Anxiety In Kids And Teens
Anxiety disorders are not exclusively adult afflictions either angst can strike even young kids. According to ADAA, one in eight children struggles with an anxiety disorder. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention says 7.1% of children age 13-18 have some type of diagnosed anxiety disorder.
Prevalence rates of anxiety tend to increase with age and this increase is thought to be a function of how our thought processes mature. That is, as our thinking develops it plays a considerable role in viewing stressors. This is observed early on when signs of separation anxiety may first be seen when younger children start school and struggle to adjust to leaving the comfort of their home and family. A teens perspective of their world and how their peers view them are key factors in the manifestation of social anxiety and its onset most often appears during puberty.
Getting a handle on anxiety during childhood is important. Research has shown that children and teens with untreated anxiety disorders are at higher risk of poor performance in school, social avoidance, and substance use, as well as comorbidities including eating disorders and ADHD. Therapy, medication in some cases, and familial support can help kids manage their anxiety, learn coping mechanisms early on, and lead healthy lives.
Not All Anxiety Is A Disorder
Everyone experiences anxiety and fear at times these are normal and helpful human emotions that help us deal with danger. However, some people experience excessive and irrational anxiety and worries that become ongoing and distressing, and that interfere with their daily lives. This may indicate an anxiety disorder. Often there appears to be no obvious or logical reason for the way the person feels. This may make an anxiety disorder even more worrying to the sufferer.
What Is An Anxiety Disorder
An anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may respond to certain things and situations with fear and dread. You may also experience physical signs of anxiety, such as a pounding heart and sweating.
Its normal to have some anxiety. You may feel anxious or nervous if you have to tackle a problem at work, go to an interview, take a test or make an important decision. And anxiety can even be beneficial. For example, anxiety helps us notice dangerous situations and focuses our attention, so we stay safe.
But an anxiety disorder goes beyond the regular nervousness and slight fear you may feel from time to time. An anxiety disorder happens when:
- Anxiety interferes with your ability to function.
- You often overreact when something triggers your emotions.
- You cant control your responses to situations.
Anxiety disorders can make it difficult to get through the day. Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for anxiety disorders.
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What Causes Anxiety Disorders
We dont fully understand what causes anxiety disorders. But it is thought that the following factors can cause anxiety.
Genetics. Some people seem to be born more anxious than others. You may get anxiety through your genes.
Life experience. This could be bad experiences such as being abused or losing a loved one. It could also include big changes in life such as moving home, losing your job or pregnancy.
Drugs. Caffeine in coffee and alcohol can make you feel anxious. Illegal drugs, also known as street drugs can also have an effect.
Circumstances. Sometimes you know what is causing your anxiety. When the problem goes, so does your anxiety.
What To Do When You Have An Anxiety Attack
Anxiety attacks often need to run their course. Once they’ve started, there is very little that you can do to stop them completely. They’re a reaction that your body has that is somewhat beyond your control. They can be prevented, and their severity can be lessened, but they are very hard to stop.
Reducing its severity has to do with reacting correctly to the symptoms. Remember – the physical symptoms you experience are very real, and very disruptive. But they’re not related to any health problem, and solely a result of your anxiety. If you believe you feel an anxiety attack coming or you’re certain you’re in the middle of the one, try the following:
Drinking water may also calm the mind, and if you feel strong enough, a good jog can get your body to breathe better and use oxygen at a healthier pace.
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Get A Good Nights Rest
It can be difficult to get enough rest when youre anxious, but sleep is essential to keeping your anxiety in check. Consider taking a natural sleep aid like melatonin or diffusing some calming essential oils before sleeping lavender and chamomile are good choices. Creating an environment thats relaxing, taking time to wind down, and limiting screen time for at least 30 minutes before going to sleep are all effective ways to ensure you rest well.
