Is anxiety in our teens getting worse?

Supporting your teen through stressful times is just the beginning when it comes to dealing with anxiety, shares Dr Ali Walker.

Anxiety is on the rise in Australian teens. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics one in 14 young Australians aged 4-17 experienced an anxiety disorder in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 278,000 young people.

And in the 2016 Mission Australia Youth Survey of thousands of young Australians, mental health was among the top 3 national concerns, alongside coping with stress, school and body image.

With these statistics in mind, we need to be careful with our language and our understanding of anxiety. We need to tell the difference between feeling mild anxiety, perhaps because of upcoming HSC exams or a big sports game, and actually suffering from an anxiety disorder. When you have an anxiety disorder, you feel anxious most of the time.

An anxiety disorder includes one or more of the following: panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (Headspace, 2017). An anxiety disorder may keep you up at night and/or involve physical symptoms like shaking hands, racing heart and nausea. You might feel constantly overwhelmed, fearful, and tense. An anxiety disorder can make it hard to socialise, work or study.

Being able to tell the difference between mild anxiety and an anxiety disorder is about identifying the frequency and intensity of the anxious feelings.

For those with mild anxiety, it helps to have mental tools, such as reframing and mindfulness to overcome the acute experience, as generally after the event, the anxiety subsides. Anxiety disorders need more intervention however, with input from a health professional and a focus on positive lifestyle factors, such as diet and self-care.

Everyone can also benefit from relaxation techniques such as meditation.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more expert health advice from Zoe, Ed, and the team.