Categories
Eating Disorders

Navigating the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders have become increasingly common among US teens, especially girls. Understanding how and why eating disorders develop can help teens, parents, and friends alike better gauge how to prevent relapses and flare-ups in symptoms and address some of the root stressors behind increasingly disordered behavior – especially as the holiday season draws closer. To help avoid any setbacks, here are some ways you can navigate the holidays with an eating disorder.

How the Holidays Can Affect Disordered Eating

Perhaps the biggest misconception among adults and teens alike is that an eating disorder is largely external – that things like unrealistic Instagram models and Hollywood superhero bodies heavily contribute to the development of disordered eating habits.

There is an element of influence, yes; the modern beauty standard, even as it evolves and continues to change, can certainly affect and exacerbate some of the anxieties that teens with eating disorders share. But at their root, eating disorders are severe anxiety disorders – often tied to genetic factors, trauma, and a host of environmental causes.

Some people are intrinsically more likely to struggle with body image issues and are more susceptible to disordered eating as a behavioral coping mechanism. The overabundance of sanitized and edited images in our day-to-day – whether on the silver screen or on the smartphone – is making things worse. But eating disorders are too complicated to blame on a single factor.

Stressors play another important role in the severity of an eating disorder and the shape it takes. The more pressure a person is under, the more likely they are to struggle with the compulsions that fuel their eating disorder, such as food binges, purging behavior, overexercising, diuretic abuse, and other forms of unsupervised drug use.

Ironically, the holidays are some of the most stressful days in the year and a source of stress for many people who specifically struggle with food and disordered eating. In most households, the holidays mean joy and cheer and plenty of food. But it takes a lot of preparation and is hectic to get things ready for the celebration, and excessive food can trigger binge eating behavior.

Ways to Handle the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

Whether it’s Thanksgiving or an end-of-the-year celebration, holidays might be some of the toughest times for someone struggling with an eating disorder. But thankfully, there are measures you – and your loved ones – can take to make the best of the situation during the holidays with an eating disorder:

1. Minimizing Incoming Stressors

Like other anxiety disorders, the symptoms of an eating disorder can get a lot worse the more pressure you’re under.

Try to minimize that pressure – if you’re helping your family out over the holidays, see if you can limit your responsibilities and instead devote more time to therapy.

Work with your therapist to identify helpful stress management techniques over the holiday break. Work on relaxation techniques to refocus your attention on the break ahead rather than all the work you’ve yet to finish or the schoolwork you have ahead of you on the first Monday back in school.

Struggling with anxiety isn’t an excuse to get out of running errands or helping around the house. But don’t overdo it out of a sense of guilt or self-deprecation, either.

2. Utilizing Healthier Coping Skills

We can’t lead stress-free lives. We each have our fair share of responsibilities, some of which are unavoidable even in times of “rest.” It’s good to feel important and to serve a function, whether it’s at work, at school, or at home – but we each need our own way of dealing with the mental fatigue and stress that accumulates over time or suffer the consequences.

For teens with anxiety disorders or eating disorders, too much pressure can exacerbate symptoms or, after treatment, lead to an unwanted relapse (such as a food binge). It’s important to develop healthier coping skills, especially as a teen.

These might include taking a long walk through a refreshing park or through nature, reading a nice book, using essential oils in your room, or listening to your relaxation playlist to calm you down.

3. Don’t Make Too Big a Deal Out of the Meal

A lot of holidays ultimately revolve around the big meal – like the Thanksgiving dinner. But if a person in your household struggles with eating disorders and is still in treatment, consider talking your dinner plans over with their therapist.

A big meal can bring the family together, from the arduous prep time to the extensive post-meal cleanup duties. But it’s also putting the focus on something a person with an eating disorder might not be comfortable fixating on, especially for hours on hours on end.

4. Don’t Dwell on the Dishes

Another important tip is to consider moving on from the dinner table as soon as everyone’s done with their meals – or, as an alternative, cleaning up right after eating so dinnertime conversations can continue with some fresh mint tea or a pot of coffee.

One more tip for minimizing some of the stress and anxiety around Thanksgiving meals and other holiday meals is to prepare portioned plates rather than giving everyone a plate and access to a myriad of dishes.

