Helping A Teen Cope With Anxiety Attacks

 

parent comforting her teen with anxiety

Anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction to stress. Adolescence is an incredibly challenging time, and teenagers experiencing bouts of anxiety is to be expected. However, experiencing random and/ or frequent anxiety attacks may suggest a deeper mental health issue is at play. Anxiety disorders, for example, involve excessive feelings of nervousness, anxiousness, fear and anxiety. According to the American Psychiatric Association there are several different types of anxiety disorders, some of which include: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia). 

Anxiety disorders are highly common. The exact cause for developing an anxiety disorder remains unknown. Research suggests that it is likely due to a combination of contributing factors such as psychological, environmental, genetic, and developmental factors. Regardless of whether your teen is experiencing anxiety attacks as a symptom of another condition or not, there are several ways you can help them cope with anxiety attacks. It is also important to note that simply because your teenager experiences anxiety attacks does not unequivocally mean he or she is struggling with an anxiety disorder. 

Signs and Symptoms

In order to provide your teen with the best support in navigating an anxiety attack it is essential to be aware of common signs and symptoms. Medical News Today provides the following examples of signs and symptoms that may present with an anxiety attack:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pain
  • Being easily startled
  • Fear 
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Irritability
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Loss of concentration
  • Sleep disturbances
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Restlessness 
  • Feeling of choking
  • Worry and/ or distress

Anxiety attacks can range in severity and duration. Each teen is unique and as such different triggers can initiate anxiety attacks in different teenagers. Typically, the symptoms of anxiety attacks come on suddenly, and the intense symptoms can leave a young person experiencing residual effects of anxiety long after (e.g. hours, weeks, or even months) an anxiety attack has subsided. 

How To Help

It can be highly unnerving to watch your teenager experience an anxiety attack, and often it leaves parents feeling helpless. Fortunately, there are several tips that can help you can help your teenager learn to cope with his or her anxiety attacks. Consider the following:

  1. Name what is occurring in the moment: many young people experiencing anxiety attacks are confused, scared and unsure if the symptoms of the anxiety attack will ever subside. 
  2. Remain calm: even though witnessing your teen go through acute anxiety can be emotional for a parent, allowing your teenager see that you are calm can be deescalating.
  3. Breathe: facilitate breathing exercises with your teen to help pull the focus away from their symptoms and onto their breath. 
  4. Acknowledge their feelings: if your teen shares how they are feeling during an anxiety attack do not dismiss your teens feelings, as that can exacerbate the symptoms of their anxiety attack.

If your teen is experiencing frequent anxiety attacks it is best to err on the side of caution and have your teen get evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. At the vary least, they can provide you with further guidance as to how to continue to best support your teenager. 

For Information and Support

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 for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at info@pacificrtc.com.