Join me for a screening of the movie "Angst" and a panel discussion at Fusion Academy on May 1st, 2018.
Wednesdays, 4pm-5:30pm starting in January 2018! Reserve your daughter's slot now!
Many of us are experiencing increases in anxiety recently, due to the political environment, climate change and natural disasters, health and wellness, technology, and the drive to succeed for self and family. Doctors and mental health professionals are also seeing an increase in the last few years of clinical anxiety disorders in children and teens, with the highest increase seen in young adults. You may have read the recent feature in the New York Times, which asks, “Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?” or have seen the screening of the documentary “Angst” throughout the Bay Area, which highlights causes, effects, and solutions of anxiety. As a Marriage and Family Therapist working in community and private practice settings, I often see an increase in symptoms of anxiety for teens and families right after the transition to a new school year.
What differentiates the normal and adaptive anxiety that we all experience (to warn us of danger or to avoid situations that could be unsafe) from debilitating anxiety or a clinical anxiety disorder? Anxiety needs to be addressed when it impairs functioning or negatively impacts well-being. Children or teens may get “stuck” in excessive or unfounded worries or fears, and are unable to function in areas such as school, sleep, or daily routines. They may also experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, panic attacks, and stomach problems. When severe, anxiety can contribute to suicide or self-harm behaviors, which I discussed in my recent post, “Reasons Why We Need to Talk About Children & Teens’ Mental Health.”
Anxiety Disorders (which include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Specific Phobia, and Agoraphobia) are caused by a combination of circumstances, which includes life events, heredity, temperament, and biochemical factors. There is a correlation between parenting styles that are high in control and low in warmth and the development of anxiety in children or teens. It should be noted that suffering from anxiety crosses racial, ethnic and socioeconomic lines. There is discussion about the stigma for privileged teens to acknowledge that anxiety is negatively impacting their lives, as they may seem to “have it all” and don’t have to worry about safety, crime, or poverty on a day-to-day basis. However, these kids and teens are not immune from risk and may internalize values that contribute to anxiety, such as perfectionism or overachievement. In addition, it is difficult to disentangle the increase in anxiety in children and teens from the increase over the last decade in smartphone and social media use for this age group. I recently gave a workshop to address “Parenting in the Digital Age,” and we discussed studies that demonstrate associations between excessive screen time (over two to three hours a day) and mental health risks. Anecdotally, many parents and teachers describe risk factors for anxiety based on their teens’ desire for immediate gratification and validation (in the form of likes or interactions on their social media pages) and their increased sense of rejection, loneliness, or fear of missing out when they are constantly bombarded by their peers’ curated realities.
The stress-reducing news is that anxiety can be treated effectively, particularly by working together with a qualified mental health professional, and in some cases, a doctor or psychiatrist. Types of therapy to search out for your child or teen include Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (to explore and challenge thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety), Exposure Therapy (to confront fears in a safe way that reduces distress), mindfulness-based therapies (to increase awareness and strategies to manage thoughts and physical sensations that fuel anxiety), and Family Systems Therapy (to address patterns of parenting or relationships that may be contributing to or maintaining anxiety). Parents can also support their child or teen by promoting resilience and teaching/practicing coping skills such as deep breathing, relaxation, creating safe spaces, positive visualization, and promoting routines/rituals at home. Schools can also play a role in providing supportive accommodations, but it is important to strike a balance so that avoidance is not the only strategy utilized and to ensure that your child or teen is also learning and practicing coping skills.
I can help your child, teen, or family with anxiety disorders or pre-clinical anxiety. Contact me for a free consultation or to schedule an intake session. Stay updated at Family Workshop for upcoming workshops related to this topic.
Wednesday October 11, 9am-11am
FamilyWorkshop, 2224 A Bush St., San Francisco CA 94115
This FREE workshop is for parents and caretakers of kids of all ages! The workshop will address attachment theory, attachment styles and their implications, and how to promote secure attachment from infancy to adolescence. We welcome discussion and questions. Childcare and light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 4 and let us know if you need childcare. Space is limited.
A Workshop for Middle School and High School Parents
Monday September 25 or Thursday October 5, 2017
@ FamilyWorkshop offices
This engaging 75 minute workshop will help parents and teachers:
Brush up on the basics of social media to ensure safety and privacy for their children or teens
Improve open communication about their child or teen’s online experiences
Make a pro-active plan for setting and enforcing realistic rules and boundaries around screen time
Understand and prevent high-risk behaviors including cyberbullying, sexting, and negative impacts on health or well-being
Carrie can provide this workshop at your school, meeting, or community group at no cost. Contact today: info@CarrieJohnsonMFT.com or (415) 894-2766
One of the criticisms of the popular Netflix show, 13 Reasons Why, and the recent media attention for the trial of Michelle Carter and the “texting suicide” case is that the discussion or depiction has often left out or minimized the role of mental health disorders, sometimes undiagnosed or untreated, in suicide amongst teenagers. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is estimated that 90% of teens or adults who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental health disorder. This includes clinical depression and anxiety, disorders related to trauma experiences such as PTSD, bipolar and substance abuse disorders. Although examining the topic of teen suicide can be disturbing, mental health disorders are treatable and parents can recognize the signs and intervene early to prevent tragic consequences.
Warning Signs and Risk Factors that could suggest a mental health disorder and higher risk of suicide:
-Significant changes in functioning, including isolation or sudden increased energy, changes in eating/sleeping patterns, declines in hygiene, inability to complete tasks, emotional numbing or frequent tearfulness/hopelessness, increased aggression/anger
-History of traumatic events, such as sexual assault or rape, physical abuse, intimate partner violence
-Increased alcohol or drug use
-Primacy of or inability to disconnect from social media use. Studies have shown that negative experiences online (such as cyberbullying) or use of multiple social media platforms can be risk factors for increased depressive symptoms
-Trauma symptoms such as avoidance, numbing, flashbacks, nightmares
-Verbalizations of suicidal ideation, such as “I wish I wasn’t here” or “I want to die”
-Preoccupation with death in writing, art, music or conversation
Strategies for suicide prevention and treatment of mental health disorders:
-Seek mental health assessment or therapy. In my practice, I have specialized training in Dialectical Behavior therapy, which has shown to be effective in reducing suicide attempts and self-harming behaviors, in addition to expertise in treating complex trauma.
-Involve other systems, including education, medical, community, family, and friends to aid in support and prevention
-Address appropriate social media use and set structure that promotes balance and interests/activities in real life
-Don’t minimize the developmental importance of interpersonal relationships and the impact of relational aggression, bullying, relationship transitions, or break-ups to exacerbate mental health symptoms or increase risks of suicide
-Seek to know who is important in your teen’s life, demonstrate curiosity and openness about these relationships
-Be aware of how developmental or family transitions or changes can influence or exacerbate existing risk factors and consider family therapy, which can also be an effective treatment for severe mental health disorders
-Have open dialogue about self harm, suicide, and how to seek help
-For high risk teens, monitor access to means
-In a crisis, call 911 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)
Contact Carrie Johnson, MFT to learn more or to schedule a free phone consultation, 415 894 2766 or email email@example.com
“Suicide and Prevention.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/suicide.
Zagorski, Nick. “Using Many Social Media Platforms Linked With Depression, Anxiety Risk.”Psychiatric News, vol. 52, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1–1., doi:10.1176/appi.pn.2017.1b16.
FamilyWorkshop is a new family therapy center in Lower Pacific Heights. Services include:
- Child, teen, adult, and couples therapy
- Playgroups for parents & infants/toddlers
- Educational Therapy
- Parenting Coaching and more
Find out more HERE.