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Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress and has been explained as “the body’s automatic fight-or-flight response that is triggered when you feel threatened, under pressure, or are facing a challenging situation…” It is impossible to move through your adolescence without feelings of anxiety. While fleeting anxiety is unavoidable, it is atypical to experience persistent and debilitating symptoms of anxiety. An adolescent may be struggling with an anxiety disorder when pervasive anxiety interferes with his or her ability to function in daily life. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) asserts: “Anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions, each having unique symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening.” There are currently five distinct types of anxiety disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). They include the following: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia). According to Johns Hopkins Medicine anxiety disorders affect up to 18% of the population, making it the most common mental health condition in the United States.

What To Do

Fortunately, there are an array of effective coping mechanisms and anxiety management strategies that can help to prevent, reduce, manage, and even become more resilient towards anxiety. Consider the following suggestions and simple tips to help relieve symptoms of anxiety:

  1. Breathe: focus on slowing down your breath to help pull your attention away from your symptoms of anxiety and onto your breath.
  2. Explore relaxation methods: try out different relaxation tactics like meditation, journaling, listening to music, etc.
  3. Exercise: regular exercise can not only help you remain physically fit, but also provides a natural release of endorphins, elevating your mood.
  4. Get creative: engaging in creativity can be an excellent emotional outlet; consider taking a painting class, try out ceramics, take a cooking class, etc.
  5. Focus on external stimuli: look around you and notice tangible items in your surroundings; this can be both grounding and helpful in gaining perspective over your anxiety.
  6. Acknowledge your feelings: although it may seem that your anxiety will last forever, it won’t; by acknowledging and naming your feelings you can help diffuse your angst.

It is important to note that anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that require formal, individualized treatment.

Formal Treatment

There are a variety of approaches to treating teenagers with an anxiety disorder. The two main treatments for an anxiety disorder include psychotherapy and medication, and they are not mutually exclusive. There are different types of therapeutic modalities that may be integrated into one’s treatment plan, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). Some adolescents diagnosed with an anxiety disorder may benefit from including medication into the treatment plan, in conjunction with various therapeutic methods. The different types of medications prescribed for teenage anxiety disorders include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). Any young person in treatment for an anxiety disorder will benefit most from a nuanced treatment plan that carefully incorporates the best possible therapeutic methods and are specifically geared to each teen’s personal needs.

For Information and Support 

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. 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 needs 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. Pursuing 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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