It’s normal to feel anxious when faced with new or challenging situations, but for some teens and young adults, anxiety can become overwhelming. Anxiety can cause physical and emotional symptoms that can interfere with everyday life, making it difficult to focus on school, work, and relationships. Understanding the causes and treatments of anxiety is an important step in helping teens and young adults manage their mental health.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural and common emotional response that everyone experiences from time to time. It is a feeling of unease, worry, or fear that can be triggered by various situations or circumstances. While anxiety is a normal part of life, for many teens and young adults, it can become overwhelming and interfere with their daily functioning.
For teens and young adults, anxiety can be particularly challenging as they navigate the transitions and pressures of adolescence and early adulthood. Academic expectations, social interactions, forming personal identities, and planning for the future can all contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Signs of Anxiety
- Racing heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating or trembling
- Restlessness or feeling on-edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach or nausea
- Avoidance of certain situations, people, or activities that may trigger anxiety.
Causes of Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults
Since adolescence and early adulthood are transformative periods filled with opportunities, growth, and challenges, it is during these years that many teens and young adults experience anxiety. Understanding the specific pressures and triggers that affect this demographic is crucial in providing the right support and guidance.
Some of the following pressures are common among young adults & teens:
Academic Pressure: Teens and young adults often face immense academic pressure, striving to meet high expectations from schools, parents, and peers. The stress of exams, grades, college applications, and the pursuit of future goals can contribute to anxiety.
Social Expectations: The desire to fit in, form meaningful connections, and establish a sense of identity can be sources of anxiety for many young people. Navigating social situations, peer relationships, and the fear of judgment or rejection can intensify these feelings.
Transitions and Change: Adolescence and early adulthood are marked by significant transitions, such as moving to a new school or college, starting a job, or leaving the comfort of home. These changes can disrupt familiar routines and create uncertainty, leading to anxiety.
Performance Anxiety: Whether it’s in sports, creative pursuits, or public speaking, the fear of failure or judgment can trigger performance anxiety in teens and young adults. The pressure to excel or meet perceived expectations can contribute to heightened stress and anxiety.
Technology and Social Media: The ever-present influence of technology and social media can both connect and isolate teens and young adults. The constant comparison, cyberbullying, and the fear of missing out can exacerbate anxiety and impact mental well-being.
Family Dynamics: Family dynamics and relationships play a significant role in the development of anxiety. Factors such as high parental expectations, family conflicts, or a history of anxiety disorders within the family can contribute to anxiety symptoms in teens and young adults.
Types of Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorders encompass a range of conditions characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, and apprehension. Understanding the various types of anxiety disorders can help individuals and their loved ones recognize the specific symptoms and seek appropriate support.
General Anxiety Disorder or GAD
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is marked by chronic and excessive worry about various aspects of life, such as work, school, relationships, health, and everyday situations. People with GAD often experience physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, fatigue, and nausea.
Social Anxiety Disorder or SAD
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive fear of social situations and interactions, leading to avoidance. People with SAD may experience feelings of intense self-consciousness, worry about being judged or embarrassed, and difficulty connecting with others.
Panic Disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks, sudden episodes of intense fear or discomfort accompanied by physical symptoms like chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and a sense of impending doom. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly or in specific situations, leading to an increased fear of future attacks.
Specific Phobias are intense and irrational fears of specific objects, activities, or situations. Common phobias include fear of public speaking, heights, animals, or enclosed spaces. Symptoms may include sweating, trembling, heart palpitations, and a desire to flee from the feared object or situation.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by excessive worry and distress when separated from loved ones or familiar environments. People with Separation Anxiety Disorder may experience physical symptoms like nausea, headaches, and difficulty breathing, as well as persistent fears of losing or forgetting important people in their lives.
Agoraphobia is characterized by a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassing, leading to avoidance of activities and situations. People with agoraphobia may be afraid of crowds, being in public places, or being outside their comfort zone.
While Obsessive-Compulive Disorder or OCD is primarily considered a separate disorder, it often involves significant anxiety. OCD is characterized by intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions) performed to alleviate anxiety. Common signs of OCD include excessive washing or cleaning, checking behaviors, and intrusive thoughts.
If left untreated, anxiety can cause serious physical and emotional health problems. Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options available to help manage and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a widely recognized and effective therapy for anxiety disorders. It focuses on changing negative thought patterns, learning to identify and manage triggers of anxiety, facing fears, and improving coping skills.
Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a specific form of CBT that involves controlled and gradual exposure to anxiety-inducing situations or triggers. This type of therapy helps individuals confront their fears and learn to manage anxiety in a safe environment.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on acceptance and change, helping individuals become aware of challenging emotions and learn to manage them in healthy ways.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Medication is typically prescribed by a psychiatrist or other medical professional, and may include benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, and atypical antidepressants. It is important to speak with your doctor or therapist about which medication(s) may be most effective in helping to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:
Mindfulness-based therapies have been found to help youth manage anxiety. Mindfulness teaches us to observe our thoughts and feelings without judgment. With practice, mindfulness can help us develop more control over our reactions and emotions, as well as feel calmer during times of stress.
Healthy life choices are paramount in managing youth anxiety. Eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, and limiting electronic media usage can all play a role in reducing anxiety symptoms. If anxiety issues persist, think about your daily habits and make modifications that create a sense of balance in your life.
Dayrise Wellness takes a holistic approach to anxiety treatment, recognizing the importance of addressing all aspects of an individual’s well-being. Making sure to incorporate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual components into therapy helps to reduce anxiety symptoms and develop positive coping skills.
Anxiety Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between anxiety and stress?
Anxiety and stress are both normal responses to challenging situations, but they differ in terms of intensity, duration, and symptoms. Stress is usually short-term and can be a response to everyday life events or demands. Anxiety is usually more intense than stress, lasts longer, and has specific physical symptoms that may include heart palpitations or difficulty breathing.
Can anxiety make it feel like I'm having physical symptoms?
Yes, anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as headache, nausea, stomachache, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. It is important to speak with your doctor or therapist if you are experiencing persistent physical symptoms in order to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Where can I find more resources on anxiety?
Are panic attacks caused by anxiety?
Yes, panic attacks are a common symptom of anxiety disorder. They are intense episodes of fear or discomfort that often include physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. Panic attacks can happen unexpectedly or in certain situations and can lead to further anxiety about future attacks happening.
Does anxiety last forever?
No, it is possible to manage and reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Treatment plans may include various therapies, lifestyle modifications, medication, and relaxation techniques to help individuals cope with anxiety in a healthy manner. With the right combination of tools and support, it is possible to reduce or eliminate anxiety symptoms over time.