Who hasn’t felt anxious at some point in their life? Shield Bearer has received a growing number of teens who are experiencing both anxiety and depression. Anxiety among teenagers has always been a thing, and it’s normal and expected as many teens are testing their independence and stretching into adulthood. The list of potential stressors can be overwhelming and include school, physical appearance, social acceptance, romantic relationships, the ever-changing landscape of friendships, jobs, extracurricular activities, and so much more.
The pressures of adolescence can make it easy for ordinary worries to morph into severe distress. We now see that the increased stresses associated with this past year have added to the anxieties customarily attributed to adolescence.
The nature of anxiety changes as a child develops into a teenager. Younger children are anxious about their parents or caregivers, scary or unpredictable situations or environments, their parent’s health, pets, monsters, safety, etc. Teenager anxiety turns inward. Teens grow increasingly worried about their performance, future, grades, physical appearance, intelligence, abilities, and how others perceive them. As more responsibilities pile up, their anxiety can become more severe. Even if not under tremendous external pressure from parents, some teens feel intense pressure to get straight A’s. They may have an underlying cause of OCD that may or may not be diagnosed, intensifying their stress and anxiety.
Many teens have debilitating social anxiety stemming from their intense obsession and awareness of how they’re perceived. Social media has increased this dramatically. Combining this with their ongoing physical changes, varying degrees of development, and the pressures of the media and culture, many teens develop a form of extreme anxiety that can interfere significantly with their day-to-day functioning.
We can often overlook anxiety in teenagers, and teens are notorious for hiding their feelings and being reserved when sharing their thoughts and concerns. Symptoms of anxiety vary greatly but can include recurring fears and worries, lack of concentration, lashing out, lack of patience, sleep issues, abdominal pain, headaches, substance use, isolation, extreme emotional sensitivity, academic decline, and many other sudden and unexplained changes in behavior and mood.
Without counseling, teens will naturally try to find their coping mechanisms, and they may turn to recreational drugs, including marijuana, prescription medication, alcohol, or more severe options. These numbing agents may cloak the teen’s symptoms and make it more difficult for others to identify a problem and step in and assist.
Anxiety and depression are connected but distinctly different. Anxiety can cause depression, and depression can exist without anxiety. Counselors can identify and treat both circumstances. Counseling can provide teens with practical coping skills and strategies to help them deal with it and avoid it when possible. Licensed treatment can help the teen’s anxious response be reduced or even eliminated over time.
The important thing is to be aware and seek treatment when symptoms occur or when your teenager expresses a need.