Teenagers are anxious, now more than ever. Whether they call it “the scaries,” or you notice them avoiding school, or appearing anxious and on edge, you might be concerned that your teen is experiencing anxiety to the point that they are not able to do the things they normally do. With the popularity of social media and returning to in-person school post-Covid, we see that teens are experiencing crippling anxiety that causes difficulty going to school, socializing, problems with family, and completing tasks at school and home. Your teen could be experiencing some anxiety that is normal and part of development. This type of anxiety would be anxiety that appears from time to time and is proportional to the stressor and does not limit their functioning significantly. This kind of anxiety will probably reduce over time on it’s own. The time to be concerned and take action is if you notice persistent anxiety that causes your teen more stress and interferes with their ability to function. It’s normal to question why this is going on.
What is Causing Anxiety in Your Teen?
The Short Answer
It is a combination of both genetics/biology and real life stressors.
The Long Answer
There is no known gene for “anxiety,” however we can pass on genetic information that determines how we respond to stressors. Anxiety is known to “run in the family,” so if one or more family members experience some sort of anxiety, it may be more likely that your teen could develop symptoms of anxiety. We also know that females are twice as likely to experience anxiety. While going through puberty, bodily changes can trigger anxiety in our tweens. Stressors are any lived experience that causes strain or tension, which can include daily stressors like a hard test at school, or intense traumatic experiences. When teens lack the ability to cope with stressors, either due to the amount of stressors, or the significance of the stressor, anxiety can develop.
Commonly Reported Stressors:
- Bullying- Kids can be brutal to each other and social media has expanded the access kids have to one another. Additionally disturbing is the increase in cases where bullies have encouraged other kids to hurt themselves.
- Conflict/drama with friends- Social interactions and acceptance is so important in a teens life. When this becomes problematic, it can be so difficult to face school or any setting where they will interact with people they are on the outs with. Teens also rely on their friends heavily for support, so when these relationships hit a rough patch, it can feel like your teen has no one to turn to with their troubles.
- Struggling with school work- Classes or assignments can be too hard and overwhelming. Other times, parents’ high expectations can be a huge source of stress.
- Body image issues/low self-confidence- Social media like Instagram and TikTok have normalized perfectionism in terms of both appearance. Teens are inundated with images that have been filtered, and cannot help but compare themselves to these virtual ideals. How is someone ever supposed to measure up in real life (blemishes and all) when for hours a day they see images of perfect hair, skin, bodies, etc. that have been digitally altered to appear flawless.
- Socializing in-person- Our teens have had some rough Covid years that have limited their practice socializing in real life. Coping with in-person interactions can be extremely distressing for them