While it isn’t very traditional, taking care of portioning in the kitchen and bringing everyone their meal at the dinner table can help eliminate the urge to go and clean off the rest of the meal – or eat anything barely at all and just pick at the beans for a bit. The structure of consistent portion size – in and outside of the holidays with an eating disorder – can also help with disordered eating.

How A Lack of Structure Challenges Treatment

Both in the context of food and living, structure is important for teens with eating disorders and other anxiety problems. Additional structure can take some of the uncertainty out of day-to-day planning, but it also helps combat rumination and intrusive thinking.

Having a consistent structure for key things – like sleeping, eating, and exercise – also keeps both the mind and body happy, as our own internal clocks are set based on when and how we rest and feed.

Be Patient and Prepared

It can take years for someone with an eating disorder to develop a healthier relationship with their body and food. Consistency is important, but it’s normal to hit speedbumps from time to time.

The holidays are a frequent trigger, and while you can do everything in your power to minimize that risk, it’s also important to accept things when they go wrong. Don’t let that discourage you from your journey in recovery.

For more information on treatment for teen eating disorders, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Mental Health

6 Art Therapy Activities for Teens Dealing with Mental Disorders

Art therapy activities for teens might not be one of the first modalities that come to mind when working to treat and address mental health issues, but it is an often-underrated tool in the management of depressive symptoms, anxiety problems, low self-esteem, and stress.

The therapeutic value of engaging with art in any shape or form – from performance arts like acting and dancing to visual art, such as sketching or sculpting – is immense. Research shows that the use of art in a clinical setting helps improve mental health, including cognitive and sensory functions, improve self-awareness, improve emotional resilience, and enhance critical social skills. Art therapy also helps individuals hone their stress management skills and develop healthier alternatives to maladaptive coping styles.

How Do Art Therapy Activities for Teens Help?

Implementing art therapy is not quite as simple as sitting someone down with a sketch pad and a piece of charcoal. The therapeutic element comes in the form of professional guidance – trained therapists use special prompts and cues to engage with patients and help them utilize art therapy to productively work through specific fears, issues, questions, obsessions, and behavioral issues.

Utilizing art to relate to a patient who might not get the most out of a typical talk therapy session is one of the crucial benefits of art therapy – because it does not rely on a rigid dialectic system and is applicable across hundreds of mediums, it is one of the most versatile modalities in a therapist’s toolkit.

Many teens are young enough to have talents they’ve never tapped into, and art therapy allows them to not only continue to explore their fears and worries in ways they might not previously have been able to, but it may also prove to unlock a lifelong passion for a medium they might never have heard of, or shown any interest in.

A teen with no experience in drawing might find themselves enraptured by the tactile experience of working with coffee stains, stamps, collages, or even decorative food items. The flexibility and total creativity embodied in art therapy mean teens can find ways to express themselves with no filters, restrictions, or worries.

Different Ways to Apply Art Therapy Activities for Teens

While there are dozens of ways to utilize art therapy activities for teens in a therapeutic setting, some are more commonplace and popular than others. Let’s explore a few different art modalities and how they can help teens in treatment.

1. Journaling

Yes, journaling can be considered art therapy and can play an important role as an introductory element to self-reflection and mindfulness in treatment. Therapeutic journaling can mean a lot of things depending on the direction the patient wants to take the activity – some people turn to journaling as a means of authoring a private diary to compile their thoughts and readdress their impulses, intrusive compulsions, or uncontrolled behaviors. Some people take to journaling as a stream-of-consciousness stress relief tool, being able to “let loose” on paper.

Journaling doesn’t need to involve first-person accounts. It can be prose, a third-person narrative, or a pseudo-autobiographical work. Imagine telling a story based on your experiences but with a fantastical element to work towards a narrative realization you might not have had if you simply retold what happened. Life isn’t a narrative, but we can practice learning to draw positive conclusions from our struggles through such an approach.

The ability to write creatively isn’t a prerequisite for successful journaling. In some cases, teens can benefit from journaling simply by using it to create lists – to-do lists, whether daily, short-term or even long-term, can help people prioritize their tasks and bring order into their day-to-day.

