Anxiety in Adolescents: Is It Normal Teen Stress: Or an Anxiety Disorder?
By Linda Hepler
Most adults have a lot to worry about â€“ paying the bills, staying healthy, making sure the family is safe and happy, doing a good job at work, spending enough time with a spouse or significant other, and so on. So it can be surprising to a parent to learn that teens also have a lot on their minds.
Normal Teen Worry or Anxiety Disorder?
While mild worry and stress can be healthy coping mechanisms that enable teens to deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life, constant worrying can be a sign of a bigger problem. If your teen is worrying for no apparent reason, or if anxiety is affecting their quality of life, an anxiety disorder may be the cause.
Here are a few symptoms of anxiety disorders in teens:
- Excessive, persistent worry and tension
- Restlessness or irritability
- Physical complaints such as muscle tension, headaches, nausea, exhaustion, trembling or sweating
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Being easily startled
Anxiety disorders can occur in people of all ages, and are the most common mental health problems in children and adolescents. It is estimated that as many as 10 percent of all children suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Causes of Anxiety Disorder
The causes of anxiety disorder are widely unknown. While scientists agree that there is a genetic component, it is also possible that brain chemistry and environmental factors, such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce or changing jobs or schools, are at the root of the disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
The following are the most common anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder â€“ a disorder characterized by physical symptoms (such as chest pain, headaches, fatigue, tension and nausea), excessive worry and feelings of dread
- Panic Attacks â€“ sudden and intense episodes of anxiety
- Social Anxiety Disorder â€“ anxiety triggered by social situations
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder â€“ a disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder â€“ an anxiety disorder brought on by a traumatic experience
- Phobias â€“ intense fears of things or situations that pose no real danger
Other mental health issues, such as depression, substance abuse and eating disorders, can occur alongside an anxiety disorder, making diagnosis and treatment more complex.
If your teen experiences anxiety that impacts their school work, relationships or overall quality of life, speak with a mental health professional. Treatment for teen anxiety can include therapy, medication or a combination of the two.