Has your teenager expressed that they’re dealing with anxiety? While many people are under the impression that mental illness is exclusive to adults, this isn’t true. 7.1% of minors in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety (and many go undiagnosed).
Your child is just as capable of having mental struggles as you are, and it’s important to support them if you want to maintain a healthy relationship.
Many parents don’t know how to help a teenager with anxiety. This results in stressed teenagers, poor performance in school, and strained parent-child relationships.
We’re here to help. Keep reading to learn how to provide emotional support for teens with anxiety.
How Do I Know If My Teenager Has Anxiety?
In reality, many teens experience some form of anxiety without having an anxiety condition. It’s normal to be stressed out at school, nervous in social situations, or have stage fright, and these are things that all teenagers have to deal with.
It’s also normal to be emotional. Teenagers are dealing with puberty and floods of new hormones. They have volatile emotions that they may have difficulty controlling, and while they may not be able to tell the difference between that and a mental health issue, there is a distinction.
Teens are experiencing many things for the first time. This makes them more extreme. For example, a first-time breakup can be the end of the world for a teenager, even if an adult may think that they’re “dramatic.”
While these emotions are valid and real, mental health conditions are different.
Anxiety doesn’t go away easily. There’s an undercurrent of anxiety underneath all interactions and actions, even if it isn’t active. A few common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Anxiety in “unreasonable” situations
- Acting out
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Digestive issues
- Panic attacks
- Fear of going outside
- A constant worry that “something bad will happen”
This is when it’s time to seek professional opinions.
What Kind of Treatment Can I Seek?
There are plenty of ways to treat anxiety. Look online to find a treatment center that accepts minors as patients. These centers know how to deal with the extra complications that come with teenage patients.
Look into their modes of treatment. All treatment centers should include several kinds of counseling or therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and talk therapy. These serve different purposes, and different teens will respond better to one or the other (or both) depending on the root of their anxiety.
You can also seek out medication.
Can My Teenager Take Anxiety Medication?
While medication is more popular for adults, there’s nothing wrong with prescribing medication for teenagers’ mental health.
While medication should be used in tandem with counseling, it can help your child go through their day-to-day lives with less anxiety when they cannot use coping mechanisms from therapy.
Medication can be used either short or long-term. It can be for emergencies or as a constant medication to prevent symptoms. Talk to the mental health professional about choosing the right medication for your teenager.
How to Help a Teenager With Anxiety at Home
There are several ways to support your child when they’re not in professional treatment. This home-support is just as important as medical support, as your child needs to know that their family is a valid support system that they can rely on.
Here are a few tips.
Be an Active Listener
It’s easy to dismiss your child’s anxiety and emotions, but you need to make an effort to listen to them and understand what they’re going through. Empathy makes them feel more heard.
When they come to you, listen and respond to their concerns. Ask them if they want advice, support, or just someone to listen to them.
Do Bonding Exercises
Part of providing a good support system is maintaining a family unit that’s bonded. Try some family bonding activities (or bonding activities between the two of you) to show them that they’re not alone.
These can include:
- Family outings to favorite or new places
- Taking fun classes together
- Playing games
- Going on hikes
- Creating a family exercise routine
- Making sure that you eat dinner together
If you’re unsure what to do, ask your teenager what they need to feel bonded and supported. They’re more aware of their needs than you are.
Encourage Helpful Outlets
Sometimes a good outlet for emotions or excess energy is a key part of healing and managing anxiety. Encourage your child to engage in new things to find an outlet that’s right for them.
This may take some trial and error. Different teens have different interests. Some may want to do physical activities like exercise or sports to help quiet their minds down, while others will be more interested in creative outlets that allow them to release emotions healthily.
Some common outlets include:
- Team sports
- Dance classes
- Art classes
- Cooking classes
- Programming classes
- Creative writing
- Extracurricular academic teams (like debate team)
Try several of these to see what your teenager likes best, but don’t push them into something they don’t want to do. Gentle encouragement is okay.
Try to provide a stress-free environment at home while your child is going through anxiety treatment. While they need to manage stress on their own in the future, having a calm home environment will help their healing.
If they deal with social anxiety, don’t force them to interact with new people or even family members if they aren’t up to the task. While you need to help them maintain structure in their lives (after all, teens need boundaries to thrive), don’t rush them.
When they’re “being emotional” or having trouble with tasks like cleaning or bathing, use gentle encouragement instead of scolding. Remember, anxiety can present as laziness.
Does Your Teenager Have Anxiety?
Providing emotional support for teens with anxiety is crucial for their healing journey. If they express concerns, don’t brush them off. Their feelings are real and valid.
It’s time to find a treatment center that knows how to help a teenager with anxiety. Whether they need counseling, medication, or both, starting now will help them thrive.
We’re here to help. At the Mental Health Center of San Diego, we know how to treat teenagers with anxiety. We have helpful payment plans, and we take most forms of private insurance. Contact us to get started.