How to Identify Anxiety
Whether you are a parent trying to help your teenager, a young adult trying to help a friend or perhaps trying to identify things going on in yourself, asking what anxiety means is a good first step. The next thing is to learn how to identify anxiety.
An Important Note
It is important to remember that anxiety is a normal part of life. We all experience it, and it is natural, even important. When anxiety becomes an exaggerated, unhealthy response, that is when concern should start. Also, not every teenager and young adult experiences the same symptoms and the presence of a symptom may not be anxiety.
If your teen complains of physical symptoms that don’t have an apparent physical cause, it could be a sign of anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways, including physical symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, and trembling. They may all happen at the same time or separately. One may experience muscle tension and cramps, stomachaches, headaches, or pain in the limbs and back. They may hyperventilate or startle easily.
Sharing your concerns with a medical professional is often a good choice so that physical illnesses can be ruled out.
Often, changes in behavior can indicate a problem starting. For example, if your typically outgoing and confident teen suddenly becomes withdrawn and avoids social situations, it could be a sign of anxiety. Changes in behavior, such as increased agitation, irritability, excessive worry, or aggression, may also indicate that your teen is experiencing a struggle with anxiety. In some cases, anxiety can also cause difficulty sleeping, eating, and concentrating.
Anxiety can also show signs through schoolwork. If you notice a sudden lack of interest or a decline in grades, that could be a sign of anxiety. Talk to your teen’s teachers and school counselors to get a better understanding of their academic performance and whether they’ve noticed any changes in the classroom.
Talk to Your Teen
Communication can be your friend in this situation. If you are seeing potential signs, an open, honest conversation could be the best first step. Ask them how they are feeling and truly listen to their answers. Be careful not to be dismissive of their problems. Sometimes we want so badly to help our teens that we rush to “fix the problem” for them and we should avoid that impulse. It can be helpful to assist them in framing their problems in the proper context but be careful not to sound like you are dismissing their problems as minor or unimportant. Encourage them to share freely and try to remain supportive and non-judgmental.
You’re Not Alone
Sometimes, when we are trying to help our teens, we fall into one of the anxiety traps ourselves. Specifically, the lie of “I can do this alone.” Maybe you can, but you don’t have to. Your medical professional or school counselors may be able to recommend a mental health professional that can help. Depending on your faith views, there may also be resources available to you there.
Beyond the Spiral: Don’t Believe Everything Anxiety Tells You helps you and your teenager learn how to identify anxiety and the lies it commonly tells us. Then it offers practical steps to actively combat the lies and break free from the spiral they can cause. Visit the Beyond the Spiral website for more information.