About 25 percent of all teens suffer from stress and anxiety. While every young person feels nervous or upset from time to time, an anxiety disorder is something altogether different. Severe anxiety can interfere with a child’s schoolwork, relationships, and health. Unfortunately, up to 60 percent of teens with anxiety don't get the help they need.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to manage anxiety in young people. Here are signs to look for, as well as ways to help your teenager manage anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety in Teens: More Than Just Typical Worries
Most parents have vivid memories of teenage life, including the various ups and downs that come with puberty, forming new friendships and navigating the sometimes turbulent waters of becoming a young adult. These are normal challenges that everyone goes through in some form or another.
For 25 percent of teens, however, anxiety is more than just standard teenage worries. When anxiety, fear, and nerves become a central part of a teenager’s life, mental health experts say it’s important to get help and address the problem as soon as possible.
In some teens, anxiety starts quite young. 1 in 8 children has an anxiety disorder. Whether your child has struggled with anxiety from a young age or this is a new problem that started when they reached their teen years, as a parent you understandably want to do everything you can to guide your teen toward the proper treatment and resources.
One way parents can help their kids is by learning to recognize anxiety symptoms in teens. As Kids Health explains, it’s normal for teens to worry from time to time. “Anxiety is a natural human reaction that involves the mind and body. It serves an important basic survival function: Anxiety is an alarm system that is activated whenever a person perceives danger or threat.”
In some people, however, this alert system is activated even when there is no danger present. For teens with an anxiety disorder, their mind can feel like danger is lurking around every corner. Living in a heightened state of perceived danger can be exhausting, and it can lead to problems at school, home and in social settings.
The symptoms of anxiety in teens can vary from person to person, but some of the most common anxiety symptoms include:
- Panic, fear and a sense of uneasiness
- Difficulty with sleep
- Inability to stay calm
- Cold sweats
- Numb or tingling hands and feet
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
- Tight or tense muscles
Teens with anxiety might also continuously check and double checks that they did something correctly, such as repeatedly going back over a chore or test.
In some cases, anxiety can be so pervasive that it prevents a teen from socializing with friends or functioning in everyday situations. Teens who deal with frequent anxiety may even become depressed. Their grades might suffer, and they might have difficulty getting enough sleep at night.
Ways to Manage Anxiety in Teens
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety and sleep disorders frequently go hand in hand. If a teenager has anxiety, they could also suffer from sleep disturbances like restlessness and insomnia. For some kids, insomnia can even lead to increased anxiety, which is why the ADAA says it’s sometimes difficult to determine which disorder occurs first.
The ADAA recommends several different potential treatments for anxiety. Before starting any kind of treatment for your teen, it’s important to speak to your doctor first. Possible treatments for anxiety in teens include:
Meditation - Even something as straightforward as deep breathing exercises may help reduce anxiety and help teens manage their symptoms.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, just 15 minutes of meditation a day for three weeks can make a teen’s brain more responsive, less reactive and less prone to anxiety.
Regular Exercise - According to the ADAA, there is a strong link between exercise and reduced anxiety, and you don’t even have to do grueling or lengthy workouts to see the benefits.
As the ADAA states, “Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.”
Making a To-do List - It’s easy for teens to feel overwhelmed by the demands of home life, school, and extracurricular activities. Prioritizing tasks and setting clear goals can help kids tackle challenges one at a time rather than attempting to solve everything at once.
These organizational skills are also good practice for later in life when teens start college and eventually enter the workplace.
Listening to Music - Most young people enjoy music, which is good news for teens with anxiety. Research has shown that music can have a soothing effect on anxiety and other mental health disorders.
In fact, music is such an effective form of therapy for anxiety sufferers that researchers in the UK studied which songs work best for reducing anxiety.
Redirecting Anxiety - For some people, releasing their nervous energy is a good way to reduce their anxiety. If your teen suffers from anxiety, you might try taking walks together or asking them to help you around the yard.
A teen with anxiety might also enjoy volunteering in the community. Check out your local animal shelter. Many pet shelters offer volunteer opportunities for young people, and working with animals has been shown to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
Talking - It’s important for parents to talk with their kids about how they’re feeling. When teens know they can go to their parents for help, they’re generally more willing to speak up when something is bothering them. Teens with anxiety may also benefit from talking with a therapist or counselor.
Getting Better Sleep - If your teen suffers from anxiety, experts say you should try to make their sleep environment as inviting as possible. Make sure their bedroom is quiet, dark and uncluttered. A healthy sleep environment can go a long way toward improving sleep quality and duration.
It’s also important for teens to get the right amount of sleep for their age. As the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states, “Sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being.” Kids between the ages of six and 13 need between nine and 11 hours each night. Teens between the ages of 14 and 17 should get between eight and 10 hours every night.
Just as anxiety can affect everyone differently, it may take a little experimenting to discover which anxiety treatments work best for your teen. Here are ways to manage anxiety that may work for both teens and adults.
Is an Anxiety Blanket Right for Your Teen?
As research shows, there is a strong correlation between anxiety and poor sleep. For teens, sleep is particularly critical. According to the NSF, teenagers need between eight and 10 hours of rest each night, but just 15 percent of teens say they get a minimum of eight hours.
When teens skimp on sleep, they can develop a range of health problems, including mood disorders, lack of impulse control and increased aggressiveness. They can also put themselves at a higher risk of being involved in a car accident. Across the U.S., drowsiness causes more than 100,000 car crashes each year.
NPR cites a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which states that people who get just five or six hours of sleep at night “are twice as likely to crash as drivers who get seven hours of sleep or more.”
If your teen has an anxiety disorder, you naturally want to do everything you can to help them manage and even reduce their symptoms. Maybe you even suffer from an anxiety disorder yourself, and you know firsthand how debilitating the symptoms can be — after all, anxiety affects 40 million adults. If you have insomnia, you also know how frustrating it can be to struggle to fall asleep at night (or to wake up far too early).
Fortunately, an anxiety blanket may be able to help with both conditions. More commonly known as a weighted blanket, this is a blanket that’s designed to be around 10% of a person’s body weight.
At Luna, we work closely with parents of children and teens with autism, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and other health conditions. After more than a decade in the industry, we’re proud to have helped so many families get better sleep.
Our weighted blankets are made with non-toxic, medical grade glass beads, which are sewn into individual pockets to give the blanket its weights. Weighted blankets should be designed to fit the person (not their bed), as the weight inside will cause the blanket to pull toward the floor if it drapes over the sides of the bed.
How Do Weighted Blankets Work?
Weighted blankets work by delivering a type of therapy called deep pressure touch stimulation.
In one study, researchers found that 63 percent of individuals who slept with a weighted blanket felt less anxious. Additionally, 78 percent of people preferred the weighted blanket as a calming modality.
Far from being constricting or smothering, weighted blankets use gentle pressure that feels like being wrapped in a big hug. In fact, researchers have also found that hugging produces good chemicals in the brain, which can make you feel calmer and more relaxed.
With a weighted blanket, you can get a hug whenever and wherever you want. For teens who might rebel at the thought of hugging, a weighted blanket can help them snuggle without worrying about appearances or social judgment.
Not sure what kind of weighted product may help your teen’s anxiety? We’re here to help. Contact us, and we’ll work with you to find the perfect product for your needs.