What causes anxiety in teens?
There is no one cause for anxiety; it is likely that many factors contribute to a person’s chances of developing anxiety. Scientists have broken down the potential causes into three groups, early learning, brain biochemistry, and the fight or flight mechanism.
Fight or Flight Mechanism
When a person senses danger, the body prepares itself to either fight (defend itself) or flee (run away from the situation). The body’s fight or flight mechanism causes the heart rate to increase, the eyes to dilate, and the body to prepare itself for a dangerous situation. These responses allow a person to protect him/herself. Even though these effects are intended to be a good thing, sometimes the body misunderstands a situation and believes that there is danger when in reality there is not (taking a test, giving a presentation, etc). There is a part of the brain called the amygdala that triggers the fight or flight response. This part of the brain is trained to remember the thing that triggered the fight or flight mechanism (taking a test or giving a presentation). This is the brain’s attempt to protect the person from future danger by keeping track of all things that might cue danger. Even though this part of the brain is trying to protect a person, it can be the cause of much unnecessary anxiety. The brain has to be “re-trained” to not react in fight or flight to something that is not actually dangerous.
Anxiety disorders tend to run in families, so if a person’s mom, dad, or other close relative has anxiety, they have a higher chance of developing anxiety themselves. Growing up in a family where fear and anxiety are constantly shown to children by role models can “teach” them to be anxious as well. In addition, if a child grows up in an abusive home, he or she may learn to always expect the worst.
Feelings of hopelessness and unlovability are often the main underlying causes of anxiety disorder in adults, teens and children. Learning more about these core beliefs and how they may be affecting your child can help parents and teens to develop coping strategies that can provide permanent relief and treatment.
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in the brain that regulate a person’s thoughts and feelings. Sometimes there is a problem with the way the brain’s messages are being sent due to a chemical imbalance. Two of the primary neurotransmitters that affect a person’s feelings are serotonin and dopamine. When there is an imbalance of these chemicals, a person can feel depressed or anxious.
For more on anxiety: