Teen Anxiety Teenage Years Anxiety Solutions Parents Support Anxious Teenagers Anxiety Challenges Nurturing Environment Alleviating Anxiety Family Empowerment Knowledge and Resilience Practical Solutions Anxiety Increase Supportive Parenting Anxiety Insights Anxiety Understanding
Mental Health

Why Teenage Years May See An Increase in Anxiety, and What Parents Can Do

The brain undergoes an extensive and lovely makeover during adolescence. This is to provide youngsters with the neural firepower they need to shift from dependent children to self-sufficient, productive, and joyful adults. It’s a lively period, but it’s not always like that. Adolescence can be characterized by both anxiety and exciting highs that are associated with new learning and blooming independence. 

On certain occasions, our kids might feel as though they are falling through the cracks between the world they have known as children one that is smaller, more stable, and less unpredictable, and the bigger, busier, more demanding world of adulthood. Until they have both feet firmly planted on the adult ground, which will happen sometime in their early 20s, the earth beneath them may feel shaky or rarely there on certain days.

Adolescent Anxiety. They are able to achieve more when they have more knowledge.

There are several adjustments, challenges, demands, and responsibilities that come with adolescence. As our teens become more aware of this, it makes natural that a strong, protective brain would want to work harder to prevent them from falling, failing, or scraping against the rough edges of their developing environment. Simply put, anxiety is the amygdala’s (the part of the brain that controls anxiety) attempt to prepare the person to deal with or flee a potential threat. For a careful, protective amygdala, everything that carries even the slightest chance of rejection, dissatisfaction humiliation, judgment, or failure qualifies as a possible threat. Adolescence is overflowing with all of these risks.

So it makes sense that anxiety can worsen during adolescence. By being aware of the forces that might be at work, you and your teen can see any changes that might be unsettling or cause them to feel helpless. 

Giving our teenagers the knowledge necessary to make courageous, solid decisions is just one of the ways we can help them cope with worry. They may make stronger, more courageous, more deliberate actions that will strengthen them both against worry and generally by explaining what anxiety is and what factors may cause it. Here are a few of the factors that can cause adolescent anxiety.

  1. Sleep. It appeals to the brain. As much as nice things and inhaling deeply.

The part of the brain that is most sensitive to lack of sleep is the amygdala, which is the center of anxiety and strong emotions. The amygdala is in charge of identifying potential threats in the environment. A strong combination of fight-or-flight brain chemicals is released into the body when it senses a potential threat. This is excellent while a threat exists, but when there is no need to run or fight, the neurochemical fuel builds up and anxiety sets in. Sleep comes into play in this situation. A brain that is tired may struggle to tell the difference between a threat and nothing more, which will cause it to feel anxious more than is necessary. 

Here’s the catch. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, appears up to two hours later throughout adolescence than it is in kids and adults alike. Adolescents require a minimum of nine hours of sleep (ten is ideal), although they may not feel tired until 10 or 11 p.m. When you mix this with early morning school beginnings, you are able to see where this is going. The more exhausted they are, the more sensitive their amygdala will be, increasing the likelihood of anxiety.

        What to do.

Discuss the connection between anxiety and an insufficient amount of sleep, then question your teen for suggestions on how to obtain more sleep. Here are some suggestions:

  • Because screen light inhibits the production of melatonin, consider reading, listening to music, or practicing mindfulness for no less than half an hour before bedtime.
  • As part of your nighttime routine, keep a gratefulness notebook. Anxiety is triggered by unpleasant memories, but these recollections do not have to be true-life occurrences. They could be from the news, television, online platforms, or something said by someone you know. Because the brain does what the brain does best, the more unfavorable memories that are obtained, the simpler they will be to access in the future. Appreciation makes pleasant recollections more accessible than those that may cause worry. 
  •  Practice mindfulness before going to bed. Here’s one approach:

Imagine the clouds in front of you as your thoughts. After giving them some time to walk around, release them when they’re ready to go. Repeat another way of thinking. It ought should take 5 to 10 minutes. If during the workout your focus wanders, don’t worry; minds do that. Gently bring it back, then carry on with your workout. 

