Avery’s House is a teen mental health treatment centery in Arizona. Our, our specialized behavioural health professionals work with adolescents to evaluate, diagnose, and stabilize a variety of teen mental health conditions including anxiety.
Whether the cause is life, social media, PTSD from the pandemic, or a host of other options, anxiety is a very real problem for a large percentage of today’s teens. The real question is how to find ways to help find solutions.
Anxiety can come in many shapes and sizes.
Everyone has had moments of nervousness: sweaty palms, jitters, rapid heartbeat, and shortness of breath. These could have come from having to make a speech in school, talking to a crush, or being around a bully.
Whatever the cause, every human being has dealt with nerves.
Anxiety disorders are like nerves, but amplified and unpredictable. Adults, with life experience to guide them, know that help is an option. Teens, however, need guidance. That’s where teen therapy for anxiety enters the picture.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety disorders are generally broken down into four main groups:
- General anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
While there are other subgroups and types of anxiety, they can fit into these categories.
General Anxiety Disorder
People suffering from General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) fixate on everyday life. Issues such as money, health, and family can have crippling effects on someone suffering from GAD.
Issues that most people worry about when they pop up, become focal points for those suffering from high anxiety. Where the anxious moment would pass for others, someone suffering from GAD would continue to worry.
On a daily basis, for months at a time, anxiety can lock a person down.
Generally, the object of fixation is not as large as the anxiety would make it out to be. By blowing the issue out of proportion, the person suffering from GAD increases their anxiety.
Different from GAD, panic disorder comes in waves. Life can be flowing along and without warning, a panic attack can set in.
Panic attacks can have triggers or seemingly appear out of the blue.
While there may not be a rhythm to panic attacks, they tend to repeat themselves regularly. People who suffer from panic attacks are at risk of developing deeper anxiety disorders as they often fixate on the attacks, the triggers, and situations, and try to avoid them.
Panic attacks often display symptoms that center on the chest: heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and chest pain. They can also be accompanied by an overwhelming sense of doom.
Social Anxiety Disorder
When people, especially strangers, are the root of the anxiety, the problem falls under the social anxiety disorder category.
There has been a strong uptick in this post-pandemic social anxiety disorder. With a 5% increase in diagnosis, it has been an area of concern among both doctors and therapists across the country.
People suffering from social anxiety disorder have a deep-seated fear of judgment and messing up in front of other people.
In the post-pandemic world, this has taken on new aspects bordering on agoraphobia.
Crowds, people, strangers … for someone with social anxiety disorder these all cause stress and anxiety. They can cause panic attacks.
This fear can drive someone to retreat from everyday activities. Jobs, work, and social activities can become huge obstacles in the eyes of someone suffering from a social anxiety disorder. As things spiral, the retreat can reinforce the anxiety caused by life, effectively crippling someone.
People can have a rational and irrational fear of just about anything. These differ from other anxiety categories in that they are focused on a single item.
The list of phobias can cover anything.
They are categorized with anxiety disorders because they most often induce similar reactions to other anxiety responses.
Phobias cause people to go out of their way to avoid whatever their fear includes and when exposed to the object they react with extreme anxiety and can experience panic attacks.
Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders
Many of the subcategories of anxiety disorders are grouped because they cause similar symptoms. Much of what people deal with when suffering from anxiety can lead to degrees of paralysis and spiraling discomfort.
The reactions to anxiety reinforce the anxiety and build it up.
Here is a basic list of anxiety-induced symptoms. People who suffer from varied forms of anxiety disorder may have any combination of these problems.
- Restless or edgy
- Worn out
- Inability to handle basic tasks
- Pain, localized or widespread
- Trouble focusing or hyper-focused on a single issue
- Abnormal heart rate
- Feelings of lack of control, doom, morbidity
- Feeling judged
- Hyper aware of surrounding people
- Feeling trapped
- Excessive fear of a single object or situation
- Unnatural avoidance of a situation
- Trouble breathing
- Selective mutism
There are more specific symptoms of anxiety that derive from these basic experiences. At their core, they are triggers of the body’s fight-or-flight instincts. For whatever reason, the mind perceives items or situations as threatening to the body and triggers defensive measures.
Whether the root cause is prior trauma, chemical imbalances, drug-induced paranoia, or simply constructed reactions, anxiety is very real.
People who suffer from anxiety disorders can often feel like death is a real possibility.
What Causes Anxiety?
There is no definitive cause of anxiety, but much of what doctors see today is a combination of past trauma and brain chemistry.
Some people are predisposed to being more anxious than others. This has much to do with genetics and inherited brain chemistry. Different brains deal with life and stress in different ways. One child might deal with bullying by confronting and growing while another child might choose the flight option and hide.
