What does Teen anxiety feel like?
Jason, a high school student, is very concerned about a lot of things in his life. Often, he has trouble falling asleep at night because he is so nervous and worried. He worries that he will not make high enough grades to get into a good college. He worries that his mom and dad might get a divorce. He worries that he won't make the basketball team. Sometimes Jason feels physically sick, like he might throw up, when he worries about things. He wants to stop being so nervous all the time, but he is afraid that his worst thoughts may come true.
Jason suffers from anxiety. While it is common for people to be worried about certain things, people with anxiety worry almost all of the time. They spend a lot of time thinking about what negative things might happen to them or their family. Teenagers with anxiety often feel overwhelmed by their concerns, sometimes to the point of becoming physically ill. Anxiety is a real emotional disturbance; it's not just something a person can snap out of. Anxiety can be treated, allowing a person to have happier life with a lot less worrying.
How common is anxiety?
Anxiety is extremely common; it is estimated that about 13% of the United States population has anxiety. Anxiety disorder affects all ages, including teens and children.
A teen who has anxiety disorder shouldn't feel alone. Many teens have anxiety disorders and feelings of intense stress, worry, fear, and panic. The important thing is to understand that anxiety can be treated and that living with constant anxiety is not necessary.
What causes anxiety in teens?
There is no one cause for anxiety; it is likely that many factors contribute to a person's chances of developing anxiety. Scientists have broken down the potential causes into three groups, early learning, brain biochemistry, and the fight or flight mechanism.
Fight or Flight Mechanism
When a person senses danger, the body prepares itself to either fight (defend itself) or flee (run away from the situation). The body's fight or flight mechanism causes the heart rate to increase, the eyes to dilate, and the body to prepare itself for a dangerous situation. These responses allow a person to protect him/herself. Even though these effects are intended to be a good thing, sometimes the body misunderstands a situation and believes that there is danger when in reality there is not (taking a test, giving a presentation, etc). There is a part of the brain called the amygdala that triggers the fight or flight response. This part of the brain is trained to remember the thing that triggered the fight or flight mechanism (taking a test or giving a presentation). This is the brain's attempt to protect the person from future danger by keeping track of all things that might cue danger. Even though this part of the brain is trying to protect a person, it can be the cause of much unnecessary anxiety. The brain has to be �re-trained� to not react in fight or flight to something that is not actually dangerous.
Anxiety disorders tend to run in families, so if a person's mom, dad, or other close relative has anxiety, they have a higher chance of developing anxiety themselves. Growing up in a family where fear and anxiety are constantly shown to children by role models can �teach� them to be anxious as well. In addition, if a child grows up in an abusive home, he or she may learn to always expect the worst.
Feelings of hopelessness and unlovability are often the main underlying causes of anxiety disorder in adults, teens and children. Learning more about these core beliefs and how they may be affecting your child can help parents and teens to develop coping strategies that can provide permanent relief and treatment.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that regulate a person's thoughts and feelings. Sometimes there is a problem with the way the brain's messages are being sent due to a chemical imbalance. Two of the primary neurotransmitters that affect a person's feelings are serotonin and dopamine. When there is an imbalance of these chemicals, a person can feel depressed or anxious.
How can anxiety affect my life?
Anxiety can affect many aspects of a teenager's life. If your child is always anxious and worried, it is doubtful that he or she can fully enjoy life. Anxiety might affect their ability to make friends, perform well in school, and try new things.
Sometimes teens who suffer from anxiety attempt to make themselves feel better by abusing drugs or alcohol. Using drugs or alcohol to treat anxiety is extremely dangerous and could make anxiety worse and cause other serious problems like addiction.
Physically, constant anxiety can cause problems with eating and sleeping habits, and prolonged anxiety may lead to more serious physical problems. Finding the correct treatment plan can help your child break free from anxiety and live life to the fullest.