Anxiety in Adolescents
According to the National Institute of Health, about 1 in 3 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18 may have an anxiety disorder. The number is on the rise; between 2007 and 2012, anxiety disorders in children and adolescents increased by 20%.
These statistics, combined with the fact that the rate of hospital admissions of adolescents who attempt suicide has also doubled in the past decade, leave us with alarming questions.
What is causing the increase in adolescents with severe anxiety? How did we get here?
What is going on? Although we don’t know for sure, there is a cluster of factors that may be contributing. In addition to genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events, consider the following:
High expectations and pressure to succeed. Between standardized testing and cultural achievement, today’s youth feel pressure to succeed in other ways that previous generations did not. An annual survey conducted by “Higher Education Research” asks first-year college enrollees if they feel overwhelmed with all they have to do. In 2016, 41% of students answered “yes,” compared to 28% in 2000 and 18% in 1985.
A world that seems scary and threatening. We have witnessed an increase in school shootings, causing drills and school lockdowns or lockdowns. We have seen shootings in public places. There have been terrorist attacks here in the United States and around the world that have resulted in many loss of life. One only has to watch or read the news to know that many may feel afraid to be in public places where they once felt safe.
Social media. Today’s children and teens are constantly connected to social networks. Not surprisingly, their self-esteem and how they view the world are connected to what is posted (comments) on social media. It is hard for them not to compare their life and social connections to what they see others posting on social media.
There are also some children who have unexpected and disproportionate reactions to normal developmental experiences, such as going to school, going to a party, having a sleepover, or going to camp; children who become overly preoccupied with activities of daily living. This often occurs in the years leading up to puberty.
Whatever the cause, this increased anxiety is a real problem for our youth.
Chronic anxiety can lead to serious mental health problems, depression, substance use, and even suicide. It can interfere with the ability to focus and learn which can lead to problems in school, which can have a long-term impact. It can also lead to physical problems, such as headaches, chronic pain, digestive problems, and heart disease later in life.
Anxiety disorders cut across all demographic groups, suburban (peri-urban), urban and rural. They affect those who attend college and those who do not.
That being the case, what can parents, teachers, and everyone else who interacts with children and adolescents do?
Be aware of the symptoms of anxiety. Sometimes children can tell they are anxious, but other times it is not so clear, especially when they themselves do not realize it. The following are some signs:
- Recurring fears and worries about parts of everyday routines.
- Behavioral changes, such as irritability.
- Avoidance of certain activities, school, or social interactions.
- Poor grades or avoidance of school.
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating.
- Substance use or other risky behaviors.
- Complaints of physical problems, such as fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches.
Talk to children about possible stressors. Try to see the world the way they do, and help them keep perspective and find ways to cope.
Be aware of the expectations you set for children and adolescents. Having high expectations can help children reach their potential, but they must be realistic. Not only that, but remember that children need time to relax, play and spend time with friends, all of which are crucial to their physical and mental health. And it’s important for all of us to remember that there is more to life than achievement.
Talk to children about their use of social media. Help them take breaks, and help them think critically and rationally about the effect social media has on their lives. Try to see how you can connect with your teen about appropriate and safe media use. Please take a moment to visit their web page to find out more about the best cbd for anxiety uk.