Teenage Anxiety Causes
For most people, anxiety and adolescence go hand in hand. Adolescence is a time of change—bodily change, mental change, changing relationships with friends and parents, changing goals, interests, hopes and dreams—and accompanying all of these changes is a huge potential for anxiety.
This article will discuss the many potential causes of anxiety, the common types of anxiety teens and the signs and symptoms to watch for, and the safest treatments for teenage anxiety.
Teenager With Anxiety?
Those that believe they have anxiety – as well as their parents – need to make sure they're working towards treatment. Make sure you take my free 7 minute anxiety test now to better understand your anxiety symptoms.
Potential Causes of Teenage Anxiety
There are many potential causes of anxiety in teens, and often they influence each other. Narrowing it down to any one cause is oversimplifying something that's otherwise very complicated. In addition, treating this type of anxiety has a lot to do with understanding how your anxiety works. Make sure you take my anxiety test to learn more.
Now, some anxiety has nothing to do with being a teenager. Genetics can cause anxiety, as can life experiences. Once again, this is why anxiety is too complex to simplify into a specific issue. However, some of the major potential causes for teenage anxiety are listed below.
- Hormonal Shifts and Mood Swings – Hormone shifts are a primary factorin most of the causes of anxiety. However, hormone shifts when considered on their own are periods during which the body’s hormones and brain chemistry are unbalanced. Testosterone increases in males and estrogen increases in females, causing heightened reactivity and emotional responses.Moreover, when external stressors are combined with a preexisting imbalance in hormones, the brain is likely to react by altering its physical structure, creating more receptors for stress hormones and decreasing the amount of receptors for relaxation hormones, which can cause long term anxiety problems.
- Brain Development and Judgment Problems – The brain development that occurs during the teen years are a big part of why teenagers experience mood swings and, often, poor judgment abilities. The brain’s grey matter thickens until age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, after which point the brain automatically ceases thickening the matter and begins refining it instead. The last area to stop thickening and start being refined in teens is the prefrontal cortex, which is in charge of self control, judgment and thinking ahead. The strong emotions produced by hormonal shifts are therefore less tempered by reason than they are in adults. Not having self control, good judgment or the ability to plan ahead can make life very complicated and cause a lot of stress, particularly in combination with the mood swings resulting from hormonal shifts.
- Bodily Changes – Changes in bodily appearance and functionality can cause stress in many ways. The appearance of unpleasant or unwanted changes such as pimples, vocal shifts, excess body hair, shifts in height, body odors, the pain and inconvenience of the menstrual cycle, the embarrassment of erections at inappropriate times, and many others all contribute to make the adolescent body an unfamiliar, awkward and highly stressful place to be. In addition, the development of the body’s sex organs result in sexual urges and repression that are difficult to handle and can have stressful consequences, such as STDs or pregnancy—two realities that a teenage mind and body are ill-equipped to confront.
- Distancing from Parents or Guardians – If a teenager has been close with his or her parents from a young age, it may be difficult for them to accept the need to branch out and form connections with others, as well as the need to form their own identity separate from their parents. Being “on their own” for the first time and taking on new responsibilities can cause feelings of inadequacy and fear as they learn to adjust to having less protection and guidance than they are used to.
- Changing Ideals and Parental Disapproval - Adolescence is a time of changing ideals. Because our ideals as children are often formed in large part by our parents or guardians, when our ideals change it can be disconcerting to the adults in our lives. It may be that the religion a teen has grown up with is no longer for them, or their political ideas have become different from their parents’, or they have discovered something else about themselves—an intellectual or active passion, or even a sexual orientation they were previously unaware of. Any of these discoveries can cause parental disapproval and a stifling of the adolescent’s development which can cause them to feel unloved and even suspect that they are a bad person for not agreeing with their parents as they had always done previously.
- Isolation – Stressful feelings of isolation in teens can be caused by many factors. This often has to do with a combination of distancing from parents and the process of forming “new” identity.When forming their identities, teenagers sometimes default to identifying with a particular group of people and rejecting others. When these divisions occur, friends can separate from friends and isolation can result. Combined with tension in the home environment, this can lead to the clichéd conception that “no one understands me,” from which depression and anxiety often stem.
- Peer and Social Pressures – Peer and social pressures to look or behave a certain way or do certain things cause stress by making the adolescent feel as though they have no choice and are “trapped” by social expectations, that they are having to change who they really are (or see others change), and/or that they are abnormal and somehow lesser if they don’t give in to the pressures they are subject to. Often peer pressures deviate sharply from what parents recommend and/or demand, which results in extra tension from the disconnect between parental rules and teenage social rules.
- Underage Alcohol/Drug Use – Underage alcohol and drug use often result from peer pressure, and/or the desire to escape from parental control. Because teenage brains are not fully developed, the addition of the often addictive and unhealthy substances found in alcohol and various drug types can hinder development and also form stress-causing dependencies. Withdrawal symptoms and the physical changes that can be brought on by addiction are both stress-causing factors, as well as the consequences of being caught doing something illegal. Much like underage sex, underage drug and alcohol use can have consequences that not even the teenager’s parents, much less the teenagers themselves, are equipped to handle.
- Mental/Physical Abuse – Mental or physical abuse by parents, siblings or friends can be near impossible for a teenager to talk about or even identify due to social pressures, inner turmoil and the general confusion of adolescent years. The stress of abuse, whether it occurs once or regularly, can keep a teenager from being able to relate to others and cause them to internalize feelings of low self worth and pain that make it difficult to develop into a successful and happy human being.
As you can tell, teens have quite a number of reasons to feel the “angst” they are so famous for, and that angst is often rooted in anxiety. This doesn't even include smaller reasons like difficulty in school, trouble meeting new people, high school fashion and "growing up," and so much more.
If you think that this anxiety has become enough of a problem, it may be worth seeking treatment. For that, take my free 7 minute anxiety test, where you can learn what it takes to control your anxiety today.