Being a teenager is difficult enough in its own right. There's so much changing in their lives that it's normal for them to feel the strain. However, those feelings can quite easily roll over into anxiety. What do you do when your teenager is suffering with these feelings?
Luckily, anxiety can easily be treated, and with a little help and support from you, your teen will be able to cope. Here's how to help them when this happens.
What is anxiety?
First of all, you need to know what anxiety is. In small does, anxiety is normal and expected. Everyone needs to feel some anxiety, or they wouldn't be alert for potential dangers. However, anxiety becomes a problem when it interferes with everyday life. If your teen is struggling to control their worries, or feels unable to do certain activities due to their worries, they may have problems with anxiety.
Common symptoms to look out for
Everybody's anxiety levels are different, so you need to look out for issues that stop your teen living their everyday life. These can include:
- Heightened emotions: Your teen may feel things more strongly, so they could burst into tears easily, or become angry much more quickly than usual.
- Physical responses: Anxiety triggers the 'fight or flight' response, so they may experience symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, or dizziness.
- Problems sleeping: Teens sleep patterns can be irregular for a number of reasons, but anxiety can cause your teen to stay up at night due to worry.
How you can help
There are several ways you can support your teen when they're experiencing anxiety:
- Reassure them you're here for them: Tell them that they can talk to you about their worries. They may not want to at first, so don't push it. When they do share their worries, be sure not to judge. Just give them a space to talk about their feelings.
- Help them deconstruct their fears: Anxiety can make problems seem insurmountable, leading to a cycle of worry your teen can't break out of. Help them by pulling apart the thing they're worried about. For example, if they're anxious about the test, ask them what the worst thing is that could happen. Find ways to make that fear smaller. For example, if they fail the test, they could retake it.
- Value your teen's feelings: If you teen shares their feelings with you, don't dismiss them. It can be tempting to if they're irrational feelings ('my life will be over if I mess up this presentation at school'), but it feels real to them. If you tell them 'it's nothing' or 'you'll get over it', they may not come to you again.
When to look for outside help
Some anxiety is normal, but there is a point when it tips over into being a problem. If your teen is struggling to take part in day to day activities, having feelings that cause them serious distress, or struggling to share their issues with you, they may benefit from outside help.
Consult your family doctor in the first instance, and they can recommend a course of action. It may be a course of medication, or some talking therapy, or perhaps both. Encourage your teen to try them, as catching these issues early is the key to helping them get back on their feet.
Hopefully now you're feeling more equipped to help your teen if they have anxiety. Make it clear that you care, and you're here for them, and they'll have a strong support network to fall back on.