Types of Anxiety Disorders
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Teenagers with generalized anxiety disorder experience overwhelming worry disproportionate to the situation or event. Teens with GAD also tend to have fears about the future.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive compulsive disorder is characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors. This means teens with OCD tend to excessively ruminate, or worry, about any number of things. In response to the worry, these individuals feel compelled to act on a particular behavior. This is how they compensate, or counterbalance, the worry.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Teens with social anxiety disorder experience intense fear of social situations. Most teenagers feel some level of worry about socializing. Although, those with social anxiety disorder struggle significantly more on a daily basis. These factors are frequently missed in terms of diagnosis.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Teenagers with PTSD have, in most cases, lived through a catastrophic or traumatic event (i.e. natural disaster, school shooting, car crash, abuse, etc.). PTSD in teens may or may not involve flashbacks (which are common in adults with PTSD). Yet, teens often make up that there were “signs” indicating the trauma was going to happen. This tends to make these individuals hypervigilant. They are constantly looking for another “sign” (to avoid future trauma).
What is panic disorder?
Panic disorder is considered an anxiety disorder. It is a serious mental illness that can cause sudden, uncontrollable panic attacks. Not all people who experience panic attacks have panic disorder. Some people experience panic attacks when they encounter a specific, identified fear (i.e. heights, spiders, etc.). Individuals with panic disorder experience panic attacks independent of an explicit trigger.
What does a panic attack feel like?
Some physical symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing heartbeat
- Hot and/or cold flashes
- Shaking or trembling
- Tingling and/or numbness of fingers and toes
- Difficulty swallowing
What causes anxiety and panic disorders?
Although, anyone can suffer from panic attacks. There are some contributing factors that increase one’s risk of developing panic disorder, including:
Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. If you or a family member suffers from anxiety and/or panic disorder, there is a greater chance your teen will struggle with a panic disorder. Numerous studies show a strong correlation between a parent or caretaker’s fears and that of their child/children. There is an argument that this could be connected to behaviors that are learned, or a genetically inherited trait.
Research indicates children and teens have, in general, had a significant rise in anxiety levels over the past two decades. Perhaps due to the technological age. Individuals experience a lack of social connectedness, and are thus, more socially alienated.
Anxiety and panic can be triggered by traumatic events experienced earlier in life. Trauma can refer to many things. In terms of anxiety, teens who have experienced trauma in relation to spousal abuse, child abuse, or other distressing situations that threaten family integrity, can increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders.
Statistics show girls and women are twice as likely to struggle from anxiety disorders than boys and men. There are numerous factors that support this hypothesis, none of which have been proven.
Anxiety disorders around social interaction, social anxiety disorder and panic disorders, are commonly diagnosed in adolescent and teenage years.
Helping During a Panic Attack
Being present during another person’s panic attack can be scary and overwhelming. This is especially true if it is your child. If your teen experiences the sudden rise of anxiety that results in a panic attack, there are things you can do to help him or her manage this frightening experience, including:
Model a calm nature
Whether they show it or not, teens often look to parents or caregivers during times of distress. Frequently, this is to ascertain how the adult is viewing their condition. This means if your teen is experiencing a panic attack and you react with significant concern and/or fear, you may be sending your child the message that the panic attack is an acute, or even dangerous situation. Thus, it is vital to stay composed, take deep breaths, and emanate a calm nature.
Stick to the facts
Having a panic attack can be very scary. Some people mistake the intense anxiety response of a panic attack for a heart attack. Therefore it is so important for parents or caregivers to help their teen understand what is happening. Let them know they are not in any danger. Labeling the experience as a panic attack, and describing that sometimes the body overreacts to anxious feelings, can help reduce the intensity.