The teenage years are a time of transition for youngsters during which they encounter many changes and uncertainties. Teenagers are particularly receptive during this time, which is marked by behavioural changes and emotional unease. What happens though, if this emotional turmoil becomes too great? Or if extreme distress leads to risky and dangerous behaviour? To discuss teen anxiety, THIP Media spoke to Clinical Psychologist and Counselor Dr Manisha Gaur in an interview where she discussed various aspects of anxiety and other psychological troubles that teenagers struggle with.
Dr Manisha is the director of Gaur Mental Health Clinic, the Addiction and Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Civil Lines, Ajmer. She has also worked at a number of hospitals including JLN Medical College and Hospital and Sawai Mansingh Medical College and Hospital in Jaipur. Dr Manisha also has numerous awards and publications to her credit.
What is teen anxiety and does it always harm teenagers?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Anxiety is the situation when you’re very fearful or you’re scared. Among teenagers, there are some changes in the body. Due to certain reasons like hormonal changes, peers, and things happening around them, a lot of teenagers may suffer from anxiety.
Teen anxieties grow according to the situations they have because they are at the age where they need recognition and when they do not get that or whatever they are striving for, they grow with anxiety.
Are phobias and panic attacks common among teens with anxiety disorders?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Anxiety is usually prevalent. It’s usually there in everyone, in all the teenagers. And to some extent, anxiety is normal. If they are a little anxious, they will perform their work. But if they are not at all anxious, they’ll not be careful and avoid doing their work.
When the anxiety gets too much and they cannot control their bodily symptoms due to it, they may get panic attacks. Additionally, if somebody is anxious about for example dark rooms and they have to go and be there, they may develop a fear of closed areas or dark places. And when that fear grows, the anxiety turns into phobia also.
Can the increasing cases of teen anxiety be attributed to the increased exam pressure?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Yes, exam pressure is also one of the reasons for increasing teen anxiety because you must have heard about many of these suicides happening in various coaching institutes. So why is that happening? It is happening because parents and other people around expect these teenagers to perform very well to clear the examinations or to crack the competitive exams or school exams, boards and other competitive exams. At the same time, they have the exact expectations of themselves. They set a target for themselves and if they are not able to complete that target or reach close to it, they get anxious. So, pressure from teachers, parents, colleagues, etc. can definitely be a reason behind the increasing instances of anxiety among teenagers.
Can social media and hormonal changes make teenagers anxious?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Yes, social media and internet addiction can contribute to teen anxiety. Increased use of social media, gadgets, phones or laptops, and continuous watching or continuous being in front of the screen can develop anxiety among teenagers and children. Excess use of the internet also increases anxiety. The rays that come from the gadgets stimulate the brain cells, because of which they develop anxiety.
Does a bad lifestyle affect teen anxiety?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Definitely yes. These days teenagers love their nights more than their days. They are happy staying awake till late at night watching movies or scrolling on their phones. So that has changed the sagartan rhythm of the body. It is basically sleeping well on time and having seven to eight hours of sleep for teenagers. So if they sleep on time and they get up on time, wake up on time, things are going to be quite good for them. They will have a happy metabolism and the generation of happy hormones. Well, but if they stay awake at night, the brain also needs rest. Junk food, not exercising and a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to anxiety.
How can parents recognise teenage anxiety or depression? I mean, what role do parent-child partnership or positive parenting and family support play in coping with them?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Yeah. So, I want to tell you about the symptoms of anxiety. An individual may experience a feeling of butterflies in the stomach, trembling hands, shaking, shivering or sweating. When it comes to movement, individuals may struggle to maintain focus. There are certain physical manifestations, such as trembling and palpitations. If these things happen once, it is okay. However, repeated episodes can indicate anxiety. For parents, identifying anxiety in their child involves observing tendencies like avoiding social gatherings and confining themselves to specific areas. Changes in behaviour may include heightened irritability, annoyance, anger, or even overreacting to minor issues.
What role can schools and teachers play in preventing anxiety among teenagers? What resources and approaches can the school use to address the teenagers’ mental health needs?
Dr Manisha Gaur: I think there should be a school mental health program that schools must include in their curriculum for the teachers. Through this, teachers can be made aware of the symptoms of anxiety. This will enable them to identify the students struggling with anxiety by noticing their behaviour, and the changes and can take them to the school counsellor or the psychologist.
When should parents approach a psychologist for their child’s mental health condition?
Dr Manisha Gaur: Firstly, it holds great significance to establish a strong connection with one’s child, enabling a deeper understanding. In situations where parents resort to constant yelling, irritation, anger, or an excessively authoritative demeanour where everything must align with their directives, the fundamental bond between parent and child can weaken.
In such cases, it becomes important to foster a strong connection, allowing the child or teenager to comfortably share their thoughts and behaviours with the parent, instead of concealing them. Once this connection is established, if noticeable changes persist despite the parent’s efforts to converse, guide, engage, and support the child in various activities, and if the anxiety remains unmanageable, it’s advisable to consider consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist for professional assistance.
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