Both of these options have the potential to cause anxiety later in life.
An auto accident as a teen can lead to anxiety over driving. A fall from a ladder can bring about panic attacks when an adult faces a ladder a few years later.
Experience is written into the brain and teaches the body how to respond to different circumstances. Sometimes those instances are isolated and other times they are so hardwired it affects the whole course of a person’s life.
Stress can also be a major cause of anxiety. Just like a single catastrophic episode can permanently alter a person, long periods of stress can lead to the same conclusion.
However, since everyone is an individual, there is no exact point at which a person will develop an anxiety disorder.
It is known that many drugs can cause anxiety. Cocaine, LSD, antihistamines, ADHD drugs, and even caffeine can have anxiety as a side effect. Many illegal drugs induce anxiety as a drug user comes down from their high.
In sum, there are many paths to anxiety. Each person will deal with those paths differently. Understanding that there is no single answer can help ease the feelings of inadequacy.
Anxiety and the Teenager
As with many mental issues, being a teen makes them more challenging.
From lack of experience to changing body chemistry to the social pressures of the teenage years, life can be exponentially more difficult to navigate than the later years.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the three main causes of teen anxiety stem from their changing bodies, social acceptance, and the changing role from child to young adult.
The result of these changes is an expected level of anxiety.
The biggest question is the degree to which the changes and anxiety will affect them. Some teens may simply go through an awkward phase while others will completely reinvent themselves.
Teens are individuals. They will adapt differently. Parents need to understand that flexibility on their part can aid in avoiding high levels of anxiety in their children.
The bottom line is that anxiety may manifest itself differently in every teenager.
Some teens may act out, some may withdraw, others will spend more time out of the household with their friends, and some may continue on their normal course.
The decision to treat anxiety stems from how severely it affects the life of the teen. Mild anxiety can be treated with some coping mechanisms while more pronounced anxiety may require medication to help a teen find success.
Since each case is individual, it also means that each case of anxiety disorder needs to be assessed individually.
Therapy and medication are the two main treatment options.
Therapy of Anxiety
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common form of treatment for anxiety. In sessions with a therapist, a patient is taught positive skills to deal with the anxiety.
This takes time and slowly re-teaches the brain to view the stress-inducing trigger in a more positive light.
In CBT a therapist may use this positive reinforcement and work through controlled exposure therapy. This works better with phobias and very specific anxiety triggers. Exposure therapy needs to be conducted in very controlled environments or it can compound the problems.
In both these scenarios, a therapist demonstrates to the patient the perceived source of anxiety is not a threat.
This can be achieved through taught breathing exercises or recited mantras. Or in the case of exposure therapy could involve overcoming fears of crowds by slowly taking steps to acclimate the patient to people in small, achievable doses.
Just like allergies can be countered with small doses of allergens in a controlled shot, a therapist can help a patient build up a tolerance to their triggers.
There are three main medications used to treat anxiety: buspirone, benzodiazepines and SSRI antidepressants, and other sedatives that can calm the anxiety.
The main problem with many antianxiety medications is the side effects, especially if used long-term. Doctors are aware of the potential problems and generally try to find the least potent option for successfully controlling anxiety.
One of the most problematic side effects is anxiety when discontinued. Patients can develop a dependency if they aren’t careful.
Just as touched upon with other mental issues, there are clear links between lifestyle and anxiety. Lifestyle choices and what a teen puts into their body have repercussions on the mind.
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High caffeine intake
- Recreational drug use
Lack of exercise can amplify anxiety. When the lack of energy output couples with the anxiety-ridden teenage years, simple problems become larger than life.
Teens love their energy drinks, but many of the side effects of too much caffeine mimic symptoms of anxiety.
As stated above, many recreational and prescribed drugs have anxiety as a side effect. Parents should be aware of the potential for anxiety in their children and talk to their doctors whenever taking a new medication.
Avery’s House Offers Teen Therapy for Anxiety
At Avery’s House, we work exclusively with teens to help solve problems. While anxiety is just one of those problems, it is something that we have years of experience helping teens with.
Whether your teen needs weekly therapy sessions or residential treatment, we work with most insurance providers to help out.
We pride ourselves in helping your child develop solid life skills to help deal with their anxiety.
Regardless of the level of their anxiety, we have the fully licensed staff to build the perfect plan to help you and your child find success. With full family therapy sessions, we not only help the teen but also help the whole family work together to create a supportive environment.
We offer a variety of programs to help craft the best experience in the middle of a tough situation.
You will find a variety of therapy styles offered to fit your teen’s needs. Also, we offer academic services, family services, and medication management services to cater to your needs.
Contact us today at Avery’s House to set up an appointment. We promise to help you pave the road to a successful tomorrow.