Struggling with teenage anxiety and panic attacks with your kids?
If you’re a parent of a teen or soon-to-be-teen, I think you’ll agree with me when I say that our kids are getting moodier.
They are getting more anxious and can panic more easily over seemingly simple things. It’s getting harder to tell if something is genuinely wrong, a passing phase, or something to not worry about at all.
Our once happy child is now brooding, quiet, and maybe even secretive.
The problem is that our kids are now heading towards adulthood. School is getting more challenging. Puberty is starting. Friendships and crushes also become more challenging and complex than they were in grade school.
I’d like to tell you that there was a perfect solution to dealing with moody and anxious teens or maybe a book that solved all the issues. Unfortunately, just like the problem, the solution isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all.
In my house, we have 2 almost teenage daughters (and a newborn). I noticed profound changes as my older 2 finished out elementary school and prepared for middle school. My formerly happy girls get grouchy and anxious more easily. They stress over crushes or tests or things that were said on the bus.
Luckily my wife and I have found some very effective tools to help manage these symptoms in a way that brings peace and harmony to our house and our family outings.
In this post, we’re going to look at the most common questions surrounding teenage anxiety and panic attacks. Then we’ll take a look at the proven tips for helping manage and eliminate these issues with your kids.
What are the signs of anxiety in a teenager?
Anxiety is a normal part of growing up.
The teenage years can be some of the most stressful times in their life. Thus anxiety totally normal since their maturity, self-regulation, and communication skills are still developing.
For most kids, anxiety is usually a harmless phase that goes away all on its own. There are, however, a few genuine disorders which may require treatment. Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the big ones.
The Main Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- Difficulty sitting still
- Tires easily
- Poor sleep patterns
- Muscular tension
Aside from GAD, there are also other disorders to be aware of, such as:
- Social Anxiety Disorder – The most common disorder. This is simply being uncomfortable in social settings with blushing, stammering and losing confidence
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – This affects up to 3% of the population. Upwards of 10% of adults with OCD attempt suicide, so this is something to pay attention to in teens. This is notable for an obsessive attention to detail being disruptive to their daily life.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – This can happen when a teen (or anyone) witnesses or experiences a tragic or horrible event. But even a nasty divorce can prompt this too.
- Separation Anxiety – This can happen after the death of a parent or loved one or if a divorce removes one parent from regular contact with the child. It can also be triggered when a family moves from a long-time comfortable surrounding.
I danced not because I have anxiety. But because I wanted to feel freedom + happiness running through my body. It made me feel freakin’ amazing!? Teenage anxiety has risen 30% in the last 5 years + is extremely commonplace in the schools I’m working with #MentalHealthAwareness pic.twitter.com/kuPP9MuyYM
— Sophie Radcliffe (@challengesophie) May 14, 2018
What age do you get panic attacks?
Panic attacks and panic disorders can start at any age. After all, the stresses and challenges of life happen differently to different people and can happen all throughout life.
The most common age for these to start, however, is between the ages of 15-25 according to WebMD.
It’s not uncommon at all for people to get them occasionally. But if they happen consistently it could be something called panic disorder. About 1 in 20 people are diagnosed with panic disorder. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed.
The Primary child anxiety symptoms of panic disorder are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Racing heartbeat
- Sweating or shaking
- Numbness in extremities
- Irrational fears
The Anxiety Workbook for Teens is an Amazon #1 Best Seller. 4.5 stars and well over 100 reviews, this book “gives teens a collection of tools to help control anxiety and face day-to-day challenges. This workbook both gives anxious teens insight into their problems and offers practical guidance for overcoming them.”
What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack?
With anxiety attacks, people become afraid & apprehensive.
Their heart rate may race and their breath becomes shallow. However, these attacks are usually short-lived. Once whatever is causing the anxiety stops, the attack stops.
Panic attacks, on the other hand, aren’t usually triggered by a specific incident or event. Thus they are much harder to see coming or stop on command.
Is teenage anxiety normal?
Almost all teens get some form of child anxiety symptoms. This is totally normal.
After all, everything in their world is changing:
- Their bodies
- School (getting harder)
- Social pressures
- Fear of failure & rejection
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations and is one of the main coping mechanisms for teens.
For most teens, things like finals, athletics, or their increasing awareness of their own sexuality can bring about teenage anxiety and panic attacks.
The brain naturally responds to this by increasing heart rate, perspiration and hampering the teen’s ability to focus. If your teen is struggling specifically with a Fear of Failure and/or rejection, there are some very actionable steps you can take to help resolve those issues, so take a moment and check out one of my most popular posts from earlier this year.
Is social media and the omnipresence of digital interactions really the cause of the rising tide of teenage #anxiety? @leahjshafer talks to @emilycweinstein and other experts to find out the complicated answer. @UKnowHGSE @MindShiftKQED https://t.co/NFuRt1jrCs
— Harvard Education (@hgse) January 4, 2018
Can you get anxiety during puberty?
Teenage anxiety and panic attacks often go hand in hand with puberty. You see, puberty is more than just facial hair on boys and breasts on girls. It’s much more complicated than that.
