Teenage Girls and Anxiety
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Anxiety in teenage girls is one of the most common Mental Health conditions in the UK. Anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age but teenage girls are particularly susceptible, probably because of hormonal changes as well as the increasing pressure that we as parents and society put on them.
There are lots of different labels that we can put on the typical types of anxiety that they may experience and although I am not a fan of these labels sometimes I believe that they can be helpful to recognise that anxiety in teenagers and young adults is not unusual, has been around for a long time and we are getting a better understanding of what is happening and how to effectively treat it. Here are some of the common anxieties that I see to a greater or lesser extent;
Generalised Anxiety Disorder or GAD, may be a problem if the child is always seeming to be worried. It can appear as undue distress about a variety of everyday things, beyond the scope of any specific fears or phobias. You may see the anxiety focused on performance in school, sports or work and it may drive extreme studying or practicing. One of the key differentiators in GAD is that the anxiety isn’t focused on exterior triggers like social interaction, but internally. A person with GAD often feels restless, tired and may be tense and irritable. They may have trouble sleeping and concentrating. Gad can be completely debilitating, cause insomnia, appetite loss, depression, and they may spend more time playing video games or watching television rather than hanging out with others.
Social Anxiety Disorder can mean that she is so consumed by fear of what others think of her that she avoids people and places. Of course it is perfectly normal for her to worry now and again about what others think but if she stops texting or using social media with friends, refuses to talk in class, avoids friends or even stops wanting to go out then she may be suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder.
Separation Anxiety Disorder or SAD is a condition that causes a child extreme distress when she is separated from her parents or caregivers. For example this may be a problem if she starts to avoid sleepovers, going to school or work, or starts to worry every time she has you leave the house for work, errands, or any other reason. She may even get physically ill with symptoms such as headaches, nausea and sleeplessness. Panic Disorder is characterised by panic attacks. These can be very scary where for absolutely no reason she starts to panic and show the signs of uncontrolled fear. Perhaps she is unable to catch her breath, her heart is racing, stomach churning, hands get sweaty or possibly she just ‘freezes’ and is unable to think or move. If you have ever had a panic attack, you know how terrifying this can be for an adult, let alone for a child.
The Good News Well, the good news is that these disorders are very treatable. The stating point of treatment is that she will need to talk to someone and that will normally need to be in a confidential and safe space where she can express her thoughts and anxieties without any judgement or it counting against her. Perhaps you can let her know that anxiety is a normal feeling and that everyone worries sometimes. Sometimes it needs a little help and support from a professional and this is where I come in. Talking about her feelings of anxiety is a great place to start but she needs to see a professional if these feelings are causing her enough anxiety to disrupt her sleep, school, and relationships. There are steps you can take to try to help her though. You can read my post here about Parental Strategies for Teenagers and Young Adults with Anxiety or alternatively email me on email@example.com for an informal chat.