2. Photography

The vast majority of art therapy is visual. But it doesn’t always need to come in the form of drawing or painting. Some people prefer to use a frame – such as a photograph – to create their art.

Photography can be an excellent exercise in the importance of perspective, helping teens learn to shape a situation into an image they can be proud of and, in turn, find ways to identify positive aspects in their own life.

Photography as an art can also be something teens can engage in wherever and whenever they want, using tools they might already have at their disposal – while it’s no replacement for a DSLR, most modern-day smartphones are capable of some truly surprisingly high-quality photography and can serve as an entryway to more complicated photoshoots in the future.

3. Drawing and Painting

Over 80 percent of art therapy research focuses on the benefits of visual art mediums like drawing or painting, with various materials, from watercolors to oil or acrylic.

Not only can visual art help teens express themselves in ways they might not be comfortable doing during talk therapy, but it can be a useful stress relief option with no ill side effects while significantly improving mental well-being.

4. Other Forms of Visual Art

Art is free form, and there are many ways your teen might find relief or comfort in creating something of their own, whether it’s through 3D computer graphics programs like Blender or Source Filmmaker or physical sculpting, woodworking, carpentry, and so on.

5. Making or Playing Music

While some of the mechanisms behind how music helps address depression and other mental health issues remain unknown, we do know that music therapy can be a tremendous tool in treating mental health symptoms and improving the well-being of patients with conditions like depression and anxiety.

Most teens will not be surprised to hear that what kind of music you listen to can have an effect on how you feel, both positive and negative. But there’s a special interaction between mental health and playing an instrument, whether that means creating your own music or playing a melody you know or have learned.

6. Drama and Acting

Acting is art, and as a therapeutic method, acting has far more research behind it than you might expect. Acting for therapy – usually in the form of group roleplays, one-on-one roleplaying, or even in the context of preparing for a dramatic play – can help teens and patients express themselves in ways they might not otherwise feel comfortable. By playing a role rather than being yourself, you can inject parts of your own character into the role without feeling compromised.

This allows for a unique form of self-expression where a teen can freely explore their emotions without feeling like they are betraying their innermost secrets.

Get Mental Health Treatment for Teens

Art therapy activities for teens are most useful when treated as a modality – as one part of a greater whole.

For more information about teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers today.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting

Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Look Out For

We’ve heard the jokes and the comparisons before – teenagers are like little aliens, their moods change on a whim, their logic is incomprehensible, they’re incredibly difficult to deal with, and so on. While it’s true that most adults won’t remember what it’s like to think like teens, most teenage behavior still follows some sort of logic – even when it’s purely instinctual or based on very short-term benefits. But what if becomes more than that? What about the red flags in teenage behavior that nobody told you about, you know, the ones that could create a mental health condition later on?

Being a teen means transitioning from childhood into fully matured adulthood – a process that begins with the onset of puberty but lasts well into a person’s early 20s or even later. With that process come a lot of bumps and challenges. Differentiating between these and real mental health issues – which are becoming increasingly common for teens – can be difficult.

Outside of being boneheaded or self-centered, teens will often struggle with emotional maturity, consistency, and long-term planning. Sometimes, “normal” teen behavior can be conflated with a serious behavioral issue, and in other cases, it is a precursor to a serious behavioral or mental health problem.

Even if your teen infuriates you, there’s a line to draw between annoying or troublesome teen behavior and genuine mental health issues. Learning to recognize those is important, whether as a parent, friend, or close relative.

What is Normal Teenage Behavior?

Defining normal behavior is difficult. There’s the societal norm, then there’s the researched average, and the matter of what feels normal from an individual, anecdotal, or cultural perspective.

Most people can agree on a few general things about teens – such as their shortsightedness or lack of emotional maturity – but there are case-by-case differences on where normal ends and where red flags in teenage behavior may begin. There’s no real way to “treat” a teen’s sexual drive, their will towards rebellion, or their curiosity for the taboo.

For example, our laws make it illegal for kids to get drunk or engage in sexual intercourse before a certain age.

Yet despite these laws, we know that the average drinking age in the US (i.e., age of first drink) is 13-14 and that half of the population has their first sexual encounter between the ages of 16 and 20. Teens do things they shouldn’t do all the time, and we need to intervene on a case-by-case basis. But that doesn’t mean we pathologize every teen’s mistakes.