Puberty typically starts around ages 7-13 for girls & 9-15 for boys.
This starts when the brain releases a hormone called GnRH. As GnRH hits the pituitary gland, it releases 2 puberty hormones: LH and FSH.
Boys & girls have both of these in their bodies. But they affect boys and girls in totally different ways.
For boys, the hormones send the testes a signal to start production of testosterone & sperm.
For girls, these hormones cause the ovaries to start producing estrogen. Estrogen, along with FSH and LH, causes a girl’s body to physically mature & prepare for pregnancy.
All these hormonal changes make emotional self-regulation very challenging on top of all the other changes happening in their lives during this time.
Teenage boys in particular, while slower to mature, will start to spend more time alone, and you might see your son start to take really long showers.
The Panic Miracle system is a unique 3 step system that can help you “Treat Your Panic Attacks and Anxiety, Regain Your Self Confidence, and Enjoy Life Without Fear” without drugs, gimicks or things like hypnosis. The system comes with a 250 page e-book, relaxation audio programs, ultimate stress-relief guide and online access and counseling with the course creator (and former anxiety-sufferer), Chris Bayliss. Learn more about whether this system is right for you at newmiddleclassdad.com/panicmiracle.
So what are the . . .
15 Best Tips on Eliminating Teenage Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
To learn how to help a teenager with anxiety, we’ve found the following 15 tips can significantly reduce or eliminate teenage anxiety and panic attacks.
At the very least these tips can help manage the symptoms and get your teen the support they need to sail through these years and enter adulthood on solid footing.
1. KEEP CALM AND PARENT ON
If your child sees you panicked or stressed over their behavior guess what’s going to get worse?
As parents, we have to be the adult and be strong, calm and patient. We have to model the behavior and self-regulation skills we’d like to see in them. So keep your cool, remember to breathe and if you need to vent to your spouse or have an emotional moment, have that in private.
At the moment your child is feeling teenage anxiety and panic attacks, that is the very moment your child needs you to be strong and calm so you can help them be stronger and calmer.
2. DON’T PUT PRESSURE ON YOUR TEEN
Life automatically puts a ton of pressure on kids these days compared to when I was a teen.
We didn’t have STAAR tests, cyber-bullying or many of the other stressors that kids face today. So the one thing we don’t want to do is make our kids feel pressured to “get over it”.
Let your child express their feelings. Listen. Let them know that these things will pass, but be patient with them and let them know you love them unconditionally.
3. HAVE THEM LEARN GOOD BREATHING TECHNIQUES
Breathe is the cornerstone of life.
That sounds simplistic, but if you look at some of the oldest health practices, whether it be yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong or martial arts, you’ll see they all focus heavily on the breath and using the breath to regulate the body’s nervous system, energy levels and response to stress.
Personally, as a martial artist, I like to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth about 3 seconds in and 5 seconds out. But any focus on the breathing will help. Check out some additional breathing tips to reduce stress from Dr. Andrew Weil.
— Wellness Institute (@TheWellness) December 13, 2017
4. GET TO THE ROOT OF THE ISSUE
As with almost any issue in life, there is an underlying root problem.
So to really get over teenage anxiety and panic attacks we have to understand what is really causing them. It could be:
- Death of a loved one
- Moving to a new city (and leaving behind everything they knew)
- Undiagnosed dyslexia or other neurological issues
Once you understand the real underlying root issue, then and only then, can really start to address the real problem.
If you or your teen struggle with how to Let Go of the Past, I highly recommend you take a moment and check out my most shared post on Twitter about moving forward after trauma.
5. LIMIT YOUR TEEN’S TECHNOLOGY TIME
Technology is great. Without it, you wouldn’t be reading my blog.
But too much tech time affects sleep patterns, worsens ADHD and can stunt emotional growth.
But don’t take my word for that. Dr. Scott Becker is the Director of the Michigan State University Counseling Center. In studying it for 18 years, he finds a direct correlation between the over-use of technology and anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and more.
Learn more about How Technology Affects the Brain Negatively in one of my most shared posts from earlier this year.
6. ACKNOWLEDGE THE ELEPHANT(S) IN THE ROOM
Above, I mentioned things like divorce, moving and the death of a loved one as possible root issues.
Unfortunately, what I sometimes see (I work with hundreds of kids in my day job and my wife is a teacher) are parents wanting to do everything BUT acknowledge the real issue.
They’ll pay for doctor and therapists, medication and much more. But they gloss over the fact that they just went through a nasty divorce or the impact of having just moved cross-country or other potentially traumatic events that can have a significant impact on our kids.
So don’t feel guilty if these things happened in your family. I’ve been divorced too and have moved my kids to different cities a few times.
But acknowledge it, talk about it and understand that these things will negatively affect our kids.
We can’t always stop them from happening but we are in complete control of how we deal with it.
7. GET YOUR TEEN TO BED EARLIER
A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that nearly 2/3 of adolescents did not get the recommended 10 hours of sleep per night.
On average they found teens got closer to 7 hours. Lack of sufficient rest impacts grades, increases risk of depression, increases the likelihood of risky behaviors like drug/alcohol and cigarette use, and our overall ability to regulate our emotions.
