What to do when anxiety becomes too much for teens – Houston Chronicle

Looking back at my formative teenage years it is amazing that I was able to make it through relatively unscathed. Having the stress of schoolwork, a job for the first time and the responsibility of a young adult is often a recipe for high anxiety. While anxiety is a normal part of life, the question that is always on my foremind as a doctor is: “When is anxiety considered too much anxiety?”

Per the CDC, anxiety is one of the most diagnosed mental disorders in teenagers. Last year alone, 7.1 percent, or 4.4 million teens, were diagnosed with anxiety. It is also common for children with anxiety to have other conditions, such as depression, ADHD, behavior problems. Children ages 3-17 with anxiety have a 37.9 percent chance of having behavior problems, and 32.3 percent will also have depression. Unfortunately, anxiety is not a problem that will go away, as the number of diagnosed children with anxiety has increased from 5.5 percent in 2007 to 6.4 percent in 2012. Anxiety disorders in teenagers have been shown to lead to underachieving in a teenager’s studies, which can continue to lead to perpetual underachieving through their adult life.

The first step is identifying the difference between normal anxiety and an anxiety disorder. From a physician’s standpoint, anxiety becomes a diagnosable disorder once the patient’s concerns are excessive enough to cause a noticeable effect in everyday life. A diagnosis must be made by a trained physician. During their appointment, the physician will take a thorough history of the patient’s symptoms, including things like severity of symptoms, how often symptoms occur, and if there is any trigger that is causing symptoms. While it might sound overwhelming, the interaction between a physician and the patient is paramount to arriving to the correct diagnosis. Once the appropriate diagnosis is made, treatment can begin.

If a teenager is diagnosed with anxiety, there is nothing to be ashamed about! It is important to understand that having anxiety is no one’s fault. What is important is how to control symptoms so that life is not burdened by anxiety. As a physician, I often recommend three options for treatment of anxiety: talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Starting talk therapy can be intimidating for most. Being open with a stranger about your feelings and concerns is not easy, and those who decide to follow up with a therapist should see that as a point of pride. Studies show that long-term therapy is beneficial in getting the symptoms of anxiety under control. Many patients struggle with sticking to therapy for an extended amount of time; so, it is important to find a therapist that the teenager really connects with.

Another form of treatment is medication. Depending on the teenager’s age there are several available medications that have been shown to help control the symptoms of anxiety. Of course, no medication is without risk. It is important to have a conversation with your physician about the benefits and risks involved in starting a medication, and if trying a new medication is right for you.

Finally, the most common form of treatment is using a combination of both therapy and medication. How much treatment is dedicated to either medication or therapy is dependent on the teenager. Whatever they choose, it is important that they do what is best for them so they can live the life they deserve! Anxiety is a part of life, but is should not be their entire life. So do not hesitate to reach out to a physician today with any concerns you may have.

Dr. Quiroz is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.