Whether they deserve it or not, teenagers have a reputation for being moody, belligerent and oftentimes downright difficult. These same behaviors can also be signs your teenager may be struggling with anxiety.
According to the National institute on Mental Health (NIMH) the average age of onset for anxiety is 11 years old, or around 5th grade. NIMH also states that the prevalence of developing anxiety in a lifetime is over 28%.
So how can a parent begin to recognize the differences between normal teenage angst and teenage anxiety? Not all teenagers express themselves, however if your teen is the type who can express how they are feeling or thinking, parents should consider both physical and psychological symptoms.
For those of us with teens who only talk about sports or “who did what” on Instagram/Snapchat, then we must rely solely on physical symptoms of our teenagers.
|PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS||PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS|
shortness of breath
withdrawing from friends/activities
spending too much time on simple projects
Now that we can recognize potential symptoms of anxiety in a teenager, we can begin to take action. Here are some suggestions for parents:
Look in the mirror – over half of all teenagers who have anxiety, also have a parent who suffers from anxiety. It may be time to take a serious look at your own anxiety. Not only to better yourself, but now for the betterment of your teenager. Here’s what you can do: check your body language and word choices. Just because you may feel anxious about her upcoming SAT tests, doesn’t mean you should share that with her.
Be a positive role model – this is the time to share. Talk to your teenager about similar situations recently that you have overcome. Talk about taking risks, and choosing to go beyond our comfort zone and overcoming our fears. Our teenagers may not want to hear it, but they will remember these examples, after all, as parents, we are their #1 role models.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it – As parents, we oftentimes want to fix our teenagers problems; but our teenagers are not “broken” or “damaged” if they have problems. Having problems makes us human. Teenagers should feel like they can have problems, and fix them. So give them the opportunity to solve their own problems, instead of intervening. Remember, problem solving is a basic life skill that parents must allow their teenagers to experience.
Independence – The overall goal of parenting is to raise a successful, happy and independent human who can thrive in the real world. With an anxious teenager, this is our opportunity to build up our teen’s self esteem by encouraging them to act independently. Along with this freedom, comes the responsibility for them to learn when to follow the rules rigidly and when to be flexible within the rules. Let’s face it, this is an adult skill, but by encouraging this type of thinking, we are giving our teenager a leg up on his or her peers.
Seek Support – a licensed counselor is trained to help teenagers learn to cope with anxiety. They will teach recognition and tools to help lesson symptoms and curb negative responses.
To learn more about anxiety and what you can do to about it, visit Pace Counseling Group or call us at 210-481-3727.