Learn more about the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Students.
8. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET OUTSIDE HELP
Almost all of us need professional help at one point in our lives or another.
There’s no shame in admitting we need it or asking for it. There is shame in needing it and allowing ego and pride to prevent us from seeking it out.
A great psychotherapist can help you and your kids cope with the challenges and stresses that are leading to teenage anxiety and panic attacks.
21 Best Tips & Self Esteem Exercises for Youth Your Kids Need!https://t.co/xPqWAHHff0
— Middle Class Dad (@middleclassdad1) June 4, 2018
9. ENCOURAGE YOUR TEEN TO OPEN UP TO THEIR FRIENDS
Everyone needs a support network.
Let’s face it. Sometimes our kids don’t want to confide in us. That’s increasingly true as they get older. While we can nurture our relationship with our kids, we should also encourage them to talk to their peers. After all, no one quite understands the challenges facing teens today like another teenager.
In this day and age of social media, you can also put technology to good use and seek out Facebook support groups. Check out a list of many of the Facebook groups that come up, but check them out before you or your teen join in.
10. GENTLY ENCOURAGE YOUR TEEN TO FACE THEIR FEARS
While we don’t want to put pressure on our kids when facing teenage anxiety and panic attacks, you can gently encourage them to deal with them.
My oldest daughter recently went to the beach. The last time she was at the beach (over a year ago), a big wave knocked her down and really scared her. As we got to the beach this time, she said she hated the beach and didn’t want to get in the water. I didn’t force her but simply asked if she wanted to get in the water with me. I assured her I’d stay by her side and we wouldn’t go too deep.
Slowly we went further out and slowly I got a little further away from her. We had a blast and 2 hours later she was out there with her sister and a family friend without me.
11. EDUCATE YOURSELF AND YOUR TEEN ABOUT ANXIETY AND PANIC ATTACKS
It’s important as parents that we know what to look for.
Teenage anxiety and panic attacks don’t happen completely out of the blue. Educate yourself and your teen. Watch YouTube videos together. Learn about symptoms and warning signs. Most importantly learn about coping mechanisms and what to when attacks are happening.
12. SPEND TIME OUTDOORS
Sunshine and fresh air are natural cure-alls for the blues.
The sun naturally provides us with Vitamin D. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that Vitamin D could be a “solution for many who are at risk for depression and possibly other mental disorders.”
So take your kid for a hike or ride bikes through the neighborhood. Go camping or just walk through downtown. The sun will do them good and the time with you is priceless.
13. SPEND TIME TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
The world today conspires to keep families apart.
People work longer hours, commutes are worse and technology often disconnects us while pretending to connect us. So when possible, spend time as a family. Eat dinners together at the dinner table. Put the phones away and talk about your day.
The family unit is important and the support and connection our kids find at home should be greater than they find anywhere else.
14. PRACTICE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
Just like with breathing, you and your child can actively practice relaxation techniques.
Take a yoga class together or practice at home with YouTube videos. Meditation is also a fantastic practice for both parents and kids. It doesn’t have to be an hour sitting in silence either. Even just 5 or 10 minutes a few times a week can help reduce anxiety and bring focus, presence and connectedness.
Learn more about How Mindful Meditation Can Improve Your Parenting Style in one of my recent posts on Lifehack.
15. HAVE A PLAN FOR WHAT TO DO DURING AN ATTACK
My oldest daughter was recently diagnosed with SVT.
Essentially it’s an easily treatable heart condition noted by very rapid heartbeat. The research is still a little unclear but my daughter herself has noticed that the incidents have been triggered by anxiety and stress. With the help of our cardiologist, we got some specific tips on what to do when the attacks occur.
On the recent beach visit I mentioned above, she had one of those incidents. Because we had a plan, the event lasted less than a minute. Before we had a plan, her events sometimes lasted as long as an hour and a half.
So having a plan to help manage your child’s teenage anxiety and panic attacks is crucial.
Did we cover everything you wanted to know about teenage anxiety and panic attacks?
In this post we looked at the most common questions parents of anxious teens are desperately searching for answers on.
We explored the differences between anxiety, stress, panic attacks and other emotional challenges facing teens today. Lastly, we looked at the 15 best tips for managing or eliminating teenage anxiety and panic attacks so your household can get back on track and be more harmonious.
My house now has peace, quiet and open and loving communication and yours can too.
If you have daughters, I also highly recommend this book from Amazon that we recently ordered: The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self.
It’s New York Times Best Seller, is 4.5 stars on Amazon and while it deals more with building confidence than teenage anxiety and panic attacks, there are a lot of ways these issues cross over. Help your daughters become “bold, brave, and fearless”.
Any tips, suggestions or questions on how help manage these issues in your house with your kids?
If you like this post, please follow my Parenting board on Pinterest for more great tips from myself and top parenting experts!
Of course, I have to add that I am not a doctor, therapist or mental health professional. As with all most posts, I offer my opinions based on my own research and experiences. If you need professional help, you should seek out professional help in your area.