Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Although a large part of a teenagers life is about worrying most teens are able to go through the day to day grind of school, peers, work and family. For most teens just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. The problem arises when they don’t know how to stop the worry, cope with the worry or feel it is beyond their control. One symptom of anxiety that we may find a little odd is that they may even realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation calls for. I say this is odd because as parents we see this as a ray of hope that they will be able to figure it out because they have insight about it. This is actually a symptom of the anxiety and also a cause of it. They know they have a problem yet they don’t know what to do or feel powerless so anxiety is the result. If your teen fits into this description then they may have a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is a persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.
General anxiety disorder is characterized by at least six months of persistent and excessive anxiety and worry.
- Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
- The person finds it difficult to control the worry.
- The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms present for more days than not for the past 6 months). Note: Only one item is required in children.
- restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
- difficulty concentrating or the mind going blank
- being easily fatigued
- muscle tension
- difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep
Generalized Anxiety Disorder is treatable and should be expressed as treatable:
All problems must be described as solvable. There are five main interventions to treating GAD medications, therapy, boundaries, support and consistency.
Medications can help the teen become stable and more able to learn the skills in therapy. Even though medical interventions may be necessary the behavior is not described as unsolvable because the medications are a way to solve the problem.
Therapy is used to learn to cope and self sooth their anxieties or just be able to communicate about them. Through these weekly sessions a teen learns how to deal with past, current and future situations and then can apply them into their lives today. All problems are defined this way and the teen needs to be held responsible for their actions.
A lot of generalized anxiety and worry come from not knowing where boundaries are. When they have an assignment they may not know what they are to do or what their options are. An outline of options helps a person to become more confident, know what to look for and see what possible reactions to different situations are. When a teen understands the boundaries of the world around them with a mixture of experience or through learning them from others their anxiety then goes down.
When teens believe that they have people to turn to, to ask questions, get feedback or just to know they are in a safe environment that someone will not judge them for their mistakes and will work for them and with them then their generalized anxiety goes down.
No matter how much support a person has or how much their understanding of the boundaries are if things are not consistent then there is more harm then good. When the world and people around them are consistent and predictable then anxiety is reduced significantly. Even when teens see that things are not perfect, mistakes will happen or that situations can not be predicted all the time if they can see their support group being consistently supportive then they can deal with the day to day grind of life and be productive.
By helping the teen understand where the boundaries are can help with GAD. When the teen knows the boundaries and feels supported by those around them that helps with GAD. If they have boundaries, support and consistency then they are on their way to being successful.
Hope through experience and knowledge:
Hope through experience and knowledge is not just about our professionals who teach the handling of anxiety to teens. This is more about training the teens to be their own trained professionals. To help them become their own therapist. When they can do this they can ask themselves the right questions, give themselves the hard feedback, calm their own anxieties, problem solve and use positive self talk to build themselves back up. Experience and knowledge are the result of the mixture of medication, therapy, boundaries, support and consistency. As they mature and learn from their own experience, gain the knowledge then need then the anxiety they feel is manageable and even motivating for them to succeed and break out of the cycle.