  1. Friendships. The Changing Ground

Gaining a certain amount of freedom from one’s parents gradually is one of adolescents’ psychological goals. They will still need your help but in a different way. Relations with others during adolescence can be an emotional roller coaster as youngsters start discovering their independence. They can bring a lot of pleasure and ease, but they can also be a breeding ground for trouble – occasionally all at the same time. Friendships that seem secure will be nurtured, while friendships that feel vulnerable may cause anxiety due to the danger of rejection, disapproval, humiliation, criticism, or loss.

The very real danger that teenagers may incorrectly interpret emotional cues from others can further limit friendships. Multiple studies have demonstrated that the adolescent brain describes emotions differently from the adult brain. Humans are complex beings. Understanding what other individuals are going through or thinking is not always easy, and adolescence is a particularly challenging time for this. The amygdala, the impulsive, automatic portion of the brain that frequently misinterprets non-threats as threats, is the least active area of the brain when teenagers detect emotions in others.  Adults, on the other hand, use their prefrontal cortex to read facial expressions. This region of the brain makes decisions, evaluates consequences, and controls emotions long enough to confirm claims. The likelihood of conflicts, exclusion, or relationships that end or cause relationships to end increases with a greater reliance on peers and a greater inclination to misunderstand social cues, feelings, or intentions of those peers, which can be a powerful fuel for anxiety.

   What to do.

  • If possible, motivate activities (sports, comedy, hobbies) so they can form friendships that offer greater security from schoolyard politics or a secure alternative when classmates are causing heartache.
  • Acknowledge that adolescence can be a sad and difficult time, but that it doesn’t have to be like this.
  • When your child is in pain, it might stir up all kinds of emotions in you as a parent, but if possible, let them talk without attempting to ‘fix it’ or alter how they feel. Of course, you may want to scoop them up and hold them close while altering every ugly detail about what they’re experiencing, but the possibility is that they may feel a stronger need to filter their thoughts or sentiments in order to shield you from the hardness of it all. 
  1. What do I think of myself? That relies on how you perceive me.’ The ‘looking glass self’.

The sense of self is put to the test during adolescence. Adolescents are especially vulnerable to what others perceive about them, or what they believe others are thinking about them. Being open to other people‘s perspectives is a vital component of molding who our teenagers become. They will experiment with becoming the grownups they would like to be, and along the way, they will gain knowledge, adjust, and evolve in response to how the world reacts to them. This can be a good, loving process, but it is not always the case. 

Children will begin to compare themselves with other people in their early teens. They will also become more conscious that others may assess or contrast them, and they will place a greater emphasis on these ideas and assessments. This will have an impact on how they perceive themselves, for either positive or negative reasons. The ‘looking-glass self’ is the component of our self-concept that is nourished by our views about how others perceive us, and it has a strong influence during adolescence.

Happiness, joy, pride, embarrassment, humiliation, or guilt can all be fed by the looking-glass self. According to studies, when adolescents believe that others are thinking kindly about them, their self-concepts are enhanced. On the other side, when teenagers believe (correctly or incorrectly) that others are judging them adversely, this can increase anxiety.

    What to do.

  • Support (or assist) your teen to discover things they enjoy doing wherever you can. Anything they excel at – a language, sport, pet care, drama, music, art, or cooking – will allow them to improve their self-concept.
  1. Gut Health

The gut and the brain are inextricably linked. The brain in our gut, commonly known as our “second brain,” is made up of 200-600 million neurons that are placed in the carefully curved tissue that borders the gastrointestinal canal. It provides knowledge to the mind, but when the condition of the gut is out of balance (good bacteria vs. harmful bacteria), the data given back to the brain can have a negative impact on mood, stress, anxiety, and overall psychological wellness. 

Diet, rest, and anxiety all have an impact on the gut. Each of these can be problematic on its own, but the teenage years is often a period when our teens are going to discover themselves experiencing less sleep, higher levels of anxiety, and a preference for faster, processed foods over healthier options. It’s the definition of a gut storm.

      What to do.

  • Discuss the gut-brain connection and the value of sleep, stress reduction (where possible), and a healthy diet, which includes more fruit and vegetables, happy gut foods (fermented foods, probiotics, foods with live and active cultures), and fewer junk foods. Researchers discovered that persons who consume more foods that ferment (which include probiotics) experience less social anxiety effects. 
  1. What makes them glow from the inside out? Has the emphasis on winning sapped the joy out of everything?

