Anxiety can cause your teen to feel a lot of things — excessive worry, agitated, restless, fatigued, unable to concentrate, irritability, unable to sleep, fearful, and isolated.
Anxious teens often feel lonely and alone. They fear what they are going through is unique to them—no one else is suffering through the same thing. We know this isn’t true (about 1 in 3 teens struggle with anxiety) but to them, they are the only one in their circle of friends or at their school that is up all night worrying.
Anxiety in and of itself causes the sufferer to want to avoid social situations. They are worried they will be judged or scrutinized by others. They are concerned about how they might look or act in front of other people. They are worried about being embarrassed or humiliated and making mistakes. All of these things make it much more appealing to your teen to stay home in their room where they can be safe.
Anxiety Causes a Disconnect Emotionally
Teens suffering from anxiety can feel emotionally isolated. As mentioned above, they often feel like they are the only one who feels the way they do. They might have trouble connecting with others because they are consumed with worry about what others might think of them.
It can be difficult to put into words how anxiety feels. Your teen might not understand why they are so worried or fearful of a certain situation, event, or thing. They might feel like they are destined to always be different, an outcast. They can struggle to fit in with their peers.
Anxiety Can Make School Difficult
Other than extracurricular activities, your teen spends the majority of their time at school trying to learn. Anxiety can make school challenging for several reasons. They may not be sleeping well causing them to struggle with memory and attention. Your teen may be so worried about their grades or the work they do on a project—always aiming for perfection—that they find it difficult to take tests or complete assignments.
It can be helpful to seek counseling for your teen to assist them in working through these situations and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Anxiety Can Make Friendships Difficult
For the same reasons mentioned above, anxiety can make making and keeping friendships difficult. Your teen may feel uncomfortable approaching a group or even a single person. Conversations may feel forced and uncomfortable, causing your teen to avoid them altogether.
A counselor can work with your teen to overcome their anxious feelings so they can approach and begin seeking out friendships. Together they can work on things to say and do to make friendships more attainable.
How can you help?
Other than connecting your teen to a counseling professional who can develop an individualized plan that meets their needs, there are some things you can do to help your teen.
- Understand that anxiety can happen to anyone — it is not a sign of character weakness or personality flaw
- Understand anxiety can happen for no reason at all — sometimes your brain has a reason to cause fear and caution but other times there is no reason at all. As your teen learns more about their brain and thought processes they will be better able to differentiate between rational and irrational fears and concerns.
- Be a calm voice of reason for your teen — parenting is hard and when your teen is refusing to do something or getting worked up over something you see as irrational it can be hard to remain calm. But, the best thing you can do in these situations is to talk them through it. Help them to process their thoughts and feelings as calmly as possible. A counselor can offer suggestions if you are unsure of how to react in these situations.
- Be a safe space— your teen likely feels very alone in their anxiety. Be a safe place for your teen to turn. Be careful to not judge or dictate. Rather be a listening ear. Offer them comfort and support. Show them love.
There is hope
With proper care and attention, your teen can build a toolbox of ways to address their anxious feelings. Their anxiety doesn’t have to keep them isolated forever. They will learn how to overcome their hesitations to move forward in friendships and become present in social situations. We can help.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Our professionally-trained and licensed counselors have openings for online therapy. We work with clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, including those in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Williamsport. Just call our office at 717-462-7003×1 and speak to our administrative assistant to help your teen get started to feeling better.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.