What Are The Risk Factors For Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Real talk: All of us are likely to experience anxiety at some point, Dr. Seymour says. But debilitating anxiety disorders are often seen in people who have depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, or other mood disorders in their genetic history. Additionally, people with depression often have anxiety, so they often exist in tandem.
Anxiety does not discriminate: It can be experienced by anyone and may be present in varying degrees at different times in a persons life, Goldberg says. Anxiety disorders tend to be hereditary, and people often learn to worry a lot and distrust the world around them from observing this type of thinking from their primary caregivers as theyre growing up, she explains. People who have experienced any type of trauma can end up with anxiety. Also, those who have perfectionist qualities often experience anxiety an underlying issue of anxiety is a fear of being out of control, so anyone who has a strong desire to be in control can be vulnerable to anxiety.
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Treatment For Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
Treatment for anxiety depends on what symptoms you have and how severe they are.
Therapy and medication are the two main treatments for anxiety. If you experience physical symptoms, talk therapy or medication that improves your anxiety often leads to improvement of these symptoms.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common and effective therapy options for anxiety.
You may find that therapy on its own is helpful. But if your symptoms dont improve, anxiety medication is an option you can discuss with a psychiatrist.
You can also take action on your own to address anxiety symptoms.
What Does Anxiety Attack Mean
Anxiety attacks often have triggers, although they can be triggered by nothing at all. Some people experience anxiety attacks during periods of intense anxiety, but many others experience them “out of nowhere,” usually as a response to a physical sensation. For example, it’s not uncommon to have your first anxiety attack simply because your heartbeat speeds up, because anxiety has caused you to be hypersensitive to these changes.
The causes of anxiety attacks are everything from severe stress to hyperventilation to a need to regain control. It differs for different people, which is why treating it has a great deal to do with identifying triggers. Once you’ve experienced an anxiety attack, the fear of another anxiety attack may actually trigger an attack, because those that are afraid of getting a panic attack again often pay too much attention to their own body, and react to any changes in sensations.
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Do Your Best To Be Positive
When you catch yourself feeling low, try to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Consider saying a mantra to yourself, like I am worthy of happiness today. When negativity arises, repeating something positive to yourself can counteract those destructive thoughts. Journaling and keeping a gratitude list are both known to be effective ways to increase positivity and reduce anxiety, especially when combined with meditation and deep breathing techniques.
Risk Factors For Anxiety Disorder
Some things also make you more likely to develop an anxiety disorder. These are called risk factors. Some risk factors you canât change, but others you can.
Risk factors for anxiety disorders include:
- History of mental health disorder. Having another mental health disorder, like depression, raises your risk for anxiety disorder.
- Childhood sexual abuse. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse or neglect during childhood is linked to anxiety disorders later in life.
- Trauma. Living through a traumatic event increases the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder , which can cause panic attacks.
- Negative life events. Stressful or negative life events, like losing a parent in early childhood, increase your risk for anxiety disorder.
- Severe illness or chronic health condition. Constant worry about your health or the health of a loved one, or caring for someone who is sick, can cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious.
- Substance abuse. The use of alcohol and illegal drugs makes you more likely to get an anxiety disorder. Some people also use these substances to hide or ease anxiety symptoms.
- Being shy as a child. Shyness and withdrawal from unfamiliar people and places during childhood is linked to social anxiety in teens and adults.
- Low self-esteem. Negative perceptions about yourself may lead to social anxiety disorder.
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Types Of Care Providers
There are a number of different types of licensed mental health providers that can treat the range of anxiety and other related disorders.
Primary Care Physician
Many patients first report symptoms to their primary care physician. Primary care physicians will administer a thorough physical exam to rule out hormonal imbalances, side effects of medications, and certain illnesses. If the symptoms are not due to other conditions, the physician may diagnose the patient with anxiety and therefore refer the patient to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Physicians practice in hospitals, clinics, and private practices.
A licensed mental health specialist with a doctorate in clinical psychology who treats emotional, mental, and behavioral problems. Clinical psychologists are trained to provide counseling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders. They generally do not prescribe medications however, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico are the only states that allow psychologists to prescribe. It is common for clinical psychologists to work in conjunction with a psychiatrist and /or a PCP who provides the medical treatment for the patients while the psychologists provide the psychotherapy. Clinical psychologists can be found at hospitals, schools, counseling centers, and group or private health care practices.
Clinical Social Worker
Anxiety Symptoms List: Learn More About Anxiety
The best way to stop anxiety is to understand it. The more you understand what causes your symptoms, what they mean, why you struggle with them, and what you can do to stop them, the more youll be able to start making real progress on your own anxiety symptoms.
We have broken each symptom down into categories for easy navigation. You can click on any of the links below to be taken to the section of your choice immediately, or you can scroll down to start reading more about the symptoms as a whole.
Note: Some people experience anxiety symptoms that are 100% mental with no physical symptoms. Others experience anxiety symptoms that are 100% physical: they are anxious physically even though they have no worries and their minds are clear. Most people experience some combination of the two. There is no right or wrong way to experience anxiety.
Keep in mind that categorizing some anxiety symptoms is difficult. For example, you may feel that what we consider to be a whole-body symptom is more of a chest symptom, and vice versa. So if you dont find a symptom you struggle with in the section you expect, it may be in another section.
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Other Types Of Therapy That Can Be Helpful For Anxiety
Exposure TherapyA form of CBT, exposure therapy is a process for reducing fear and anxiety responses. In therapy, a person is gradually exposed to a feared situation or object, learning to become less sensitive over time. This type of therapy is particularly effective for obsessive-compulsive disorder and phobias.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Also known as ACT, this type of therapy uses strategies of acceptance and mindfulness , along with commitment and behavior change, as a way to cope with unwanted thoughts, feelings, and sensations. ACT imparts skills to accept these experiences, place them in a different context, develop greater clarity about personal values, and commit to needed behavior change.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Integrating cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts from Eastern meditation, dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, combines acceptance and change. DBT involves individual and group therapy to learn mindfulness and skills for interpersonal effectiveness, tolerating distress, and regulating emotions.
Interpersonal Therapy Often referred to as IPT, interpersonal therapy is a short-term supportive psychotherapy that addresses interpersonal issues of depression in adults, adolescents, and older adults. IPT usually involves 12 to 16 one-hour weekly sessions. The initial sessions are devoted to gathering information about the nature of a persons depression and interpersonal experience.
How Does Medication Treat Anxiety Disorders
Medications cant cure an anxiety disorder. But they can improve symptoms and help you function better. Medications for anxiety disorders often include:
- Anti-anxiety medications, such as benzodiazepines, may decrease your anxiety, panic and worry. They work quickly, but you can build up a tolerance to them. That makes them less effective over time. Your healthcare provider may prescribe an anti-anxiety medication for the short-term, then taper you off or the provider may add an antidepressant to the mix.
- Antidepressants can also help with anxiety disorders. They tweak how your brain uses certain chemicals to improve mood and reduce stress. Antidepressants may take some time to work, so be patient. If you feel like youre ready to stop taking antidepressants, talk to your provider first.
- Beta-blockers, usually used for high blood pressure, can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety disorders. They can relieve rapid heartbeat, shaking and trembling.
Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the right medication combination and dosage. Dont change the dose without consulting your provider. Theyll monitor you to make sure the medicines are working without causing negative side effects.
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When Should I Go To The Emergency Room For An Anxiety Disorder
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can resemble symptoms of a heart attack or another health emergency. If youre experiencing an anxiety attack for the first time, or youre concerned in any way about your health, call 911 or head to the nearest ER. A healthcare provider will check you for serious or life-threatening conditions.
If youre having an anxiety attack and unsure whether you should head to an ER or not, its better to go. Healthcare professionals can make sure youre OK and give you any necessary treatment.