Raising Teen Girls
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Insights into the mental health and well-being of teen girls...

5 signs your teen daughter might be dealing with anxiety

"I feel like I worry about everything.  Like, I just can't get my mind to be quiet.  I think about the future all the time and it totally freaks me out.  I panic when people ask me what my plans are for college. I want to scream at them STOP ASKING ME THAT!!!! What if I don't get an A on my AP test? What if I'm not in the top 5 of my class? What if I don't get enough community service hours? What if...

This is an all too common conversation in my world.  Last week I taught all of the SR girls at a local private school.  I LOVE hanging out with them and discovering what is on their mind.  This year it was anxiety.  They asked all sorts of questions and most seem to be impacted by it in some way.  Stay tuned for a post about mom anxiety and SRs.  They had a lot to say!!  ;)

25% of teens will struggle with an anxiety disorder with girls experiencing higher rates then boys.  Anxiety is the number one topic that I am requested to speak about with teen girls.  They are hungry for relief and help in dealing with themselves, family and their friends. 

Here are 5 signs your daughter might be struggling with higher levels of anxiety and could be in need of skills to learn how to manage their fears.

Excessive Worry - all teen girls worry.  That is normal.  But what is not typical is an excessive amount of worry about a lot of different things.  If you are hearing her say that she is worried about school, friends, driving, family, work, her future, the past, etc... it might be time to dig a little deeper and see what is happening in her thought life. 

Girls who worry excessively put themselves in a keyed-up, heightened state.  They tend to be on edge and very tense.  Their minds can race and ping-pong back and forth on different subjects.  If they are talking a lot about a problem, going over and over it, they are probably worrying about it.

Listen for the "what if's?"  If you are hearing them... a lot then she is most likely dealing with anxiety.

Multiple Physical Complaints - headaches, stomach pains, excessive sweating, neck pain, general aches and pains, nausea, "I feel sick", DR appointments that have no organic cause for the symptoms can all be signs of higher levels anxiety, especially GI problems.  Anxiety is very physical because it revs up the flight or fight response. 

Its distressing because the pain, symptoms, etc... are very real but most likely it's because of her anxiety.  When she learns to manage the anxiety some of the symptoms can go away.

Avoidance & Procrastination - high levels of anxiety cause girls to avoid and/or procrastinate.  Whatever the task, if it's generating fear or worry the tendency is to just avoid it.  This is especially true of people that make them feel uneasy like teachers.  They often have some anxiety-based thinking that fuels the desire to just run away from whatever it is. If you are noticing she is avoiding something or someone, you might want to explore what is actually going on in her thoughts.  99% of the time anxiety is causing the shift.

Irritability - long-term crankiness in a problem.  Teen girls have "off" days and can be moody but when you start to notice a consistent, extended pattern of crankiness, anxiety levels might be high.  Anxiety can cause a short-fuse because she is on-edge. Her senses can be heightened, so noise, light, people can be overwhelming and cause her to bark at you.  She may be worrying about a problem at school and end up yelling at you because you asked her to wash the dishes.  If this is happening regularly, assume there is an underlying anxiety.

Perfectionism - My experience has been that girls who are perfectionistic often have higher levels of anxiety.  The tension that builds trying to get the perfect grades, look perfect, sing perfect, perform perfect and/or be the perfect daughter can generate a lot of fear.  Fear of what people think, disappointing someone, not being good enough and uncertainty are common beliefs found in perfectionism.

You never really know what she is thinking or how she is internalizing what others including her family are saying to her.  I've met girls who have believed because their sibling got A's they MUST get them as well.  Look for the over-acheiving and notice is you hear a lot of musts, shoulds or oughts.  You can help her have a more reality-based perspective which can ease anxiety.

Anxiety continues to be a problem for many but it is definitely something that can be managed.  Learning to think in a different way, especially when it comes to what she is meditating on is key. 

Let me know what questions you might have!