In other words, we just need to draw a line between normal individual expression and signs of pathology. In the case of the latter, your teen might be struggling with something they can’t deal with on their own, and getting help as soon as possible gives them the best chance of fighting it.

It’s the difference between trying out a beer and becoming a heavy drinker by age 17. It’s the difference between trespassing for a “prank” and routinely engaging in dangerous and illegal activities. And it’s the difference between having a teen’s typical short temper and becoming violent towards others on multiple occasions.

Important Red Flags in Teenage Behavior to Spot

Let’s start with the red flags. These are signs of a serious problem. In other words, if your teen is exhibiting one or more of these red flags, you should consider speaking with a professional and talking to your teen about counseling or therapy. These red flags include the following:

  • Heavy drinking and other signs of repeated drug use.
  • Knowingly engaging in illegal activities, including speeding or vandalism.
  • Becoming violent towards other teens or people on multiple occasions.
  • Often referencing death and talking about death, especially what it would be like if they died.
  • Frequent signs of physical injury and hiding/lying about cuts and bruises.
  • Burns and other signs of self-harm.
  • Suicide attempts.

Red flags are meant to highlight problems that most teens don’t have. While a large number of teens have had a beer or tried marijuana, most teens are not habitual users of “hard drugs” or struggling with addiction. Most teens aren’t engaged in routine illegal activities, whether it’s vandalism or theft. Most teens aren’t routinely assaulting each other or struggling with suicidal thoughts.

These are serious behavioral issues that warrant a professional opinion. There’s no point trying to diagnose your teen’s behavior yourself – it might look like addiction, but it might be a combination of drug use with a mediating mental health condition, like social anxiety. It might look like depression, but it might, in fact, be a bipolar disorder, which may require a different treatment plan.

If you’ve observed certain red flags in your teen, then seeking professional help is important.

Other Important Signs

However, you don’t need to wait for a teen to show red flags to be concerned for your teen’s mental or physical well-being.

Some of the behaviors listed below might indicate a mental health problem or personal issue, but they may also indicate that your teen needs someone to talk to or that they are finding themselves engaged in unhealthy coping mechanisms for their schoolwork or personal life. These behaviors include:

  • Illicit drug use.
  • Losing interest in old hobbies.
  • Rapid weight loss (or rapid weight gain) at an unhealthy scale.
  • Overexercising (i.e., to the point of repeated injury and/or hospitalization).
  • Social isolation (withdrawing from others).
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time online (never going outside or logging off).
  • Sudden and severe mood swings.
  • Struggling to enjoy things and being gloomy most of the time.
  • Having a very quick temper and becoming easily frustrated at minor things.

Talk About It and Get Help

Some people worry about pathologizing normal instances of negative behavior – for example, it’s normal to act out after a messy breakup or feel terrible after the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, we do things that aren’t in our best interest, and that goes for doubly for teens. We all cope in our own ways, and it isn’t always clean.

But the concern is still valid, even when there’s a “good reason” your teen might be acting a certain way. They may “snap out of it,” or it might start them down a seriously dark road as their symptoms get worse. If these behaviors apply to your loved one, keep an eye on them, and see if things get better. If they don’t – there’s still plenty of time to talk to them about getting real help.

Mental health issues are difficult to deal with, and many of them have their onset in the late teen years. Understanding why your teen is acting the way they are is important – but oftentimes, they might not even have a reason. Things like depression and anxiety can and often do develop without good cause, and their symptoms come and go without a specific trigger. If you’re concerned for yourself or your loved one, be sure to talk to a professional. At Visions Treatment Centers, we are here to help.

Categories
Events

Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers 20th Anniversary Holiday Soirée

We are thrilled to celebrate 20 years of healing families at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers. Join us for a roaring good time!

Date and time:
Fri, December 2, 2022, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM PST

Location:
Visions Mental Health and Wellness Center
11101 W. Olympic Blvd #300 Los Angeles, CA 90064

Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers is honored to be celebrating 20 years and could not be more excited to invite you all to celebrate with us.

This celebration is perfectly timed with the centennial of the Roaring Twenties.

