Anxiety, which is engulfing the brains and shutting it down, is the most common scene among the adolescents today. One in three adolescents suffers from anxiety disorders, stated the National Institutes of Health. The symptoms noticed are something that’s very similar to the ones observed in adults dealing with anxiety disorders. Them being : somatic symptoms, behavioural issues, comorbidity. The can range from being mild to severe.
Adolescent anxiety can affect all aspects of an individual’s life. Their anxiety tends to affect their academic performance, interpersonal relationships. “A person’s personality, genetics, brain chemistry, and life events all play a significant role in the development of anxiety”, quoted by Dr. Claire McCarthy in the article “Anxiety in Teens is Rising : What’s going on?”. These factors are combined with high expectations and the pressure to succeed, a world that is frightening and threatening, and self-esteem-damaging social media ; the kids undoubtedly foster to tension issues. This clearly states that anxiety in adolescents is real and, in most cases, unaddressed and untreated, resulting in additional problems, regardless of the causes.
Chronic anxiety could lead to serious mental health issues like depression, substance abuse, and even suicide. It can make it difficult to concentrate and learn, resulting in difficulties faced in school setting that can last a lifetime. Additionally, it may result in physical issues like chronic pain, digestive issues, headaches, and eventually heart disease.
During adolescence, when adolescents face emotional challenges and develop regulatory neural circuitry, emotional regulation skills develop significantly. Studies show that teenagers experiencing Social Nervousness use maladaptive reactions like disconnection when they get restless, dreading and stressing unreasonably. This influences their decision-making, and given that they are closer to their friends than to their parents at this age, they may attempt to conceal their anxiety for fear of being judged or criticism. They become irritable and isolate themselves, avoid social gatherings and activities, and have trouble sleeping and concentrating as a result of their excessive worry.
Behavioural changes include difficulties with social interactions, such as classroom discussions, group work, presentations, or other activities that require social interaction with friends and classmates. Slow work pace due to compulsions, which may cause a child to work very slowly and engage in compulsive re-checking of information again and again. Missing assignments due to their needs for perfectionism, which can be misinterpreted by teachers to mean the assignment was not completed by the deadline or at all, which will negatively affect a student’s grades. Disrupted or unhealthy sleep patterns as a result of procrastination, difficulty transitioning between tasks, slow work pace, and/or perfectionism that causes them to stay up late are can manifest social anxiety to a higher level, despite the child’s apparent lack of interest in activities. Most importantly, there may also be complete refusal to attend school for a variety of reasons like to avoid social situations, to avoid being apart from their parents, or a physical illness caused by tension, such as a stomach ache or head ache. It is extremely challenging to catch up on missed assignments when college students are consistently absent. This means that they miss out on guidance time. This, in turn, makes things more stressful and makes it harder for students to do their work to its full potential.
Headaches, dizziness, body and muscle aches, fatigue, diet changes, and unidentified illness are all examples of physiological changes. It is essential to look for patterns rather than jumping onto conclusions. Teachers must be on the lookout, and if they observe a pattern, they can devise a strategy to reach out to the student and provide the needed assistance.
Possible triggers of anxiety could be :
- Their accomplishments : Adolescents are subjected to a significant amount of pressure that is not realistic. They are put under pressure to deal with their present and improve their future, especially if they come from families with strained relationships or families with lower incomes. This indicates that there would be a need to be perfect or do their best in school while also managing and completing homework.
- How they’re perceived : Compared to other ages, adolescents are more concerned with how their friends and peers will perceive them as to who they are. This is the reason for higher levels of conformity. In order to “fit in” with the group, one person would also say that they want to be a doctor. They worry too much about being judged as stupid or incompetent and are always lingered with the fear of being judged and criticised and seek validation.
- Their body : Most people reach puberty between the ages of 13 and 15, resulting in a lot of physical changes. They develop their secondary sexual characteristics, their voice changes, and they get taller. They feel uneasy and conscious as a result, and they become overly aware of the eyes that are laid on them or which are constantly looking at them. They begin to be self – critical which can have a significant impact on their self-esteem.
Adolescent anxiety can be brought on by a number of different things / examples / situations. Even though these aren’t the only reasons, they play a major role in child’s behaviour change.
So how does anxiety manifest itself?
Parents, teachers and Mental health workers need to look out for the following tell tale signs of anxiety
- Recurring fears and worries about routine parts of everyday life
- Changes in behaviour, such as irritability
- Avoiding activities, school, or social interactions
- Dropping grades or school avoidance
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Substance use or other risky behaviours
- Chronic physical complaints, such as fatigue, headaches, or stomachaches.
- Extreme self-consciousness or sensitivity to criticism
- Withdrawal from social activity
- Avoidance of difficult or new situations
- Drop in grades or school refusal
Few negative effects of anxiety are :
- Inability to comprehend information : It may be difficult for anxious students to concentrate on what needs to be learned. Their worries take up a lot of mental space, making it difficult for the student concentrate, follow instructions with multiple steps, and switch their attention from one task to the next in a flexible and effective manner.
- Information is not processed correctly : Students who are anxious typically have trouble paying attention in class because their abilities are being overworked by their anxiety. Students frequently have insufficient knowledge due to intermittent attention and concentration.
- Long-term memory does not store or consolidate information : The storing of information is another problem. As mentioned earlier, because they are unable to properly comprehend new information, the information is not stored appropriately, making it difficult to retrieve it.
Interventions that can be used by teachers or staff in the absence of a counsellor :
The first thing to do is educate the teachers of schools to look for and recognise signs of anxiety. This will help them be aware of when the child would need their help. Few interventions that can be done by the staff are :
- Deep breathing : Taking deep breaths is the most crucial action to take. The teacher can ask the child to breathe along with the teacher and slow down their breathing while seated the child in a calm place. The child will be calmed as a result, and the teacher can then slowly inquire about the attack’s cause.
- Take breaks and go outside : With the child, the teacher can devise rules such that allows the child to demonstrate leave the classroom in the event of an anxiety attack. Manage their immediate symptoms with this.
- If the student is worried about having to submit a paper, the teacher can devise a manageable plan that includes specific due dates and regular check-ins to monitor progress.
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