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Anxiety and Teenagers

By Siobhain Crosbie

My name is Siobhain(Vonnie)Crosbie and I run a private company based in South Woodford, London, England. I have been practising Psychotherapy incorporating Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other models into my work with teenagers for over 11 years.

It is important for all teenagers looking for therapy to be aware that their appointments are confidential in the same way that adult’s appointments are confidential, the only time confidentiality is broken is when the teenager presents a high risk of suicide.

Anxiety is a common feeling in teenagers and can be the result of different issues. Pressures from parents to succeed, emotional insecurities created by arguing in the home, Divorce and separation of parents, bullying in school, jealousy and anger in siblings, a death of a sibling or a parent, sexual abuse and violence directed towards a child or indeed being aware of violence from one parent to another, religious and cultural dynamics, peer pressure and physical and emotional transitions.

Being a teenager is a hugely difficult time, a transition from childhood to adulthood. Expectations are increased and yet the brain is still developing and hormones are impacting on the teenager and creating bodily changes that can be quite daunting and at times difficult to adapt to.

Anxiety can cause differing reactions in the individual, it can make us feel as if we are going to be physically sick and can also feel like butterflies in the stomach. It can make us start to feel as if we cannot breathe and this can take us towards having a panic attack. It can make us physically shake and become very tired depending on the level of anxiety. It can cause physical symptoms such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, it can present itself in the bladder and create consistent desire to go to the toilet, pulling out hair, and more.

In my experience the commonest form of anxiety I have worked with, is youngsters that have witnessed anger and confrontations within the family home. A teenager is neither fully adult, yet they are no longer the child, and they can still feel vulnerable and helpless at not preventing violence by adults and often observing violence or anger creates fear and anxiety of what may happen if the situation escalates. This can cause high levels of anxiety in teenagers.

As the teenager develops and become more independent, they can subconsciously recreate the anxiety by creating situations or dynamics that will bring them back to the feeling of anxiety as it becomes a feeling that's irrationally comfortable in its presence.

A teenager can try to control the feeling, once again, subconsciously by directed it into a symptom of anxiety. This can present itself in many ways. Food disorders such as anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorders, self harming and more. These conditions in my opinion often present themselves as a way of gaining control over feelings that feel uncontrollable and the origins can often be anxiety.

The therapeutic approach that I have always used is a combination of a Person Centred Therapy (Carl Rogers), Psychotherapy (Freud) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (Beck/Ellis).

By understanding where the anxiety originally comes from using Psychotherapy and incorporating cognitive behavioural therapy to help control it, as well as using deep breathing exercises this is, in my opinion is the way forward.

Working with teenagers is my favourite area of work, it allows me to dress casually, breaking the pattern of superiority and authority within the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship and allowing for equality within the room. Also my personal thoughts on teenagers are that they often can be more open minded in relation to their understanding and they have a longer opportunity in life to use their understanding and increased self awareness for the benefit of themselves and their future relationships.