This holiday season come dress in your most festive 1920’s fashion, enjoy some jazz music, dance the Charleston, mingle with friends, and live it up like they did back then.

Consider this ticket the key to an era of absolute decadence and radiance.

There will be surprises at every corner, come and channel in the glitz and glamour of the times.

Will you meet us at the ritziest party of the year?

RSVP here!

Categories
Mental Health Self-Care Stress

Stress Relief for Teens During the Holidays

Did you know that stress relief for teens during the holidays is important for maintaining mental health and/or mental health conditions?

The holiday season is not particularly well-known for being a source of grief and hardship – yet for a surprising number of Americans, teens included, the holidays are often more synonymous with unwanted or excessive stress than just the feelings of cheer and joy.

Whether it’s the deep winter blues, the costs of heating and rising gas prices, general inflation, the pressure to prepare and host a large feast, the logistics of meeting with family, the financial realities of gift-giving, or the fear of loneliness and isolation in a season punctuated by gathering with family and friends, there are countless reasons why adults and teens alike struggle with stress during the holidays and need healthy (and effective!) outlets for their emotions.

Why Do Teens Need Stress Relief?

Teens aren’t children anymore. They’re quickly entering some of the most stressful years of their lives so far, and for many teens this year, the coming winter season is punctuated by the fears of an ongoing global war, non-stop supply chain issues, another historic inflation and financial crisis, and the deaths and grief of a prolonged pandemic. Let’s dive deeper into some of the reasons today’s teens might feel stressed out.

1. Financial Problems

COVID hit Americans hard, but it’s far from the only reason millions of Americans find themselves closer to poverty than in previous years and more likely to struggle with the coming winter as heating costs soar and the cost of living remains catastrophically high.

Most teens are not in a good position to help their families with these costs and can do little but stand by as the holiday season arrives. For many families, there’s doubt about the bounty on the table, let alone the bounty under the tree.

These stressors and financial anxieties are felt by teens every year throughout the country, but they’re at a historic high right now.

2. Changes In Sleep and Diet

It’s universally known that the holiday season usually means plenty of food and plenty of festivities. And while these are usually good things, they can make life harder for some people – especially teens who thrive on consistency and struggle when their schedule starts to fall apart. This means restless nights, oversleeping, an unbalanced sleep schedule, and copious amounts of overeating.

The holidays maximize these issues, leading to many teens struggling to return to a healthy rhythm in the coming weeks and finding themselves “recovering” from the holidays throughout the first portion of the next year.

It’s important to indulge yourself every now and again. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater every time all the end-of-the-year celebrations turn the corner is often a bad idea.

3. Longer Nights

The holiday season means longer nights for the northern half of the world, which can have a marked impact on a person’s mental state. Some people respond more heavily to a lack of sunlight than others, and loss of daylight can be a major contributing factor in the onset and development of seasonal affective disorder or winter depression. More than just a regular bout of sadness, winter depression is a real mental health issue that is often exacerbated by other holiday woes, including financial trouble and isolation.

But even in people who aren’t diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, the longer nights and shorter days can lead to an increase in doom and gloom.

Some teens find themselves headed to school early in the morning and headed back home later in the afternoon, with a net zero amount of sunlight for the day. This can be detrimental both to a teen’s mental health and physical health – we need at least some sunlight to restore our vitamin D supplies for healthy bones and skin, as well as certain brain functions.

4. Reminders of Loss

The holiday season is a time for family – and while that’s often a good thing, it can also be a painful reminder of what we’ve lost, especially recently.

The pandemic took many people’s lives, and their loss can be a very difficult thing for teens to process – if it’s the first holidays without a loved relative, for example, your teens might have a hard time focusing on the holiday cheer.

Feeling down after the loss of a loved one is normal, but a loss in combination with other stressors can lead to so-called complicated grief or unresolved loss. This can become a complicated and traumatic issue for many teens, and professional counseling may be recommended to help your teen find healthier and better ways to cope.

Looking for Holiday Fixes

Stress relief for teens can be hard to come by during the holiday season. Consider implementing the following to help your teen (and your family) combat the winter blues and have a more pleasant holiday.

