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Anxiety in Teenage Boys

Written By: George Segar 
Synergy eTherapy Intern

In a world of high expectations from parents, teachers, and even peers, it’s no surprise that teens are experiencing growing levels of anxiety.  

 

Most people hear the word anxiety and automatically think panic attack, but the truth is every person experiences anxiety in one way or anotherAnxiety is defined as “a feeling of nervousness or unease, and for most people anxiety comes before a big test or your first day at a new job, but for some it comes in more severe forms such as: generalized anxiety disorder(GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

Below I will line out some of the differences of anxiety in male teens compared to other populations, the effects of anxiety on male teens, and how you can help yourself and others deal with anxiety.
 

Anxiety in Male Teens

 
Most of the time when hearing about anxiety as a mental illness, our societal default is to look at the female population as being more anxiety proneThe main reason for this is because men are more likely to suppress emotions rather than communicate them, but in truth, after puberty women are in fact twice as likely to appear in the female population. The difference is that prior to adulthood, adolescents actually have an equal prevalence in both men and women. 
 
Because the number of teens with anxiety is split at a 1:1 ratio between genders in teens, many people may assume that it is a small number. In actuality about 1 in 3 teenagers will meet necessary criteria for some form of anxiety by the age of 18. Although one third may not seem significant that is almost 2.5 billion people globally that experience at least one form of anxiety. In the end, despite societal beliefs, male teens are at just as a high of a risk as females for anxiety and should be taken care for accordingly.
 

 

Symptoms of Anxiety 

 
For every teenager the symptoms of anxiety change completely depends on what form of anxiety the person has as well as the experience and level of anxiety. Three of the more common forms of anxiety seen in teens are generalized anxiety disorder(GAD), social anxiety, and panic disorder. 

GAD is the most common anxiety disorder in teens and is characterized by excessive worry over everyday events. Although females are believed to be twice as likely to suffer from GAD it is just as severe from males to females. The best way to spot this form of anxiety in a teenager is to look for:

  • constant fatigue, 
  • indecisiveness, and/or
  • expecting the worst in a normal situation.
 
Another form of common anxiety is social anxiety. This is often characterized by a paralyzing fear in social settings. For many teens this would be before a presentation or large family gathering and can cause extreme discomfort that is unnoticeable by others. Some examples of this discomfort would be:

  • shaking,
  • sweating,
  • or nausea.
The reason it’s important to keep an eye out for social anxiety is because it can lead to fear of talking to adults as this person moves forward in life causing them to isolate from peers and regress socially. 
 
The final of the more common forms of anxiety that I will mention is panic disorder. One of the most notable symptoms of panic disorder is panic attacks, which can arise from any form of anxiety but is most prevalent with panic disorder. Once again panic disorder is twice as likely to occur in females according to current research but is still important to keep an eye out for in male teens as people will often neglect anxiety in men and it will go untreated.
 
The symptoms of panic disorder are similar to those of social anxiety but come from fear of losing control rather than fear of social settings. There are many more forms of anxiety that can occur in teens and it is important to stay educated to help prevent any further mental issues but these three are the most common and will often go untreated in male teens. 
 

Treating Anxiety in Male Teens 

 

Because anxiety is more common in females and symptoms don’t always arise until the early teen years most male teens will go untreated for their anxiety disorders. Although anxiety is not necessarily something that can be “cured” as a parent you can help them treat it to a point where it can be controlled. For most teens the best way to help them is to show them that they have control over their fears. This does not mean you should tell them that they do not exist, their fears are real and should be acknowledged, but help them understand that there are steps they can take to avoid any negative effects. 

One thing you can do to start is help them find a way to relieve stress; this may mean finding something for them to use as a distraction when they feel anxious or providing them with a hobby to relieve the tension.

Another thing that will help is to make a plan that can anticipate possible situations yet remain flexible so that they do not gain more anxiety if the plan doesn’t cover every situation. When doing this it’s also important to go over the effects that a situation will have and ensure the teenager that they are able to handle anything that may occur.

Finally, for some teens there may reach a point where their anxiety is so serious that they will need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist for professional helpThis will allow for a more standard form of psychotherapy for your child to communicate with someone outside of the family.  

It is important to remember that because anxiety is more common in females does not mean that it does not exist in males, it rather means that it will be harder to spot a suffering teenager who is a male. For this reason, it is important to not force but encourage communication with your teenager to help them understand that they do have control and that there are people willing to listen and help. 

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