By Brittany, age 15, North Carolina
Teen anxiety. What is it? And how can you help yourself? Here's how you might actually feel, and then I'll talk about how to deal:
* Extreme mood swings
* Substance abuse
* Secretive behavior
* Changes in sleeping and eating habits
* Bad hygiene or meticulous attention to it
* Compulsive or obsessive behavior
Sometimes parents can seem overwhelmed and ask too much. In this age we are brought up believing "FASTER is BETTER". This may not always be the case though. Emotions run high during these years and are constantly being tested, and our downs are being stomped on, or so it may seem. All this may lead to severe teen anxiety. Sometimes things and situations should just be slowed down a bit. If you think you might have anxiety the chances are very high. It's common in most teens even if the case is very mild. In fact, 80% of teenagers are taking some kind of medication. It's normal to have ups and downs in life - being upset because of your latest break up, for instance - so don't mistake it for having severe teen anxiety. (Although if anxiety is present during this break up, it may be harder to deal with.)
You may ask yourself, "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME??" The truth is: There is no one cause of anxiety in teens. Actually, there are 3 common causes which can be explained in detail.
Family Genetics and Home EnvironmentThis means that a person is more likely to suffer from anxiety if a parent or relative suffers as well. Anxiety can be taught by role models such as a mother, father, or close relative. In addition, some home situations are abusive. This will make an individual more likely to expect the worst in a situation.
Fight or Flight MechanismsWhen in trouble a person is triggered by the brain to defend him or herself, or else run away. In many cases the brain triggers this mechanism when it is not intended. Presentations in front of other people or taking a test may trigger this. The brain remembers what it has triggered and when it has triggered this mechanism for future events. This is why it is so hard to overcome stage fright and being in front of large audiences, and for a lot of teens, taking a simple test.
The Chemistry of My BrainSometimes neurotransmitters in the brain are kind of faulty. Neurotransmitters control a person's thoughts and feelings. When these transmitters are faulty, they are sending out inappropriate feelings and emotions. This can make a person feel anxious and scared.
I think I have teen anxiety. Where can I get help? Can it be dealt with at home?
Since anxiety is so common, many people don't understand its intensity. They think they should be able to beat it by willpower. But the symptoms can't be wished away. Anxiety is treated in two ways - with medication and with therapy. Sometimes these treatments are combined. Ask a local doctor for help, and ask what he or she thinks will work best.
Hotlines and websites are always available for your help too.
HotlinesThe National Institute of Mental Health's Anxiety Hotline:
Teen and Parent Crisis Hotline: