Treatment Programs For Teen Anxiety

Anxiety Treatment Centers for Teens

Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in adolescents–around 1 in 4 teens will struggle with an anxiety disorder at some point in their adolescence. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of anxiety, as they are beginning to develop their sense of self, personal goals, and coping mechanisms. Struggling with anxiety can bring up a lot of insecurities regarding body image, decision-making, and relationships. Additionally, the coping mechanisms that teens develop to manage their anxiety are carried into adulthood, even though their capacity for rational thinking hasn’t been fully developed yet. This means they are also more likely to turn to unhealthy or ineffective coping mechanisms. Learning positive coping skills to manage anxiety at a treatment center for teens can help them face their anxiety and confidently pursue their goals.

The guide is meant to be comprehensive, but as such, not every section will be applicable to everyone. Instead, we invite you to click on the links in the table of contents to jump to the sections that most interest you.

Table of Contents

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is experienced differently by every individual and may appear differently depending on the situation. Some people experience anxiety as consistent hyperarousal, while others experience it in association with worrying about specific events. Anxiety is usually associated with ruminating about the past or worrying about the future and is often described as an inability to sit with the present.

Catching anxiety early can make an incredible difference in your child’s ability to deal with a variety of stressors long-term.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Excessive fears and worries
  • Not being able to move on from the thing you are worrying about
  • Catastrophizing and thinking things are much worse than they are
  • Feelings of restlessness and difficulty concentrating
  • Becomes withdrawn, uneasy in social settings
  • Frequently occupied with unrealistic concerns or losing control
  • Either overly emotional or overly restrained
  • Panic attacks
  • Low self-esteem
  • Ongoing physical complaints, like Increased heart rate, sweating, fatigue, or stomach issues

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety. This is the most common type of anxiety, as it can be associated with a variety of situations. It is often an underlying current of anxiety that someone carries with them wherever they go–regardless of potential triggers. This means it may be more useful to work on physical emotion-regulation and awareness rather than one’s belief system.
  • Social Anxiety. There’s a difference between being shy or introverted and experiencing social anxiety in a number of social situations. People with social anxiety may be overly concerned with an “imaginary audience” and have trouble trusting intimacy in relationships.
  • Panic Disorder. This refers to bursts of intense anxiety, usually lasting only a few minutes, where the body becomes completely overwhelmed and dissociates. Panic attacks may or make not be related to a specific trigger. Grounding techniques are often more useful than talking through these episodes.
  • School Anxiety. This is becoming more common among teenagers, as they are under a lot of pressure to excel academically. Teens who have had negative experiences with peers at school are also more likely to experience school anxiety, which can lead to school refusal. Finding a supportive academic environment can help teens challenge their school anxiety.
  • Symptom of Depression. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, as they are associated with similar neurotransmitters. This is why some teens who struggle with anxiety may respond well to antidepressants, even if they do not specifically target anxiety. Working on one issue can alleviate symptoms of the other.
  • Traumatic anxiety. Until recently, PTSD was considered a type of anxiety disorder, where anxiety experienced is directly proportionate to trauma-related stressors. Identifying these triggers can help separate traumatic anxiety from generalized anxiety.

Why Choose an Anxiety Treatment Center for Teens?

An anxiety treatment center for teens is a place, usually residential, where your child receives a higher level of care for their anxiety disorder. Because anxiety is often comorbid, an anxiety treatment facility for teens will often treat other mental illnesses associated with anxiety, such as depression, ADHD, etc.

These facilities are able to remove your teen from outside distractions, which allows them to focus on drawing a clearer picture of themselves so they can work through their issues. An anxiety treatment center is equipped with experienced, trained staff who are familiar with anxiety disorders and those related.

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How does Elevations RTC help teens who struggle with anxiety?

Elevations RTC uses a variety of evidence-based techniques, like mindfulness, CBT, and DBT to help teens address the root causes of their anxiety, whether they deal with social anxiety, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, or trauma-related anxiety.

One of the most powerful parts of residential treatment for teens with anxiety is that they are surrounded by a supportive community of peers who have gone through similar struggles. This helps challenge the persistent belief that they are “alone” and that “no one understands.” It also helps them build social awareness of how they show up in relationships, how they feel around others, and what they need to be successful in relationships.

For example, introverts with social anxiety can learn to observe their experience without reacting to it in a way that makes it worse. They can feel the arising of heat, pressure, and tension in the body and bring their attention to rest in the body and on their breath. This helps to take attention away from maladaptive thoughts about how they are going to be embarrassed, and so forth.

Elevations also works with families through a parallel therapeutic process by teaching them some of the skills that their child is learning through the program. This helps families repair relationships, learn more about what their child is going through, and make changes in their own lives in order to better support their child when they transition home.

What about CBT can help some students struggling with anxiety?

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on solutions, encouraging teens to challenge distorted thoughts and change destructive patterns of behavior. CBT rests on the idea that thoughts and perceptions influence behavior. CBT aims to identify harmful thoughts, assess whether they are an accurate depiction of reality, and if they are not, employ strategies to challenge and overcome them.

For example, CBT can help someone determine whether their anxious thoughts stem from a rational fear or excessive worrying. Identifying that those thoughts are related to anxiety can help teens separate their fears from what is relevant in the present moment. This practice is useful for teens who are easily overwhelmed by the physical sensations associated with anxiety or who have panic attacks rather than generalized anxiety, as it helps them to become more aware of what triggers these sensations and improves the mind-body connection.

What about DBT can help some students struggling with anxiety?

Elevations RTC follows a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy model in individual and group therapy. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) provides clients with new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. DBT specifically focuses on providing therapeutic skills in four key areas:

  • Mindfulness focuses on improving an individual’s ability to accept and be present in the current moment.
  • Distress tolerance is geared toward increasing a person’s tolerance of negative emotions, rather than trying to escape from it.
  • Emotion regulation covers strategies to manage and change intense emotions that are causing problems in a person’s life.
  • Interpersonal effectiveness consists of techniques that allow a person to communicate with others in a way that is assertive, maintains self-respect, and strengthens relationships.

Through DBT skills groups, teens with social anxiety become more comfortable learning and practicing skills alongside others. Students are encouraged to share their experiences and provide mutual support. The structure of a skills group and assignments is also useful for teens who are just beginning to analyze their thoughts and behaviors and benefit from learning the basics. Many DBT skills are described as acronyms, which makes it easier for them to remember.

The therapist consistently works with the individual to find ways to hold two seemingly opposite perspectives at once, promoting balance and avoiding black and white–an all-or-nothing style of thinking common among teens with anxiety. DBT promotes a both-and rather than an either-or outlook. The dialectic at the heart of DBT is acceptance and change in order to manage symptoms of anxiety.