HELP FOR TEENS WITH GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD, is said to affect approximately three percent of the United States population, yearly.
Studies have indicated that woman are twice as likely to be affected by GAD. The exact cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder remains to be unknown. There are several factors, however that may contribute to one’s risk of GAD, which can include family background, life experiences, biological factors, and one’s personal health history. It is not uncommon for other anxiety disorders to co-occur in an individual with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Signs & Symptoms
According to the DSM-5, there are several common symptoms that can be exhibited in an individual who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These can include, but are not limited to the following:
• Difficulty concentrating
• Overwhelming worry and fear
• Muscle tension
• Sleep disturbances
• Low self-esteem/ low self-worth
• Worry/ Fear
Adults who struggle with GAD are diagnosed when he or she experiences at least three of the above symptoms for at least six months. In younger people, however, only one symptom is needed for diagnosis, as long as it has been exhibited somewhat regularly over a six-month period of time. The most common symptom of GAD manifests in worry and fear. This can leave a young person paralyzed by consistently worrying about various areas of his or her life, such as: one’s health, family, school, friends…etc. It is not uncommon for GAD to affect an individual’s social life, as he or she may find it difficult to be in challenging social situations. Additionally, friendships can be affected, as teenagers with GAD often struggle with their self-esteem, which impacts one’s ability to form healthy relationships with one’s peers. Teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder can experience symptoms all day, and in some cases, it can be every day and can often make it difficult for them to participate in their lives on a day-to-day basis with school participation as well as other activities.
There are many treatment options for GAD. Every teen is different and will respond to various treatment options differently. Some of the common treatment options include several different therapeutic methods such as expressive arts therapy, CBT, and mindfulness-based approaches. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a therapeutic approach that specifically works by focusing on one’s thoughts, behaviors, and physical symptoms. Many of the therapies will work to help an individual adjust and shift his or her relationship to one’s GAD symptoms. One of the primary goals of any kind of therapy in regards to Generalized Anxiety Disorder is to help an individual come to understand the nature of his or her own anxiety itself. This will, hopefully, result in a teenager being less fearful of the anxiety itself, and help him or her to make choices independent of the presence of anxiety. In essence, the goal is to put the teen back in the driver seat of his or her life, instead of allowing one’s anxiety to run one’s life.
Another common treatment option for young people with GAD is medication. There are several different types of SSRIs that are often prescribed for individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. SSRIs are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Some of the common SSRIs that are often prescribed for GAD include Lexapro (escitalopram), Zoloft (sertraline), and Prozac (fluoxetine). At Pacific Teen Treatment, we are always conservative with medication – it is never the first option and we will always consult with parents to receive their approval before administering medication. When authorized by family we will also work in conjunction with outpatient psychiatrists to assure a strong continuity of care.
While our residential program has a heavy focus on therapy in order to be of the most help to our families it’s essential that we treat the whole person including daily exercise, nutrition and general self-care. Another common treatment option that can be used as a compliment to other treatment methods is practicing various relaxation techniques. For example, meditation, yoga, and exercise are all excellent ways to help keep an individual healthy and help balance one’s anxiety. Integrating these relaxation tools and other holistic approaches can be very helpful in one’s recovery process from Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. In order to maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Seeking support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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