1. Keep a Consistent Schedule

While the winter break means more time for family and for fun, consider encouraging your teen to stick to certain elements in their schedule, especially if a consistent schedule is important for their overall mental well-being.

This includes continuing to go visit the gym or practice an instrument, for example, or swapping studying for a new skill or hobby over the winter break. While it might be tempting to spend the whole holiday season in front of the PlayStation, an unstructured winter break can make it much, much harder to get out of the holiday blues when January rolls around.

2. Consider Volunteer Work

In the spirit of the holidays, consider taking some time with the rest of your family to volunteer for a local cause, whether it’s caring for shelter animals or delivering warming blankets and food to the homeless.

Volunteer work can be a positive way to highlight the spirit of generosity and giving, and research shows that going out of your way to do something for someone else has an immediate positive impact on your mental health. In other words, giving is a gift in itself!

3. Keep Gifts Simple

Another way to help take some of the pressure off the holiday season is by keeping the gifts simple this time around. If your teens feel inclined to take part in the gift-giving ceremony, then they won’t feel as pressured to spend the remainder of their allowance trying to find the right gift for everyone.

Take a “break” from gift-giving this year, especially if you’re a little more hard-pressed at home due to current circumstances, and instead pool your money together for a “family gift” that everyone can enjoy, like replacing an old and broken appliance, or putting a little fund together for a short family trip.

Take Care This Holiday Season

While the holiday season can be stressful one way or another, there’s a lot you can do to alleviate that stress and try to make this holiday season one to remember fondly.

For more information on teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Mental Health Prevention Self-Harm

Spotting and Stopping Self Harm in Teens

Although not a mental health disorder, self harm in teens is a serious issue – and it is not limited to cutting. An estimated one in four teen girls deliberately harmed themselves in the last year, and up to 30 percent of teen girls in the US say that they’ve intentionally hurt themselves without intending to commit suicide at some point. Among boys, about one in ten engages in self-harm, although suicide rates are higher in boys than girls.

Self-harm should be seen as an issue separate from suicide, although the two are often linked. Self-harm does increase the likelihood of suicidality and future suicide attempts, but the two are not always part and parcel – many teens commit self-harm without intending to take their lives but for other reasons. Understanding these reasons is important for understanding why so many teens – especially girls – hurt themselves and how their self-harm might have started.

What Constitutes Self Harm in Teens?

Clinically, self-harm is intentional physical injury. Self-harm might be ruled when there is sufficient evidence to show that a teen’s injuries were inflicted purposefully, by themselves, and not through coercion or by accident. Self-harm usually also rules out the influence of drugs or alcohol – meaning it is a sober decision.

This also means that all data that revolves around self-harm identifies self-harm as any form of intentional bodily harm, from cutting to burning, hair-pulling, skin-scratching, pricking, and other forms of pain or damage.

But self-harm can also be more abstract than this. It can, given the correct circumstances and context (i.e., seeking out harm intentionally), include non-direct pain and harm, such as unnecessary risk-taking, thrill-seeking, and dangerous activities. These include unprotected sex, driving drunk, speeding, or illicit drug use.

Why Do Some Teens Struggle with Self-Harm?

Self harm in teens is very prevalent. This does not make it less harmful, but it does make it important to understand that it is not out of the ordinary for teenagers to struggle with emotions and thoughts that might lead them to seek self-harm for any number of reasons, including shame, guilt, emotional pain, anger, or even stress-relief.

An argument can be made that pain-seeking behavior is a form of “self-medication” in cases of abuse or stress, where it offers a short-term burst of relief and ensures the release of endorphins for comparatively “little” harm, such as a minor cut or short pinch with a safety pin.

Depression is another common thread between thoughts of suicidality and self-harm. Low mood and lack of joy in depression can be accompanied by feelings of guilt and worthlessness. In these cases, self-harm can be a way to “feel” something or a way to seek out physical punishment without resorting to suicide.

Self-harm can also be a form of attention-seeking. This is not meant in the derogatory sense. Teens that feel neglected or genuinely struggle with a condition or personality disorder that requires them to be attended to might utilize self-harm as an effective way to draw attention to themselves. In other cases, the intention to “use” self-harm is less calculated and an emotional response to feeling invisible.