Academics grow more essential during teenage years, and other interests that start off as fun can become more intense and aim towards a more serious goal. Anxiety is caused by worrying about the future and picturing the possibly devastating repercussions of failure, grief, or simply missing out on an essential option. Competition is important, but so is having the freedom to do something for the sake of doing it. The danger is that everything that once filled them will be stripped away and become a cause of fear or anxiety.

      What to do:

  • Adolescence is a hectic time, but it’s essential that kids don’t get so over-scheduled or interested in a result that they cease to have fun. Their emotions, minds, and souls must all be fed. Urge them to make time for activities that make them happy – glad from the inside out, not just because they’re succeeding, scoring goals, or clearing an exam. It all comes down to balance. 
  1. Perceived pressure from school/parents/the world.

During adolescence, the emphasis shifts from the things that make you happy now to what you plan to do after finishing your education/college/exams. Preparing for the years to come is necessary, but doing so too frequently might increase anxiety. Anxiety is a symptom of a nervous system that is overly focused on the future. This is when the ‘what-ifs’ begin to circle, land excessively on our teenagers, and nourish anxiety like a hungry beast. ‘What if I’m not accepted to university/college?’ ‘What if I never find a job?’ ‘What if I disappoint my parents?’ ‘What if I fail me?’ ‘What if I completely fail at everything?’

     What to do.

  • Tell them they don’t have to have everything sorted out. Often, it is the redirects and reroutes that get us to where we desire to go. They simply have to put one foot in front of the other. This is the time for them to learn. The ‘knowing’ will come with time – and it’s fine if it does.
  1. Social media

Even the toughest people can be dragged out of their comfort zone by social media. Our teens have a constant supply of knowledge about what their friends are doing because to social media. Like nothing else, this can foster self-doubt – Should I act more like them? Are you less like me? Is there anything else I should be doing? Should I be doing something distinct? Look at what they’re up to, and they seem extremely joyful and happy! Maybe I should start doing something similar. 

     What to do.

  • The key is to keep things in balance. Inform them that a photograph depicts a single moment in time – a moment, not a day, a weekend, or a life. Support them understand that social media has a huge filter that polishes resides and individuals until they glisten. Boundaries in the world of technology are just as crucial as they are in the physical one. Excessive amounts of anything that leads to crumpling are excessive. Teach them that remaining healthy and strong entails doing more of what feeds not only our bodies but also our hearts, thoughts, and souls. 
  1. Body Image

Due to the internet, our teenagers have access to the entire world at any given moment, which can be bad. They are growing up in a world of Photoshop, taking selfies, and filters. It is a society that can be obsessional in its quest to equate prosperity, happiness, or being important, powerful, or desirable enough with beauty. All of this takes place as their bodily selves are developing. Even while our kids are constantly receiving messages about how they should seem, for an excessive amount of them, the only message is that they are insufficient, not pretty enough, powerful enough, significant enough, or adequate enough. 

    What to do.

Call them attractive if they laugh, light up, or have that glow about them. Also call them brave, strong, and intelligent. Just let them know that you observed it. Yes, our kids are so much more than their outward appearances, but these aren’t the qualities that are being challenged on their internet feeds, on posters, in advertising, and wherever else they go. The idea of “beautiful” has, at some point, become unexpectedly inadequate, and it is hurting the children we care about. People are beginning to doubt their worth and capacity as a result, and we need to fight back.

What we need to do is define what “beautiful” means, which we can do by making sure that they understand a definition of “beautiful” that includes them. Beauty is complex and imperfect. The problem isn’t with the word “beautiful.” It’s a definition, then. We don’t want to teach our kids that their appearance is a good predictor of who they are, but if we can give them a more powerful, bountiful, and inclusive definition of “beautiful,” let’s do it. If we don’t acknowledge their beauty, the world will keep attempting to hurt them by exposing them to a filtered, photoshopped, glossed-up image of what is “beautiful.” The more we can show children that “beautiful” includes them, the more equipped they will be to deal with circumstances that would lead them to think the opposite. 

And finally…

Our teenagers will almost certainly experience anxiety at some point during their adolescence, possibly several times. Adolescence can be difficult, lonely, and unsure, but we understand since we’ve been there. They have the ability to be stronger no matter how difficult circumstances become. We may only need to know sufficient about them at times.

Additionally, never underestimate your own power. It may not always be visible, but your existence has the power to make someone feel protected, seen, and calmed. Sometimes all that’s necessary to set things right is you; you may not require words or magic.