdrawal
If you’ve noticed your teen declining invitations to social events, losing contact with friends, or refusing to go to school, anxiety may be to blame. Social anxiety can cause extreme discomfort in teens whenever they are in social situations. To avoid this discomfort, they might withdraw completely or engage in substance abuse. Some factors may contribute to this anxiety, such as excessive social media use or bullying. If you suspect your teen may be overusing their devices or getting bullied (including cyberbullying), find ways to talk to them about how they feel and how you can help while limiting their device use. Your teen’s anxiety may also be triggered by perfectionism — wanting to play perfectly in a sport, for example, or needing to be perceived as funny or attractive by their peers. Reminding your teen that imperfections are a part of life and zeroing in on their unique strengths can help build up their self-esteem.
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4. Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is often internalized. Your teen may be plagued with self-defeating thoughts yet remain silent and secretive on the surface. Some signs that your teen is struggling with low self-esteem include avoiding new experiences, comparing themselves to others, difficulty making friends, and low motivation.
While low self-esteem is common from time to time during the tumultuous teenage years, there are ways to help your child if your teen if things seem to be getting worse. Praising your teen for their achievements can help them feel good about themselves as well as praising their efforts when things don’t turn out perfectly. Encourage your teen to see challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth. Be sure your child feels safe in coming to you with any problem that arises and that your love is unconditional and not dependent on what they say, do, or achieve.
5. Extreme Mood Swings
It’s normal for teens' moods to shift quickly and for them to be overly emotional on occasion. According to the Mayo Clinic, the developmental changes in brain activity and fluctuations in hormones that happen in an adolescent's body can make their emotional reactions seem intense and disproportionate to their stressors.5 However, anxiety can make their mood swings more extreme and affect their school, home, and social lives. Along with encouraging a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and limited screen use, consider different outlets for your teen to release stress and feel good about themselves. This might be signing them up for an art or music class, encouraging them to join a team or club, or even introducing them to mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga, or tai chi, which they can use as tools to deal with difficult moods.
6. Sudden Weight Loss or Weight Gain
Anxiety can affect your teen’s appetite, causing them to either eat more or less than usual. Anxiety can also speed up your teen’s metabolism so that, despite their dietary choices, they experience unexpected weight loss.6 Weight loss can also occur as a result of certain anti-anxiety medications. For others, anxiety causes a spike in cortisol, which can disturb sleep and cause weight gain. If you’ve noticed a sudden change in your teen’s weight, find out if anxiety is the culprit so you can address the root cause while getting your teen the help they need.7 Continue to provide healthy nutrition at home, promote an active lifestyle, and consider talking to a doctor about what’s normal and what’s not for your teen.
7. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks can be scary for both you and your teen. Common symptoms include a racing heart, shaking, dizziness, chills, sweating, rapid breathing, and an irrational fear of death or disaster. During a panic attack, your teen may feel like they’re dying or can't think anymore. After the attack, your teen may want to avoid triggering situations, leading to social withdrawal and isolation. In the midst of a panic attack, you can help your teen focus on their breathing while remaining calm in their presence. Reassure your child that you are there for them and that the attack will be over soon and won’t last forever. For long-term help, talk therapy can be particularly helpful for teens who experience panic attacks.
How You Can Help
In addition to considering talk therapy for your teen, especially if they don’t want to share their feelings with you, it’s essential that you provide a calm and safe environment at home where your teen can feel at ease. This includes stocking the fridge with healthy food, enforcing bedtime, managing screen time, and even practicing relaxation techniques as a family.
If you find that your teen needs more help, consider trying Brillia, a non-prescription homeopathic medication that gently and impactfully reduces anxiety without any harsh chemicals or harmful side effects. Containing antibodies to the brain-specific S-100 protein (S-100B), a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, Brillia helps to balance your teen’s mood while normalizing the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain. The medication is not habit-forming and it does not cause drowsiness, lethargy, or depression, nor does it mask your teen’s personality or weight.
For those hoping to address their teen’s anxiety without resorting to prescription drugs, Brillia is a safe and effective option they can start or stop at any time without experiencing any “coming off” effects associated with drug withdrawal.
Best of all, the success of Brillia is maximized by healthy lifestyle changes outlined in our Five Pillar methodology, which helps your teen develop tools they can use throughout their lives, long after they’ve decided to come off medication.
Learn more about how Brillia works and find tips on managing anxiety naturally at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
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