teen anxiety
Photo Credit: flickr user – rheannone

With about 5.5 percent of 13 to 18-year-olds having social anxiety, it is considered one of the most common psychiatric disorders among teens. Though anxiety is normal as teens experience so many new circumstances and interact with new people, social anxiety disorder can negatively affect every aspect of a teen’s life. A new study could help lower the likelihood of severe teen anxiety by looking at risk factors during childhood.

Childhood inhibition and attachment could predict anxiety in teens

A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo, the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Mental Health conducted a study of 165 adolescents from the age of 4 months through their teen years. Combining similar studies, they determined the impact of both behavioral inhibition and shyness during early childhood on teen anxiety.

Professor Heather Henderson said of the results, “we now understand that infants and young children with an inhibited temperament who also have insecure early attachment relationships are most likely to become socially anxious teens – especially boys.”

With the results of this study, parents can be aware of high risk factors from an early age. If a young child is overly reluctant of unfamiliar situations and is not easily calmed by a parent, they could be at risk of future anxiety issues. Being able to treat anxiety as it begins will decrease the likelihood for more intensive therapeutic measures and in some cases prevent social anxiety disorder.
This study also supports the necessity for children to frequently encounter new people, situations and objects. The more a person is used to unknown circumstances, the more comfortable they will be in future situations.
Although this is great news for helping to prevent teen anxiety and recognize at risk children, it does not help reverse the effects on already socially anxious teens. There are some things you can do now to reduce the anxiety your teen is experiencing.

Recognizing an anxiety disorder

Though some inhibitions about social situations are common in children entering adolescents, the fears of those with social anxiety disorder are often out of proportion to the importance of the situation. Social anxiety not only affects a teens friendships, but can also result in poor school performance and weakened family relationships.
Some signs of a teen anxiety disorder include:

  • Passivity
  • Quite temperament
  • Does not raise hand in class, even if they know the answer
  • Avoids social situations
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Avoids eye contact

Be careful not to write off a socially anxious teen as just overly shy.

Treating teen anxiety

There are effective treatments for teen anxiety, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy, which can help a teen achieve normalcy and productivity. Teens can learn to cope with stressful situations, manage their reactions to fear and develop confidence. Wilderness therapy is a great way for teens with anxiety disorders to overcome fears through a supportive, safe environment.
To find out more about blueFire’s Wilderness Therapy program and how we can help with teen anxiety, call 844-413-1999.


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