Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?
In any given year the estimated percent of U.S. adults with various anxiety disorders are:
7-9%: Specific Phobia
Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.
Anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.
Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.
Anxiety disorders can cause people to try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be affected.
In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety must:
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental. Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The first step is to see your doctor to make sure there is no physical problem causing the symptoms. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a mental health professional can work with you on the best treatment. Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders dont seek help. They dont realize that they have an illness that has effective treatments.
Although each anxiety disorder has unique characteristics, most respond well to two types of treatment: psychotherapy, or talk therapy, and medications. These treatments can be given alone or in combination. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy, can help a person learn a different way of thinking, reacting and behaving to help feel less anxious. Medications will not cure anxiety disorders, but can give significant relief from symptoms. The most commonly used medications are anti-anxiety medications (generally prescribed only for a short period of time) and antidepressants. Beta-blockers, used for heart conditions, are sometimes used to control physical symptoms of anxiety.
Self-Help, Coping, and Managing
There are a number of things people do to help cope with symptoms of anxiety disorders and make treatment more effective. Stress management techniques and meditation can be helpful. Support groups (in-person or online) can provide an opportunity to share experiences and coping strategies. Learning more about the specifics of a disorder and helping family and friends to understand better can also be helpful. Avoid caffeine, which can worsen symptoms, and check with your doctor about any medications.
How Teens Deal
Some teenage anxiety is a normal natural response to events. For most teenagers, it is short-term, based on specific circumstances, and relatively benign. However, when that anxiety comes too often, out of proportion to events, and begins having a noticeable effect on daily life, it becomes a serious teen and mental health issue.
Experts describe a rising epidemic of anxiety in children and teens. According to the National Comorbidity Survey, 31.9 percent of adolescents aged 13-18 met the criteria for some form of anxiety disorder. From the total sample of teens, 8.3 percent were suffering from severe anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders can hurt academic performance and contribute to substance abuse and other behavioral problems. The effects can last well past graduation. Anxiety was the most common complaint (50.6 percent) of college students seeking university counseling according to a 2015 survey.
Signs of Anxiety
Some signs of anxiety in teenagers can be physical changes. Teens may feel consistently irritable and restless. Anxiety can disrupt teenagers sleep patterns. They may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up at appropriate times. Teens may complain of chronic fatigue, muscle tension, and headaches. Anxiety can also cause or exacerbate a range of gastrointestinal issues for teenagers. Abrupt changes in appetite and diet could signify a teenager is struggling with anxiety. Excessive and irrational worrying about such symptoms can be an indicator of anxiety as well.
Anxiety can also manifest through changes in a teenagers behavior. Parents may see their childs schoolwork decline abruptly. Teens coping with anxiety struggle to concentrate, complete assignments, and remember deadlines. Anxiety can also have a major impact on lives outside of the classroom. Teenagers can withdraw from the world, avoiding social interactions and extracurricular activities they previously enjoyed.
How to Manage Anxiety
A first step for how to manage anxiety is removing the stigma surrounding mental health disorders and anxiety in particular. Even among those suffering, there can be a reluctance to acknowledge and, consequently, treat the problem. World Mental Health surveys showed that only 41.3 percent of the global population meeting the criteria for an anxiety disorder thought they needed care. Just 27.6 percent of them received any treatment, and only 9.8 percent received adequate treatment.
Teens should understand that their anxiety is not a stain on their individual character or capability. Suffering from an anxiety disorder is not making excuses or a sign of weakness. Its not a normal thing that everyone deals with. An anxiety disorder is a serious mental health issue, but one that can be resolved with treatment. Parents should also understand that their childs anxiety may not be a product of his or her home life and upbringing.
Mental health professionals can be a major help to teenagers suffering from anxiety disorders. They can provide teenagers with cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy tries to instill positive thinking patterns and to provide teens with tools to help manage their stressors rationally and healthily. Mental health professionals can also prescribe medication to aid teenagers with more severe anxiety disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are common antidepressants that can help reduce anxiety with minimal side effects.
Teenagers can also help control their anxiety by focusing on their general physical health and wellness. Regular exercise and a consistent sleep schedule can help reduce anxiety. So can eating a better quality diet with nutrient-rich foods. Teens can try several different relaxation techniques, including yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Merely setting aside a short 20-minute period each day to wind down and rest can be helpful.
Even teens who remain glued to their smartphones can sample a myriad of different mindfulness apps. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America vetted many of them. These offer short meditations and other techniques that may help teenagers mollify their stress and anxiety.
Anxiety isnt abnormal, per se. We all deal with it in some form or fashion but leaving signs of anxiety unanswered can lead to more severe issues. Talk to your teens and tweens about their feelings. One of the best ways to gain insight into how your teens and tweens are managing their own anxiety is to ask them. This is another benefit to working with a company like Pride Surveys.
We have years of experience working with community coalitions and local leaders in schools, churches, and other organizations to get a better understanding of the challenges and stresses our teens and tweens face in todays world. Please browse our selection of surveys to learn more about what we offer and why its important to gain these insights directly from our teens and tweens.
 The Rising Epidemic of Anxiety in Children and Teens Retrieved 12 June 2019 at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/liking-the-child-you-love/201601/the-rising-epidemic-anxiety-in-children-and-teens
 Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in U.S. Adolescents: Results from The National Comorbidity Student-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)} Retrieved 11 June 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946114/
 The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey Retrieved 12 June 2019 at https://www.aucccd.org/assets/documents/aucccd%202016%20monograph%20-%20public.pdf
 Treatment gap for anxiety disorders is global: Results of the World Mental Health Surveys in 21 Countries. Retrieved 12 June 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29356216
 ADAA Reviewed Mental Health Apps. Retrieved 13 June 2019 at https://adaa.org/finding-help/mobile-apps