Even though it's normal as a teen to feel worried at times, generalized anxiety disorder in preteens can be very debilitating and cause difficulty in daily functioning. This condition results in worrying excessively about things that cannot be changed or problems that are out of the person's control. For preteens, having an anxiety disorder can be especially confusing since there isn't as much life experience to know the difference between common worries and a full-blown problem.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Preteens
According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America website, generalized anxiety disorder in preteens is characterized by "persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things." While some amount of worry is normal, a problem occurs when there are disruptions in activities or social life. Generalized anxiety disorder in preteens can make it hard to relax and have fun with friends. Essentially, when worry is a problem, it may become so intense that it's hard to function normally.
Here are some of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder:
- Excessive worrying about the past, present, and future
- Having a hard time controlling the worrisome thoughts
- Worrying interferes with daily life and is extremely upsetting
- Engaging in being overly self-critical and a perfectionist
- Self-blame for disasters and other people's problems
- Expecting misfortune and bad things to happen
- Need for constant reassurance or lack of high self-esteem
- Worry occurs most days for at least six months, resulting in anxiety symptoms
More About Preteens and Anxiety
Pre teens that have generalized anxiety disorder are at a disadvantage because at this time in their lives they don't have an understanding of what is normal regarding anxiety. Pre teens might not realize their worries are out of proportion and believe that the high alarm is normal. Because of this, it's important for parents to learn about the common worries in generalized anxiety disorder in preteens and how they manifest.
Here are some additional examples of how generalized anxiety shows up in preteens:
- Overthinking: Thinking too much about past conversations with friends or family to the point of being unable to stop, despite the discomfort.
- Sleep or School Problems: This might be worry that interferes with sleep or causes a preteen to not be able to go to school. There may also be excessive anxiety about competence in sports or the ability to complete assignments and get good grades.
- Sickness: Worrying to the point of getting a stomachache that is not due to another physical condition. Also concerns about being ill, even though everything is fine.
- Actions and Words: Worrying about actions that were taken in the past and can't be changed, such as being late for class or anxiety about a past conversation. Many times the actual event is minor, but the worry is exaggerated and uncontrollable.
- Events: Excessive worrying about future events that are out of the preteens control, such as world events.
It's important for adults to be able to identify generalized anxiety disorder symptoms because a preteen often doesn't have this ability. It's also important to know that symptoms don't come along all at once and may happen gradually. Making an appointment with a therapist can help give an accurate diagnosis. The condition can be treated in pre teens through therapy, awareness, and practicing more positive self-talk.