Anxiety is a normal part of teenage life and can even be beneficial as it helps adolescents understand the potential consequences of their actions and behaviors. Some teens even thrive on pressure, drawing on their inner courage to meet challenges head-on, overcoming their fears and worries by using them as a motivator to be their best selves.
For others, anxiety can build inside, and if undetected or unresolved, it has the potential to become a powerful opponent, controlling their lives and preventing them from participating in ordinary events or activities that they enjoy. Over time, anxiety can lead to a chronic illness such as depression, dramatically altering a teen’s life, even into adulthood.
This is why it is essential to distinguish between normal adolescent anxiety and a more sinister situation. By identifying common symptoms of extreme stress, you can take steps to ensure that your child is in control rather than finding themselves at the mercy of their inner demons and determine whether or not finding programs for troubled teens is essential for treatment.
Teenage life is full of stress, and during this tumultuous period, they are coping with puberty-inducing hormones. As a result, it can be challenging to determine whether emotional instability is the product of this metamorphosis or if it is a manifestation of a deeper underlying problem.
If your adolescent seems to be on edge or is subject to frequent outbursts of anger or sudden tears, there is a chance they may be suffering from anxiety. Remember, anxiety is not generally a cause for concern, especially if there is an apparent reason, such as an upcoming stage performance or a significant benchmark test at school.
Depending on your teen’s personality and your relationship with your child, you may be able to engage in a conversation about how they are feeling to determine whether there is a specific reason for their sudden mood shifts. However, adolescents may be too embarrassed to address such intimate subjects, even with parents they trust, or may give a false reason to divert you from the true reason for their anxiety.
Sometimes they may not even know why they feel this way, especially since anxiety can build from within, causing even social interactions and things they enjoy to cause unexpected discomfort and stress, which brings us to our next symptom.
Parents should also monitor their teen’s personalities to discern sudden behavioral changes. Introverted teens, in general, can be difficult to evaluate; they tend to keep to themselves more than their peers and may say little. Nonetheless, you should have a pretty good idea of your child’s personality by the teenage years. You can detect unusual behaviors with careful observation, such as increased isolation or fewer social interactions.
On the other hand, extroverted adolescents enjoy the company of others and often like being the center of attention. It is easier to identify when they experience isolation as a symptom of anxiety, as they become uncharacteristically withdrawn and moody. They may turn down invitations to go places with friends or participate in family time, perhaps becoming irritable at increased insistence.
Regardless of your child’s typical temperament, keep a watch out for an air of gloominess and a desire to shut others out, in addition to spending more time in their room alone.
3. Lack of Motivation
A significant sign of anxiety developing into depression is a lack of energy or motivation. If your teen spends more time laying around or sleeping than usual, does not want to go outside or spend time with friends, and becomes lazy about chores or homework, these could be signs that your child’s emotional state or anxiety may have reached a new low.
Depression alters the neurochemicals in the brain, which can lead to a feeling of profound fatigue in the body, making your teen unable to stoke a desire to get up and do the things they want to do, much less work or chores. A sudden shift in energy levels is a cause for concern, especially if the child’s grades begin to drop at school and they stop spending time with friends and family.
In some cases, increased anxiety can cause problems sleeping or lower the quality of sleep, which can, in turn, lead to fatigue.
4. Low Self-Esteem
Sometimes prolonged exposure to anxiety can cause a teen to question their own capabilities and appearance, leading to self-esteem problems. This may lead teens to seek constant reassurance about themselves and their abilities and even speak negatively about themselves.
Children can be cruel, and events at school, such as bullying, can be factors in this type of anxiety, but many stimuli can lead to this behavior. You may have even unknowingly said or done something yourself, which might have cast doubt in the sensitive teenage mind. If you notice this sudden behavior change, reassure your child and provide positive reinforcement.
As usual, it is helpful to create an atmosphere in which the teen feels safe talking with you about why they are having these feelings if they can pinpoint a reason, which may or may not be possible.
5. Physical Changes
Increased anxiety is often the culprit behind many physical changes you may perceive in your child. They may suffer from increased headaches or gastrointestinal problems due to increased stress; severe psychological distress can even increase the amount of acid in the stomach, sometimes to the point where it melts away at the stomach wall, creating an ulcer.
Furthermore, young people suffering from anxiety may seek comfort in food, resulting in increased weight gain. In other cases, stress may result from low-self esteem and the belief they are overweight, leading some teens to eat significantly less or even engage in purging or other unhealthy behaviors. Sudden weight changes cause concern, so it is a good idea to investigate the cause immediately.
The Bottom Line
When anxiety becomes a long-term problem for teens or results in dramatic changes in behavior or personality, you should intervene to help your child. Even if they do not welcome your attempts to help, waiting and hoping the problem resolves itself is not the answer. Encourage your teen and try to get them to open up to you about your feelings, as this may provide invaluable insight into the cause of their mental distress.
Even if they do not want to communicate their problems, you should seek mental health professional services or consider looking into a residential center for at-risk youth. Doing so may help them find the treatment they need before the situation escalates into a more severe condition that may negatively affect them for the rest of their lives.
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