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Dealing With Anxiety Disorders in Youngsters

Dr. Mehak Nagpal 96% (101 ratings)
MD - Psychiatry
Psychiatrist, Delhi  •  11 years experience
Dealing With Anxiety Disorders in Youngsters

In today's fast paced world, the number of cases of teenagers with serious mental health problems like anxiety disorders have quadrupled. An anxiety disorder affects the thinking, feelings as well as the behaviour of a young person. It is important to seek professional help if one sees any of the warning signs of anxiety disorder in a youngster. Most of the normal anxiety issues are short lived and the feelings may last for few hours. However, an anxiety problem becomes an anxiety disorder when anxious feelings are very intense, severe and last for weeks or months. They start interfering in a youngster's ability to socialise, learn and daily activities.

Let's talk specific:

1. Aviophobia: Fear of flying, also known as aviophobia, is an anxiety disorder classified as a situational Specific Phobia. The person with fear of flying, heights has a continuing and excessive fear triggered by flying or the thought of flying or heights. Typically, flying is avoided or endured with intense anxiety, which may take the form of a panic attack.

2. Claustrophobia: Claustrophobia is a fear of being in an enclosed space. Thus, being trapped in a lift scare those who have such phobia. Also, travelling through a tunnel or metro makes people anxious if you have claustrophobia. A person suffering can often feel distressed just with the thought of being in a bus, train or plane. Usually any small, enclosed space would trigger a panic attack, especially if you felt trapped.

The problem with this way of thinking is it spreads to other places. Subways, lifts, small rooms are the classic scenario, but the intense fear of the person  is not restricted just to these places. The fear and the panic can be experienced in any place where the person perceives a confinement, closeness or trapped feeling.

If anxiety disorder in a youngster is ignored and left untreated, it can have long-term consequences on the mental health and can hamper development. The first step is to talk with the youngster and others who might be able to help like a general practitioner, school counsellor, family members or other parents. Identification of a teenage anxiety problem is difficult as youngsters are good at hiding their feelings and thoughts. They are able to mask those feelings with aggressive behaviour or withdrawal.

Young people might be diagnosed with more than one type of anxiety disorder. Social phobia or social anxiety disorder occurs when one develops an intense fear of being judged or embarrassed in public. Excessive worry about everyday situations is called as generalised anxiety disorder. Panic disorder is repeated, unexpected panic attacks where one encounters panic in a situation where most people wouldn't be afraid. Excessive fear of being separated from home or a loved one is separation anxiety disorder.

There are many things that one can do to support the youngster mentally and reduce the risk. 

Strong family support and relationships have shown to help protect youngsters from anxiety disorders. Seeking professional help early for the youngster is the best thing one can do when symptoms are seen or the youngster is experiencing severe anxious feelings which are interfering with his normal activities.

One must not ignore or dismiss youngster's fears.

Encourage him gently to do things that make him anxious, but do not push him to situations that he does not want to face. Also, praise him for doing things he's anxious about. Refer the youngster as brave and not anxious or shy. Set up a role model for him by managing your own stress and anxiety. A professional help for an anxiety disorder is vital for youngster's healthy development. Psychological treatment concentrates on strategies to help youngsters cope up with anxiety. Anti-depressants drugs are used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders. One should also stop or reduce consumption of caffeine products such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks and chocolate.

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