Anxiety is a normal response by the body when stress or danger looms. We’ve all been there – and can probably remember those anxiety-inducing situations that are very common in our teenage years. You walk into a class before an important test, and you feel your heart beat a little faster. You think to yourself “What if I fail?” Your palms might get a little sweaty while the tests are passed out. You see the questions, and heave a sigh of relief. It’s just what you studied last night. Your anxious body returns to normal and you take the test.
“Some degree of anxiety is normal – and even helpful – in stressful situations,” says Danelle Stabel, D.O., a Henry Ford pediatrician. “However, when teens are unable to stop worrying about things or it begins to affect their day-to-day function, then it is important to seek care.”
Anxiety can cause overly anxious teens to withdraw from activities because of fear that doesn’t go away. Excessive anxiety, and the withdrawal that may accompany it, can hamper social and academic progress, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).
“There is so much pressure on teens now,” notes Dr. Stabel. “Anxiety is very common in teens, with an estimated prevalence of about 25-30 percent of adolescents experiencing these symptoms.”
The number of teens with anxiety disorders has been on the rise lately, an increase that Dr. Stabel says she has seen in her practice.
“We’re not sure if more teens are anxious than in the past, or if they are just more willing to talk about symptoms,” says Dr. Stabel.
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Signs of Anxiety and How You Can Help
A hallmark of someone suffering with anxiety is excessive worry, often about health, safety, social pressures and relationships, family and school work. This worrying goes on every day, possibly all day. Symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Feeling “keyed up” or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
The ADAA says two important ways parents can help their anxious teen are paying attention to your son or daughter’s feelings and staying calm when your teen becomes anxious about a situation or event. You can also learn how to cope with their anxiety.
“In teens with mild anxiety, there is evidence that self-treatment with relaxation techniques and mindfulness can be very helpful,” adds Dr. Stabel.
However, teens with greater levels of anxiety warrant further attention. “In teens with severe anxiety or who find that their worries don’t improve with some of these self-treatment techniques, it’s important to seek treatment and know that help is available.”
If your teen is experiencing anxiety and you’re looking for help, talk with your pediatrician or primary care provider, who can help manage the symptoms and/or help you find other resources if necessary. To make an appointment, call 1-800-HENRYFORD or visit henryford.com.
Dr. Danelle Stabel is a pediatrician seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Troy.