Anxiety is a feeling of excessive worry of fear that something bad is going to happen. It can be a response to any event or situation. Negative thoughts generate in the minds of the individuals which make them feel restless and uncontrollable. Sometimes these thoughts or apprehensions do not relate to any specific event or situation but still the person shows anxious behavior and sometimes the person keeps on being anxious even after the event or situation had passed. Anxiety is an emotion like all other emotions.
Each and every one of us show anxiety at some point of time during the day which is very normal. It is a natural human behavior. The problem starts when this anxiety makes you so overwhelming that it obstructs your daily activities and also disrupts your sleep at night because of over thinking which does not relate with the situation. The exact cause of anxiety is not known but it can be genetic, or sometimes the stressful life events that had happened in a person’s life or it can be a learned behavior.
Born and brought up in a family where people are afraid or fearful and show anxious behavior can also make the child think that the world is a dangerous place to live in.
During childhood, children are anxious or worried about many things like, darkness, certain animals like dog, cat, lizard or being alone, leaving a parent while going to school, meeting an unknown guest and so on. As said earlier that somewhat anxiety is normal, therefore sometimes, the anxiety during childhood goes away as the child grows. But can also continue in teenage if it is intense during childhood and not taken care of by parents or the care givers. If the parents are able to understand their child’s anxious behavior at the childhood stage and takes care of it themselves by handling it skillfully or gets it treated professionally, it is likely to fade away in teenage.
It is important to understand that teenage anxiety is different from childhood anxiety. Teenage is a very sensitive period for the teenagers because of hormonal changes that occur in their bodies. Due to these hormonal changes, the teens also have to face many crucial developmental changes in them. These developmental milestones occur physically, mentally, intellectually and socially. All these changes put a lot of pressure on them and the teens suffer from stress. Stress generates anxiety and it can take the shape of anxiety disorders in them if the symptoms are not recognized and taken care of on time by the parents or other care givers.
Why this anxiety?
The anxiety in teenagers is for certain specific reasons which need to be understood. Let us talk know about them:
Along with the social, emotional and physical changes, there are also some remarkable changes in the brains of the teenagers. Their thinking pattern changes which is quite different from that of small children. They no more think like young kids. They start understanding and thinking more abstractly. They are able to understand people better. They develop the ability to think and reason logically more than it was earlier. They are now able to analyze the situations with –if possibilities about the world. Although, at this stage, they can perceive others better but they still think that their own ideas are true and want to rely on them. This is perhaps, the reason of frequent conflicts between the teenagers and their parent. In a nut shell, all these changes (social, physical, cognitive) and the challenges coming with them put a lot of pressure on the teens which is the main cause for teenage anxiety.
The different kind of pressures resulting in teenage anxiety
1. Parental pressure
It is generally seen that teenagers are in conflict with their parents most of the time. This conflict can be due to many things, like:
Conflict on physical appearance
Conflict on dressing sense
Conflict on eating habits
Conflict on sleeping pattern
Conflict on friends
Conflict on leisure time
Conflict on screen time
Conflict on being disorganized
Conflict on kind of music they listen
Teens think their parents to be unnecessarily dominating and unreasonable and parents on the other hand feel so overwhelmed that they fail to understand as to why their so obedient child has suddenly changed and not agreeing easily to what they are saying, which he used to do earlier, happily.
2. Academic Pressure
It is not only the parental pressure but they have to face a lot of pressure from school, teachers and the academics like, completing the assignments on time, keeping pace with their classmates and also in extra-curricular activities, in sports and so on. The teenagers are now ready to perform on a bigger stage coming out from primary to middle school and from middle to senior school. This creates a lot of academic pressure on them. They are very concerned about their grades and feel bad if they don’t meet their own expectations. They don’t want the teachers to point them out for any reason. It is all a transformational period. They are now seeking new experiences and more independence. Amidst all this, it is very natural for the teens to feel anxious about all these changes, experiences and challenges.
