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Anxiety Treatment for Teenagers

Anxiety Treatment for Teenagers

Is Anxiety Preventing Your Teen From Living The Life They Desire?

Do worries about school, friendship, health, and day-to-day events plague your teen? Are these thoughts and fears causing them to avoid previously enjoyed activities or leading to feelings of sadness and depression?

Perhaps daily activities (meals, sleep, chores, interactions, etc.) have become more difficult or are even being refused. Maybe the arguments and disagreements between you and your teen are increasing, and you feel unsure about what to do.

Every Teen Is Different - So Is Their Anxiety

The focus on physical symptoms becomes more and more prominent when a teen is struggling with anxiety and/or OCD. This might include an unsettled stomach, rapid heart rate, sweating, nausea, headaches, trouble sleeping, a decreased appetite, and even feeling dizzy or lightheaded. Maybe these sensations have also become the center of a debate every morning when it comes time for your teen to go to school or the reasons they give at the nurse’s office regarding why they need to go home.

Moreover, your teen’s anxious thoughts, fears, and insecurities could be leading to rumination, repetitive questioning, and the need for constant reassurance. They may even demand that you engage in certain behaviors or accommodations in order to reduce or appease their anxiety. But when you do, it only seems to help for a short time.

As a parent, it can be extremely unsettling when you see the joy that your teen once had dissipating as their life is controlled more and more by their anxiety. Fortunately, with help from a teenage anxiety therapist, you can learn how to support your teen, approaching their anxiety and symptoms the best way possible.

Anxiety Is A Part of Life, But It Does Not Need To Interfere With It

High external pressures and expectations being placed on teenagers, as well as internal expectations or the desire for perfection, are causing more and more adolescents to develop OCD and anxiety disorders. In addition, we have seen a huge rise in anxiety since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that an estimated 31.9% of adolescents have an anxiety disorder (the prevalence is higher for females than males), with 8.3% having a severe impairment.* Unfortunately, though, teenagers often suffer in silence, not realizing that therapy could provide support to help them interact with their anxiety in a different manner.

Adolescent Anxiety and OCD: Biological and Behavioral

Anxiety and OCD have a biological and behavioral component. Genetics are a major contributor to teenage anxiety. If you, or someone in your family, has been diagnosed with anxiety or OCD, there is an increased chance that your teen is at higher risk themself.

Outside of genetics, specific parenting styles and/or modeling anxious behaviors can contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. For example, parents stepping in and completing tasks or allowing the avoidance of tasks that bring about anxiety can accidentally maintain the anxiety cycle.

Even if the exact cause of the anxiety disorder is not known, treatment can help to identify some of the potential causes and provide you and your teen with the right tools for managing their symptoms.

Anxiety Treatment Can Provide Teenagers With More Control Over Their Lives

Your teen might not see the importance of exploring the benefits of therapy for their anxiety and could even be resistant to the process. Left untreated, though, the symptoms you observe now will most likely only increase.

Both you and your teenager (if they are willing), can learn to identify triggers and the impact of unhelpful thought patterns. With support, they can learn how to increase their ability to respond to triggers in a more healthy and productive way and better manage their anxiety.

What To Expect From Teenage Anxiety Treatment Sessions

Our treatment sessions are created to provide you and your teen with psychoeducation on what causes teenage anxiety, as well as what continues and even reinforces anxiety. With the help of a therapist, you can also explore how to best respond to your teenager’s anxiety, when to push, what to do and say when they are highly anxious, and how to help them do challenging things.

At times, teens may think that the changes required are too much, and that they cannot make them. But that is why a therapist will work closely alongside you and your teen to combat their anxiety in a way that meets you both where you are at. We will start with small changes and then gradually progress from there once your teen has gained some confidence.

Sessions are also designed to help you both practice each skill learned, which will help you and your teen incorporate these skills at home. If problems arise, your therapist will assist you with identifying obstacles, potential solutions, and ways to fight teenage anxiety together.

Anxiety Treatment Methods for Teens

At The OCD & Anxiety Center, we strive to provide the most evidence-based interventions possible. When working with teens, the most common modalities we use are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Exposure Response Prevention (ERP), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

CBT and ERP are the most evidence-based methods for treating anxiety and OCD. Both of these treatment approaches are methodical, sequential, and designed to teach practical skills to help your teen better manage their anxiety.

With CBT for teenage anxiety, your teen will learn to identify unhelpful thought patterns that are keeping them stuck. They will learn about the relationship between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and how reframing their thoughts can lead to healthier behaviors. By challenging and restructuring their thoughts, they no longer need to avoid their triggers but learn to change the way they think about them.

In ERP, another form of CBT, your teen will learn how to gradually and systematically face their fears. Anxiety grows through avoidance, something that we are unfortunately taught and that is reinforced from a young age (run from your fear). Through ERP therapy, your teen will learn to sit with their anxiety and see that, in time, and with repetition, they can change their conditioned fear response and therefore reduce anxiety.

DBT provides skills to manage and regulate emotions, learning to ride the wave of the emotions and not just react to them.

ACT supports your teen in learning to change their relationship with their thoughts, seeing that they (as a person) are different from their thoughts. Your teen will also learn mindfulness skills that allow them to remain present and focused, acting in ways that are aligned with their values instead of their anxiety.

Regardless of the modality used, the goal of treatment is to help your teen learn how to live life with their anxiety instead of their anxiety and OCD dictating and controlling their life. Alongside a licensed therapist, teenage anxiety is absolutely treatable.

Perhaps You Still Have Some Concerns About Anxiety Treatment For Your Teen…

My teen doesn't want to attend sessions. Can I do anything to help them?

It is very common for teens not to want to engage in therapy, especially initially. The SPACE (Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions) Program can reduce your teenager’s OCD and anxiety symptoms by modifying your behaviors. It provides education on the cycle of anxiety and supports you in learning how to respond to your teen’s anxiety, increasing the amount of support that you provide but decreasing the amount of reassurance and accommodation.

In addition, we can teach you strategies that you can use to help your teen participate in anxiety treatment.

Therapy can be expensive. I am not sure we have the money.

Evidence-based treatments are designed to be individualized and focused on specific goals and limitations that your teen is experiencing. With this structured and goal-orientated approach, you can get a lot out of therapy, even in a short time. Though you will be investing time and money in the short term, consider the long-term cost to you, your teen, and your relationship without therapy.

We have done therapy before, and it wasn’t helpful.

There can be many reasons why therapy may have not been helpful previously. To understand the reasons, we would perform an assessment to make sure that your teenager received the right treatments (CBT and ERP are the most researched and supported for teenage anxiety) and the right dose of treatment, and that parents were involved in therapy.

With the insight we gain from this assessment, we can provide our recommendations on how to more effectively set up treatment. It would allow us to notice progress relatively quickly, and if not, make different recommendations.

Your Teen Can Learn To Retake Control Of Their Life

If anxiety and OCD have been preventing your teen from living the life they desire or the way that you know that they can, treatment with a teenage anxiety therapist at The OCD & Anxiety Center can give them back control. To address further concerns or schedule an appointment, please call us at (630) 522-3124 or email us at info@theocdandanxietycenter.com.

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