Worrying is natural and is a normal part of growing up. Most adolescents worry because of pressure from school and social commitments. And it often comes from feelings of not doing well or the need to do their absolute best. However, if the worries become out of control or unmanageable, it is more likely that they are experiencing an anxiety disorder.
In this article, I set out to discuss a common anxiety disorder called generalized anxiety disorder, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder or GAD, is a common anxiety disorder among adolescents. Teens suffering from GAD experience excessive worrying or dread towards everyday things, sometimes for no particular reason. They may constantly contemplate unwanted, not-so-logical events, like what if I get a stroke suddenly, or what if terrorists attack my family.
A child with GAD worry way more often and more intensely than their non-anxious peers under the same circumstances. This can cause distress in performing daily tasks and can become a threat to their well-being.
GAD is believed to be caused by biological and environmental factors. That is either it can be inherited from their parents, or due to traumatic experiences. Family background or the conditions in which they are grown hugely contribute to the risks of developing GAD. The onset of COVID-19 marked a significant rise in teens with generalized anxiety as there were dramatic changes in their daily routine, and isolation from friends and extended family.
Spotting Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
Children with generalized anxiety disorder have a lot of worries and it can be exacerbated by stress. Unlike adults, children do not realize if they are being anxious for no reason or more than the situation demands. Therefore, parents and caregivers are supposed to look out for any excessive or unusual behavior.
The common symptoms shown by teens with GAD include procrastination which involves avoiding situations and people, trouble sleeping, difficulty in concentrating, picking skin, biting nails, hyperactivity, a constant worry for their parents or self, increased heart rates, stomach aches, headaches, hyperventilation, profuse sweating, increased irritability, low self-esteem, and self-criticism.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis And Treatment
When parents or caregivers notice any of the symptoms recurring or getting outsized it is mandatory to seek medical help. Doctors or medical health officers will then analyze the symptoms and determine whether these are related to anxiety disorder.
This is usually done by conducting a comprehensive assessment assessing the child’s symptoms and family background. Parents are often said to submit the medical and social history of their teen and the family. These can rule out the chances of misdiagnosis.
After the condition is confirmed, it is advised to start the treatment. If the symptoms are left untreated, studies have shown it can continue to adulthood. Treatments for GAD often include a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and family therapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the kids to learn ways to manage the situation. While medications comprising, antidepressants help in calming the kids. However, family therapy is incorporated to help the parents to understand the situation and to manage the kids from going into extreme conditions.
Experts say there are no particular ways to prevent GAD in teens. But early diagnosis and treatment can ease the symptoms and improve the life of the child.
The adolescent years are tough, and teens undergo immense pressure. Teens often feel stressed and anxious about meeting expectations, performing well in academics, excelling in extracurriculars, and being criticized by peers.
But it is considered normal as it’s natural to feel anxious with a lot of things going on. However, if it continues and becomes unmanageable, it can lead to anxiety disorders.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a serious mental health problem. Teens with GAD worry excessively and intensely over things compared to other kids under similar circumstances or worry about things that seem to have no real cause. Experts say it is mostly related to genetics or traumatic experiences.
Therefore, parents have to be vigilant towards the behavior of their teens and should seek medical assistance if the symptoms worsen. Generally, a combination of therapy and medications are prescribed for the treatment. And it is proven that treatment lessens the symptoms of GAD and improves the quality of life in teens.