Peer pressure is internal or external pressure felt to behave in a certain way to fit in. Peer groups play an important role in the life of teenagers. They are more focused on their friends during this time or we can rather say that, they are more influenced by their peers. They have so much peer pressure or peer influence that it’s very easy for them to be overwhelmed and follow the group. The peer pressure begins as early as 10yrs to 19yrs of age by forming social groups in elementary school and increases during adolescence throughout middle and senior school. Kids want to be accepted by their peers so they will often do several things to impress them. Some feel that since others are doing it so they have to do it in order to fit in. This can also lead the teen to become a victim of bullying by the peers. Therefore, this fitting in thinking creates a lot of pressure resulting in anxiety.
Pressure of self-image/self-identity
It is how you perceive yourself. It is a number of self- expressions that have been built up over time since our childhood through learning. These impressions can be very positive, making the person confident in his thinking and can be negative also making the person doubtful about his/her capabilities. The teens are always in a dilemma to find out answers to the questions like, “Who am I?”, “Where do I fit in?” They are always trying to find out their identity. This happens because they are sometimes considered as adults by their parents in certain situations as well as considered as kids in some other situations. It’s all about the way they think about themselves. Negative self-image can lead to low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Teens being sensitive during this time become very judgmental of themselves, their physical appearance, their talents, their performance in class and their personality traits. This again creates stress and anxiety in them.
Teens also have to face social pressure that creates anxiety in them. They are many times expected to behave in a particular way in order to be accepted by the society. They are pressurized to follow certain traditions and customs in mannerism, dressing up, morals and values, religious system. As they seek independence and privacy during this time, they also sometimes avoid going to social gatherings like parties, wedding functions but due familial pressure they are expected to attend them.
Anxiety from social media
Social media has become one of the biggest causes of anxiety in teenagers now days. Teens spend most of their time on gadgets either on mobile phones or computers. Gone are the days when children used to play outdoor games in their leisure time. Now, they prefer slouching on their beds or chairs and spend time on video games or browsing on social media like, face-book, Instagram, WhatsApp, twitter, snapchat etc. Putting stories on all these apps has become the latest trend among teens. These stories mostly are either exaggerated or fake in order to show off to their friends. This results in anxiety in teens in order to be in this rat race and not be left behind.
Gender based anxiety
Girls are more prone to be anxious than boys because they are more concerned about their looks and how others would perceive them. They are more conscious about their physical appearance.
Teenage is also the time where they become conscious about their gender. Aligning themselves to male and female gender. But teenagers who are unable to do so develop immense amount of anxiety since identifying oneself as the opposite gender can be a huge taboo and a huge challenge to come out with different sexual orientations or gender identification.
To sum up, teenagers feel most anxious about doing good in all situations. They are always after perfectionism. They are always fearful about their low performance be it academics or fitting in or being accepted by others, specifically by their peers. The thought of how they will be perceived by others create intense anxiety in them. They are always worried about feeling stupid in front of others by doing something embarrassing. Therefore, they strive hard to be perfect, as a result, end up feeling anxious and face other physical problems that come with anxiety.
Symptoms of anxiety:
Teenage anxiety most of the time is left untreated because they are very good at hiding it. Some of the symptoms of anxiety that can be seen in teenagers are:
2. Poor concentration
3. Low grades
4. Social withdrawal
5. Refusal to go to school
6. Recurring fears and doubts
7. Need of repeated assurance
8. Disturbed sleep
9. Avoiding difficult or new situations or events
10. Substance abuse. (alcohol/smoking)
11. Frequent stomach or headaches.
Treatment for teenage anxiety:
The best and most effective treatment for teenage anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT). It’s the therapy in which the counselor works on the thinking pattern of the subject. CBT helps to channelize the thoughts in the right direction and breaks the negative thought pattern, as a result of which the individual is able to rationalize the situations and think logically about it. If the need requires, anti-depressants can also be combined with counseling which is again very effective.
Parents are the role models of their children and no one, other than parents, know, what is good for their child. Parents can be an effective source of motivation in helping their anxious teenager to come out of this problem. To know more about Parents Role to help out their Teenager to overcome anxiety check out this post.
By being a little careful and observant, you can very well manage the teenage anxiety and help your child to live a productive life.
Special note for the parents: Unconditional love and support given to the teens by their parents works wonders for them and helps to shape up the whole personality of the child and is the best treatment for anxiety.