Adolescent anxiety can be confusing for both parents and teens alike. Teens who are struggling with anxiety are feeling and processing these complex emotions for the first time. Parents, who may not be able to fully grasp the extent of what their teen is experiencing, may be unintentionally making it harder for their teen to come to them for help. Many treatment centers for teens will help parents identify myths and biases they may harbor about anxiety that can be unintentionally affecting their child. This article unpacks some of the most common myths about teen anxiety and offers a way to reframe these negative beliefs. Keep reading to learn more about these myths and how damaging they can be to a teen struggling with anxiety disorder.
- Anxiety Will Go Away On Its Own
Anxiety will not go away on its own. Anxiety, like any illness, requires some sort of treatment. Treatment for mental health disorders may just happen to look different than, say, treatment for a broken leg. If it seems like teens grow out of anxiety, the reality is those teens found the support and resources they need to help address their anxiety. Whether this meant medication, therapy, or addressing underlying issues.
- Your Teenager is Just Being Ungrateful
This is a common myth when the reality is the act of being “grateful” and recognizing privilege is still a developing skill in children and teens (even some adults!) As a parent, if you feel like you do everything for your teen – from dinner to a weekly allowance – your teen may not be able to comprehend exactly what is at stake for you to supply them with those things. However, this doesn’t mean their experience is not valid. To your teen, the complex whirlwind of anxious emotions is affecting them for the first time. This new, confusing wave of emotions may be the hardest thing your teen has ever faced thus far. As a parent, you have to approach their anxiety as one of the most difficult experiences they’ve ever had so far because it very well could be.
- Teenage Anxiety is Uncommon
Unfortunately, almost every teen growing up experiences some degree of anxiety. Even most adults struggle with varying degrees of anxiety. In fact, it is so common, that 1 in 3 teens will experience symptoms of anxiety disorder. The main causes of anxiety in teens are still being studied, but it is important to understand that anxiety looks different for every individual.
- Bad Parenting Causes Anxiety in Children and Teens
While this can be true, this isn’t always the case. Mental health disorders can be caused by a variety of psychological, neurological, social, or biological factors. These factors can interact in ways we are still unaware of. However, there are steps you can take to validate your child’s experience and support them through their anxiety. The truth is, parenting styles change from generation to generation. What worked for you as a child may not work for your own child.
- Your Teenager is Just Lazy
This is an outdated, harmful belief that is extremely invalidating to your child. Everyone has a unique way of dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions. You may find your teen sleeping more, playing video games instead of doing homework, and avoiding friends and family. Anxiety can make daily tasks very hard to fulfill, but this is not a sign of laziness. Your teen is just trying to cope with difficult feelings.
- Your Teenage is Just Being Too Sensitive
There’s nothing wrong with being sensitive. Being sensitive can actually be a good thing. People who are sensitive tend to be great with other people, children, and animals. Some sensitive people make great artists. This isn’t a trait that should be penalized. Anxiety may make your teen feel more emotional than usual, but this is also just a symptom of the disorder itself and not a character trait.
- All Anxious Teens Are Shy
Not every anxious teen is shy. Some teens, like some adults, are better at hiding it. Some of the most bubbly, outgoing people can actually be crippled with anxiety behind the scenes. This also goes to say that just because your teen is shy, doesn’t mean they are anxious. The best way to find out is just by having a conversation with them.
- Symptoms of Anxiety Look The Same For Everyone
Symptoms of any illness, mental or physical, look different for everyone because everyone has their own unique way of coping. Some teens may not have developed healthy coping mechanisms quite yet, leading their symptoms to look different. If your teen says they are anxious, all you can do is take their word for it.
- Your Teen’s Phone or Social Media is Causing Their Anxiety
While it could be in some part causing anxiety, social media isn’t always the root cause. You may find your teen spending more time on their phone as a result of their anxiety, but the phone or social media may only play a small role in their mental health. The usage of phones has drastically changed in recent decades – social media has become the social hub for many teens and adults. This is how teens connect and socialize with their friends.
- Anxiety Isn’t That Big of a Deal
If you wouldn’t say this about a physical condition, you shouldn’t say this about a mental illness. Anxiety is a big deal, especially to a teen who is struggling with these feelings for the first time. To your teen, anxiety is a very big deal and can be consuming their life.
Conclusion – 10 Myths about Teenage Anxiety
There are many unhelpful myths surrounding teenage anxiety. Addressing and unpacking these negative beliefs can allow you to show up for your teen in a way that is supportive and helpful. Just remember that there is no wrong way for your child to deal with their anxiety. All you can do is be compassionate and aware of how complex anxiety can be.