Health

Don’t Worry–Tackle Anxiety

50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24.

Mental health

By: Dr. Caroline Abolade

Stress levels are at an all-time high, and teens are not immune. According to the Child Mind Institute, nearly 32% of adolescents meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder by the age of 18. Anxiety (more serious than just regular worrying) is the number one mental health issue for teenagers. They worry excessively about fitting in with their friends, doing well in school, and so on. Depression frequently goes hand-in-hand with anxiety. Less common, but certainly very serious, are ideas of self-harm and suicidal thinking.

50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24.

Here’s the good news: For the majority of teenagers, individual counseling where they are able to discuss their feelings with a counselor or psychologist is enough. It’s a supportive environment where problems can be openly dealt with, and teens tend to feel better opening up to someone other than their parents. Sometimes medications may be necessary depending on the severity of the symptoms. When medications are prescribed, it’s often short-term.

Mental health issues are delicate and difficult to discuss, even for mature adults and parents. Teens can find it hard to bring up the subject because they may not understand their own feelings well enough to explain them, and even if they do, they feel their parents won’t understand.

Here’s what parents can do to help:

• Ask outright how they are doing. You’d be surprised how many teens think their parents are mind readers! Once you start the conversation, they’ll be more likely to open up and talk to you.

• Empathize with them. For example: “When I was your age, I used to worry about that, too.” Open communication without judgment is key! A listening ear goes a long way towards validating what someone else is saying to you.

• Be there to help. Let them know that no matter what is going on mentally, there are medical and/or psychological solutions, and you can help them access those solutions.

 

Dr. Caroline Abolade is a psychiatrist in private practice at Grace Point Behavioral in Montgomery, AL. She was born and raised in Nigeria, and graduated from the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 1989. She completed her residency training in psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Dr. Abolade has lived in the South for 14 years. She is married to another psychiatrist and is a proud mother of 2 boys.

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