The rise of anxiety among teens is well-documented. Data confirms anxiety has beat depression as the most likely reason for college students to seek counseling services. The American College Health Association has found serious increases in undergrads who report an overwhelming level of anxiety. The number of suicidal teenagers being admitted to the hospital has doubled over the past decade.
These hard facts are not something we, as a society, can ignore. Our teenagers feel overwhelmed, panicked, and fearful of their everyday lives. The proof of the matter is indisputable. However, there are still so many questions about why today’s young adults are getting more anxious.
Identifying Anxiety in Your Teenager
As a parent, do you feel confident in your ability to distinguish stress from anxiety? There’s a big difference between the two. Ignorance of what sets these factors apart can keep a struggling kid in the dark and away from help when they need it. Do your teenager a favor and understand what anxiety looks like so that you can help them navigate through it.
Some of the first changes you may notice are emotional ones. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling on-edge
- Feeling overloaded or pinned down
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings
Of course, all teenagers have their “moments.” That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a pattern of this behavior that is out of character. Pay attention to habits, not instances.
Next, you may notice some things shifting in their social world. If your teen stops hanging out with their normal friends or avoids activities they once used to love, check in on them. You could notice they are:
- Avoiding interacting with usual friends
- Isolating oneself
- Spending more time alone
- Avoiding extracurriculars and social activities when suggested
Another very common symptom of anxiety is changes in sleep. Teens really need good-quality sleep, and anxiety is known for getting in the way of that. Your kid might be struggling with anxiety if they complain about:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep
- Feeling fatigued after sleep
Anxiety manifests itself differently in each person. While many anxiety physical symptoms mimic typical teenage health complaints, they could be a true sign of an issue. Watch for these physical complaints:
- Stomach upset
- Frequently occurring headaches
- Muscle aches or fatigue
- General feeling of unwell
- Loss of appetite
- Increase in appetite
Lastly, their school performance could begin to change. This can be harder to tune in to as a parent at home. Speak with their teachers and keep an eye on their grades to watch for:
- Missing assignments out of the ordinary
- Feeling overwhelmed with course load
- Grades dropping
- Procrastination or full avoidance
Now that you’re well-equipped to notice the signs of a problem with anxiety, let’s dive into the triggers that can cause these symptoms. The cause may not be clear to you, but if you understand the breadth of triggers you might be able to narrow down what’s causing your teen to panic.
Teen Anxiety Triggers
Some teens are perfectionists, overworking themselves. Others are so focused on acceptance by their peers they can hardly function. Some young adults are still dealing with the ramifications of a tough experience. Yet, some might not seem to have any “real” reasons for anxiety. Still, their feelings are totally valid.
Here are five of the most common triggers of anxiety amongst teens:
1) Escaping into the digital world.
Today’s young adults have grown up with social media and technology at their fingertips. This means they’ve spent their entire childhoods avoiding uncomfortable situations by turning to their digital worlds. This prevents them from seizing great opportunities to grow their mental strength. This can leave them feeling pretty helpless to overcoming everyday challenges.
2) Comparing online lives.
While social media is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends, it can have a dark side. Teenagers are exposed to endless photos and updates of people supposedly leading exciting lives, and edited pictures where people are airbrushed to the point of barely looking like themselves. It’s widely known now that Instagram posts are a curation of the best bits in people’s lives – we don’t tend to share our failures as much as our successes – but it can still lead to young people especially comparing themselves. This can diminish their self-esteem and self-worth.
3) World events.
There are a lot of scary things happening in the world right now. Gun violence and home terrorism has spiked over the past few years. These events don’t only terrify parents; they upset the kids who have to go to school feeling unsafe every day. The prevalence of news in the digital medium doesn’t help them avoid the information, either.
4) Academic competition.
Today’s teenagers are more competitive than ever over their academics. Over-involved parents can contribute to unrealistic expectations kids place on themselves. In the race to be “the best,” kids can become overwhelmed and inundated with worry that they won’t be accepted as they are.
5) Pressure to succeed.
Kids have a lot of pressure on their shoulders – to get the best grades, to get into a good college, to secure a high-paying job. They have to sit exams and interviews to get into these places, which are notoriously anxiety-inducing. The message is that these things will define their future and entire adult life, and failure at these stages means they won’t live up to their potential. Therefore, the stress of working hard to set themselves up for life is sometimes too much.
Identify Triggers and Know When To Get Help
Once you understand the triggers of teen anxiety and what this might look like in your child, you need to know what to do next. Seeking professional help is the best way to enable your child with the right tools to counter anxiety. Give us a call to learn more about how we can help and to ask our team questions.