Anxiety can be one of the most unpleasant emotions that people feel. The word “anxiety” describes periods of fear, worry, nervousness, and restlessness. It comes with thoughts of danger and helplessness.
Life experiences, especially those that occurred in childhood and adolescence, often determine our perception and expectations of threats and vulnerability. We react with physical symptoms to prepare for perceived “danger”; this is often called the "fight or flight response." These symptoms can include -- but are not limited to -- rapid heartbeat, sweating, light-headedness, difficulty breathing, fatigue, nausea or abdominal distress.
Anxiety moves among family members initiating a vicious cycle of worry from one family member to the next. For example, children can take on their parents’ anxiety. As parents notice the symptoms of anxiety in their children, their own anxiety increases which, in turn, elevates the child’s anxiety.
Parenting a teenager can be very difficult. Inherently with the developmental stage of adolescence teenagers face many changes, uncertainties, and pressures:
- Physical changes in puberty perpetuate teens’ focus on body image and looks,
- Social acceptance and peer relationships become a priority,
- School responsibilities are increased,
- Many teenagers get jobs for the first time and/or are heading for college -- an area that is unknown for them,
- Applying to colleges during this time is a very stressful time with the anticipation of acceptance/rejection letters.
Teens experience conflicts regarding independence as they transition from childhood to adulthood. Anxiety in this developmental stage can sometimes become chronic and interfere with the teen's balancing academic performance with extracurricular activities and maintaining social and family relationships.
Parents who are overprotective and manage their children’s responsibilities, such as reminding them about school assignments, waking them up in the morning, doing their laundry and other things for them that they should be doing for themselves fosters dependence, not independence. This alone can create anxiety in teenagers who then believe they are not capable on their own.
Allowing our child to learn by making their own mistakes fosters a good sense of self and self-esteem. Children who are not permitted to think for themselves and solve their own problems have a heightened need for attention and approval, and have difficulty with expectations. They also may have a tendency to blame themselves or others, and feel responsible for the happiness of others.
Anxiety disorders vary from teenager to teenager. Symptoms can include:
- Excessive fears and worries,
- Feelings of social incompetence,
- Physical symptoms (noted above).
If you notice a change in behavior such as sleeping too much, lack of interest in their activities, isolation, depression, and change in appetite, it is best to seek medical attention for an evaluation.
The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, offers individual and family therapy to assist teenagers in reducing anxiety through techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation training, and mindfulness. We follow a family systems approach to therapy and may include family members in our sessions upon consent. Call 908-322-0112 to schedule an appointment. We are available day, evening and weekend hours. Visit www.hellenictherapy.com.