TEEN ANXIETY IS ON THE RISE: HERE’S HOW TO TREAT IT NATURALLY
The Causes, The Signs and The Solution
Being a teen seems like it’s a lot harder than it used to be. There’s 24/7 access to social media, a year-long global pandemic that isolated them from their friends, and so much pressure to succeed.
It’s no wonder that anxiety rates in teenagers are so high. 7% of kids between the ages of 3 and 17 have diagnosed anxiety, according to the CDC. And those numbers keep growing. In fact, a national survey found that there’s been a 20% increase in anxiety diagnoses in the last decade. For comparison, depression rates only went up by 0.2%. That’s why anxiety is the biggest mental health problem that teenagers in the US are facing right now.
What’s Causing This?
Kids these days have constant access to social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok. And studies show that that’s a major contributing factor to the rise in teen anxiety.
One study on the connection between social media and anxiety focused on body image issues. Teens are bombarded with content from rich, thin, beautiful influencers like Kendall Jenner and Charli D’Amelio every day. The study found that the teens who spent the most time on social media had the highest anxiety levels about their appearance and body. They reported wanting to be thinner, more attractive, and have different hair, bodies, or even face shapes. And these body concerns translated into IRL issues, like having social anxiety and feeling isolated from peers.
And it’s not just an American problem. In the UK, the National Institute of Health conducted a survey and found that teens who get more screen time are more likely to get depression and anxiety by the age of 18.
What exactly is it about social media that makes kids more anxious and depressed? Well, experts aren’t exactly sure but they think it probably has something to do with the fact that teens these days don’t get a break from social pressure. After they come home from school, they’re still connected to their peers by their Insta feeds, Snapchat stories, and TikTok For You Pages. They don’t have the space to take a break from all that peer pressure, and it’s taking a toll.
Most teens appear to consider sleep a waste of time rather than an investment in anti-anxiety brain health. During REM sleep the brain produces delta waves which can repair the brain. According to sleep researcher Matthew Walker, anxiety can actually be induced by lack of REM sleep. By the end of one night without sleep, 50% of healthy persons without anxiety converted to a serious anxiety problem, in a dose-dependent fashion. Teens and those in their 20s are also more likely to use sedatives like alcohol to get to sleep, yet sedation is not quality sleep and will not prevent anxiety.
Know The Signs
If you want to help your teen deal with their anxiety, the first thing you need to do is learn how to recognize the signs. Teens don’t always have the words to describe how they’re feeling, and they might even think it’s normal to feel anxious all the time–especially if it’s been going on for a long time! So as parents or caregivers, we need to be a little more observant and look for signs that our teens are struggling.
Here are some common signs of anxiety in teens:
- Recurring fears or worries about everyday activities or events, like going to school, going to a sports practice, or hanging out with a group of friends.
- Avoiding social activities
- Difficulty sleeping at least 8 hours (requiring about 9 hours in bed since we tend not to fall asleep immediately.)
- Troubles with concentration
- Problems at school, like dropping grades or unusual behavioral issues
- Substance use or risky behaviors
- Feeling tired all the time
- More headaches or stomach aches than usual
If you or someone else in your teen’s life notices a few of these signs, try talking to your teen to see what’s going on. Once you and your teen have identified anxiety as a problem, you can try some of these natural tips and methods for treating it.
The Wholistic Solutions
Since social media seems to be a big factor in teen anxiety, the cure is having them stay off sites like Instagram and Twitter, right?
Well, probably not. Especially during a pandemic, cutting teens off from social interaction might not be a great idea.
A better solution is talking to your teen about how they can be mindful in the way they consume and post content for social sites. Here’s a quick checklist to help you and your teen be more conscious about social media.
- Before you open any apps, take a deep breath and loosen up your muscles. Notice how you’re feeling.
- Identify your intentions. Why are you opening the app? What do you hope to get out of using it? Do you want to check in on your friends and see how they’re doing? Do you want to get inspo for a cute outfit? If you’re not sure what your intentions are, try to hold off on using the app. Mindless scrolling isn’t going to help you.
- Scroll slowly. Be present. Check in on how you’re feeling. Does looking at a certain person’s posts make you feel bad about yourself? Does reading nasty subtweets make you anxious? Pay attention to how social media makes you feel.
- Remember that what you’re seeing isn’t necessarily reality. People don’t post their crappy days or even their normal days. They post the highlights and hide the lows.
- When posting, remember to be authentic. Is it a picture, video, or caption that really represents who you are (or want to be) and how you feel?
Anxiety isn’t just a mental thing. It can sometimes translate into physical side effects, like an elevated heart rate, stomach aches, shakiness, and difficulty breathing. When mindfulness and deep breathing techniques aren’t helping, herbal remedies might be able to.
Here are some natural herbs that have been proven to help with anxiety and are safe for both teens and adults.
- Chamomile: Chamomile tea is a staple for people with sleeping problems and anxiety disorders. It comes from a flower and helps to calm symptoms, even if it doesn’t cure anxiety. A 2016 study found that not only does it reduce moderate to severe anxiety symptoms, but it’s also completely safe for long-term use.
- Gotu Kola: Gotu Kola, also known as the “herb of longevity” in TCM and Ayurveda, is a natural treatment for anxiety. Studies show that it is intensely anxiolytic (aka anxiety-reducing) and even compares to pharmaceutical treatments.
- Ashwagandha: One of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, Ashwagandha has been used for its stress-busting properties for centuries. If your teen’s anxiety is related to stress, Ashwagandha is the way to go. It reduces the effects of stress on the body and mind, and has been proven to lower feelings of anxiety without negative side effects.
Being a teen in 2021 is hard. But by recognizing signs of anxiety in your teen, you can help them find healthy and natural ways to cope with the stress that they deal with everyday. Their anxiety might not ever be “cured” but you can at least give them tools to help manage it.