The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) reports that in the U.S., about 8 percent of adolescents (13-18 years old) are experiencing a diagnosable anxiety disorder. They further report that while most of these teens have been experiencing symptoms since the age of 6, only 18 percent of them have received treatment for their symptoms. Some anxiety is quite normal, for example becoming anxious prior to an important exam. In contrast to this rather short lived experience of anxiety, the symptoms for teens who are experiencing anxiety disorders typically last at least six months, and may increase without proper treatment and support.
While there are a range of psychotropic medications used to help those with anxiety disorders: “The Child/Adolescent Anxiety Multimodal Study (CAMS), in addition to other studies on treating childhood anxiety disorders, found that high-quality cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), given with or without medication, can effectively treat anxiety disorders in children. One small study even found that a behavioral therapy designed to treat social phobia in children was more effective than an antidepressant medication.”
Parents need to know what to look for to identify that their child or teen may be struggling with anxiety.
What to look for:
- Body Aches – Complaints of stomach aches, headaches, tooth aches or other body pains that do not have physical reasons. Always make sure you listen to your child and check out the possible physical reasons for the complaint.
- Changes at school – When the “A” student starts to get in trouble, or refuses to go to school, it is time to look into the issues further
- Attitude – Some moodiness is expected as children move into their teen years, but excessive mood swings or changes in attitude can signal a problem.
- New Habits – Be aware if all of a sudden your child begins to bite their nails, or shake their legs, all of these nervous twitches and habits are their way of letting you know that something more is going on.