As we grow older, it may be easy to forget how challenging the adolescent years truly were. As a teenager, you face constant pressure from friends, school, work, and even your family. And without the experience or resources to effectively handle this pressure, some teens may develop anxiety disorders. While there are multiple treatment options available for teens with anxiety and other mental health issues, such as teen treatment centers and talk therapy, understanding the specific causes of teen anxiety can enable you to better help your child. 

Here, we’re taking a closer look at this common teen mental health issue. We examine its causes and then some of potential treatments. If you believe your teen or adolescent is experiencing anxiety, it may be frightening. But don’t let the fear push you into inaction. There are many effective treatment options that can help teens manage their anxiety and live happy, healthy, and amazing lives.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety makes us feel nervous, scared, and can prevent us from engaging in activities we enjoy or spending time with people we care about. While it’s natural, and almost inevitable, to experience anxiety from time to time, this doesn’t mean you have a clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder. With an actual anxiety disorder, even minor situations or events can lead someone to a serious and debilitating panic attack.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a diagnosed anxiety disorder can be characterized by a person experiencing excessive or persistent worries or fears concerning everyday situations and issues. Anxiety disorders may also include repeated episodes (that often strike without warning) of sudden and intense feelings referred to as panic attacks. Living with an anxiety disorder can make social interactions and other daily activities feel almost impossible. Over time, the person may exclude themselves from others, which can lead to additional mental health issues, such as depression. 

What Causes Teen Anxiety?

While anyone can experience anxiety no matter your age, this mental health issue can be particularly challenging for teens. After all, they’re already experiencing physical and emotional changes and new relationships on a daily basis. Adding anxiety to the formula can make even simple, daily tasks a challenge.

But what causes teen anxiety? While, of course, every case is unique and individual, there are common factors that prove to be the source of a large percentage of teen anxiety cases. Let’s take a look at the most common causes:

1.              Social Pressure: teens face pressure from their peers, family, and mentors such as teachers or bosses on a daily basis. Coming from so many different sources, social pressure can quickly develop into anxiety. Teens often don’t have the experience to properly handle and balance varying sources of pressure, and at a young age, approval from their peers especially is extremely valuable. Thus, when they don’t meet the approval of peers or their family, they may become anxious and seek to simply avoid these interactions all together.

2.              Substance Abuse: many teens experiment with drugs or alcohol in these formative years. While this may be common, that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. If substance use becomes persistent, it can lead to mental health problems, such as anxiety, insomnia, or depression.

3.              Trauma: following a traumatic event, such as the loss of a friend or family member, a break up, a major move, or some form of physical or emotional abuse, teens may slip into an anxiety disorder or depression. To make it even worse, they may attempt to self-diagnose with drugs or alcohol, which also lead to anxiety. While trauma can be difficult to talk about, opening this space for dialogue is essential for the healing process.

4.              Hormones: during your teen years, the body is producing an intense amount of hormones that lead to physical and emotional changes. In response to these hormonal changes, teens may not understand what is happening and this additional challenge can lead to anxiety. 

How to Treat Anxiety in Teens

When openly addressed and discussed with family members and loved ones, teen anxiety can be a very treatable mental health issue. As a common issue experienced by millions of teens, mental health professionals have developed a variety of treatment options that can prove very effective. The first important step as a parent is to discuss the issue openly and honestly and to come from a place of love and understanding.

Once everyone agrees that your teen could benefit from professional help, reach out to your doctor or trusted mental health expert. If you don’t know where to turn, your physician should be able to refer you to someone who can help.

Primarily, there are three types of treatment for teen anxiety:

1.              Talk therapy: also called psychotherapy, this form of treatment involves direct counseling sessions with a licensed mental health professional. Talk therapy can be in a one-on-one environment or group setting, often including the family, to openly discuss the mental health issue and work toward resolutions and better habits to help everyone manage the anxiety symptoms.

2.              Medication: while not as commonly used as psychotherapy, medication may prove effective in certain cases of teen anxiety. This especially proves true if the source of the anxiety may be caused in part by chemical imbalances in the brain. Anti-anxiety medications work to restore balance in the brain and help your teen better adapt to situations. Medication may also be prescribed in tandem with talk therapy or family therapy for a more effective approach to treatment.

3.              Teen residential treatment centers: for more intensive cases of teen anxiety, your mental health expert may recommend that your teen enter an in-patient residential treatment center. These specialized facilities, designed just for treating teens, can offer the most comprehensive care available. They offer around-the-clock care and support for your teen and incorporate treatments such as talk therapy, group therapy, and other activities to help them better manage their anxiety symptoms. 

Conclusion – What Causes Teen Anxiety?

Anxiety is experienced by millions of teens all over the world. Due to so many changes and social pressures, anxiety can cause your teen to withdraw from the life they love and suffer from this mental health condition. While there are many different causes of teen anxiety, luckily, there are also many effective treatment options. If your teen is experiencing anxiety, begin the conversation today and seek out help.

Photo by Kat Smith from Pexels


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