Mental Health and Anxiety

Mental Health is too often ignored not only in the general population but especially during the transitional periods of adolescents and young adulthood. Anxiety, despite its usefulness in assessing threats can become a chronic, maladaptive illness when not addressed in time. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2017), approximately 32% of youth ages 13-18 met criteria for a clinical anxiety disorder. A review of publications exploring etiological factors placed a greater emphasis on environmental factors than biological ones as main causes for the development of chronic anxiety in adolescents and young adults (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012). Although anxiety disorders have been known to be managed through evidence-based practices, for those youth who do not receive treatment, the long-term effects impair the youth’s personal wellbeing and their ability to interact with others.

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Anxiety is a natural response the body takes on when in distress. This natural response helps protect us from harm, helps us perform when faced with a challenge, and can help shift perspectives. Be that as it may, anxiety when prolonged and in excessive amounts becomes a mental health illness. The clinical diagnosis for anxiety disorders share the common feature of excessive and unreasonable fear. This exorbitant amount of fear creates avoidance behaviors, negative cognitive ideation and perceived cardiac arrest. Even with physiological symptoms many young adults and adolescents refuse treatment due to the stigma revolving mental health, worsening their already severe symptoms.

Demographics

The rate of anxiety in youth is equivalent to the national average of 31% in adults, meaning that despite the knowledge, youth are not seeking or receiving treatment (National Institute of Mental Health, 2017). Within the U.S., studies have found a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders with individuals identified as White American than African American, Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). According to the American Psychiatric Association, (2013) anxiety disorders are more frequently diagnosed in females than in males (approximately 60% of those presenting with the illness are females). Aside from binary genders, low socio-economic status was correlated with higher levels of anxiety disorder diagnosis (Vine, 2012).

Theories of Etiology

Similar to other mental health illnesses, there is no one root cause to anxiety disorders however, there are several environmental factors, trauma, and biological predispositions that help explain the prevalence of anxiety in adolescents. One of the more prominent theories associated with anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Theory. Cognitive Behavioral Theory as it relates to anxiety states that the individual’s catastrophizing thoughts impede them in engaging in positive interactions with others out of fear, and thus creating avoidance behaviors (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012). Bandura’s Social Learning Theory as it relates to anxiety affirms that the overwhelming response to fear is a learned behavior (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012).

Effects on youth

Similar to other mental health illnesses, there is no one root cause to anxiety disorders however, there are several environmental factors, trauma, and biological predispositions that help explain the prevalence of anxiety in adolescents. One of the more prominent theories associated with anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Theory. Cognitive Behavioral Theory as it relates to anxiety states that the individual’s catastrophizing thoughts impede them in engaging in positive interactions with others out of fear, and thus creating avoidance behaviors (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012). Bandura’s Social Learning Theory as it relates to anxiety affirms that the overwhelming response to fear is a learned behavior (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012).There are various effects of clinical anxiety on adolescents, some of the most common include: low self-esteem, failing grades, dropping out of school, petty crimes, substance use, behavioral problems and avoidance of social interactions (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012). Aside from external effects there are various developmental factors that occur across adolescents. For example, specific phobias begin to develop, school anxiety, rejection from peers, and at extremes panic attacks (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012). Over time, chronic anxiety impacts an adolescent’s immune system, enables weight gain, and deteriorates the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for planning, personality, and the ability to make decisions (Beesdo, Knappe, & Pine, 2012).

Family Dynamics

Clinical studies link family interactions and the development of anxiety disorders among adolescents. The most common family interactions associated with anxiety include: lack of self-involvement in children’s lives, lack of appropriate boundaries, intergenerational conflicts, absence of a family member (distance, death, illness, abandonment), and parental control (Bettis, Forehand, Sterba, Preacher, & Compas, 2018). Many caregivers want their adolescent child to be fixed without realizing the development of the anxiety occurred due to the family dynamics. Studies suggest that across race, ethnicity, and cultures the most critical component of the development of most anxiety disorders is correlated with family interactions.

Parental control as it relates to anxiety describes a parent who constantly places demands on adolescents. The constant responsibility and obligations create a push pull relationship with the youth resisting the demands yet creating anxiety due to the perceived sense of failure. Additionally, caregivers who deny or minimize the loss of a family member tend to manifest unresolved grief which was a common theme in the development of anxiety in adolescents (Bettis et al., 2018). The inability to process grief or loss creates feelings of worry in an adolescent, resulting in them being on edge about who will be the next person to leave.

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Mental Health and Anxiety. (2019, Apr 01). Retrieved June 25, 2022 , from
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