Anxiety is a normal emotional and physiological response that everyone experiences. In some contexts, like avoiding a perceived threat or dangerous situation, anxiety can be helpful. However when this threat detection system becomes over-sensitive and generalised to situations that in reality aren’t as much of a threat as we perceive it, then anxiety can stop being a useful survival tool. Teenagers might experience this threat over-sensitivity when faced with high pressure exams or sports, or when navigating social situations and being concerned about what their peers think of them. Some teenagers might find themselves worrying about anything and everything to the point where it is impacting their ability to succeed to their full potential.
Symptoms of anxiety can include:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Tight chest or difficulty breathing
- Sweaty or shaky hands
- Difficulty concentrating
- Upset stomach
Some quick strategies that have been shown to help manage these symptoms include:
- A cold shower or ice pack on the back of the neck
- Intense exercise
- Paced breathing exercises
- Muscle relaxation exercises
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be effective to treat anxiety in teenagers. Ask yourself, what is the worst case scenario I’m worried about? what is the best case scenario? and what is the most likely scenario. Often our threat detection system may have us worrying about a worst case scenario that is very unlikely to happen.
With the help of a psychologist, someone can reframe their anxious thoughts into more adaptive ways of thinking.