Identifying Signs of Self Harm in Teens

Because self harm in teens comes in many shapes and forms, there are many signs a parent or friend should watch out for. Some of the behavioral signs are important to keep in mind but not necessarily critical – a teen might self-harm regularly while appearing chipper and “normal.” Some common signs of self-harm include:

  • Hiding away “tools” for self-harm, such as box cutter replacement blades, straight razors, lighters, needles, and pins.
  • Always wear long sleeves and long-necked clothing or one-piece swimsuits to cover up potential fresh cuts and marks.
  • Repeated skin infections, especially from continuously scratching the same areas.

In addition to traditional signs of self-harm, there are also other forms of “self-punishment” that can be a cause for concern. These include:

  • Illicit drug use or binge drinking.
  • Intentional starvation, binge eating, and other harmful eating habits.
  • Spending hours and hours overexercising at the gym, not for a goal, but as “punishment.”
  • Intentionally sabotaging important relationships – making up gossip, pushing away friends, and being mean to partners.
  • Canceling appointments at the doctor’s office or letting an injury get worse without telling anyone.
  • Skipping or throwing out medication.
  • Intentionally looking up depressing or harmful content online.
  • Embracing toxic or dangerous relationships or jumping headfirst into “red flags.”
  • Overspending, binge shopping, and using budgets irresponsibly.
  • Giving in to compulsive behavior that you know is harmful.
  • Intentionally dressing up “against” the weather, such as wearing excessively hot clothing in the summer and excessively light clothing in the winter.

Does Self-Harm Mean Depression?

Self-harm does not always mean depression, although it is a common sign of depression. Self-harm is also associated with anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety, as well as eating disorders and personality disorders.

It is important not to assume a cause for your or your teen’s self-harm. Instead, talk to them about getting professional help. It might not be helpful to try and label what you or your teen are going through before talking to a professional about it and getting a better grasp of the situation.

Being able to conclusively name and identify what it is you are going through can help make sense of the way you feel and give you or your teen the ability to fight back against these thoughts and compulsions.

Can Self Harm in Teens Be Treated?

Yes, there are treatment methods to address the different causes behind a person’s tendencies toward self-harm – even when there isn’t a clear diagnosis. Talking to a therapist about the need to hurt oneself can be a good first step toward getting professional help and experimenting with different forms of treatment.

Therapists often utilize cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients identify and separate the thoughts that cause them to harm themselves from other healthier, normal thinking patterns – and thus learn to isolate and contradict those thoughts with practice through both mental affirmations and exercises, such as journaling and self-care.

What Should I Do to Help My Teen?

Supporting someone going through something so severe that they turn towards self-harm as a solution is immensely difficult. You are watching a person hurt and maybe even destroy themselves intentionally, whether through indirect “bad choices” or active harm, such as cutting.

Your best course of action is to work towards convincing them to get help with you. Do not scold or judge them. Even in treatment, it is never a good idea to shame someone for relapsing towards self-harm or failing to take care of themselves as per their treatment plan. Shame and guilt will always result in worse symptoms and bigger problems. Be empathic and understand that this is often a compulsive issue. It takes time, patience, and a lot of attempts to finally overcome the urge to self-harm.

For more information about self harm in teens and mental health treatment, contact Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Communication Feelings Parenting

How to Talk to Teenagers for a Better Relationship

It’s no surprise that books on teen behavior sell millions – while we’ve all been teens at one point or another, it’s very difficult for an adult to remember what it was like, and it’s even more difficult to try and empathize with another person’s teenage behavior or mental health problems, even when they’re your child. For example, learning how to talk to teenagers to develop an awesome relationship can be unique and pose its own challenges for every situation.

How to Talk to Teenagers for a Great Relationship

If you struggle to communicate with your teen and are finding that it’s affecting your relationship, it’s time to take a step back and analyze how you approach conversations with your teen and where your inadvertent priorities lie.

1. Don’t Be a Judge, Be a Listener

Sometimes, all your teen needs is a sounding board – someone to talk to who will listen without trying to address every issue or step in with unwanted advice. This is even more important if your first reaction to your teen telling you anything is to figure out what kind of judgment you should make as a result of their experience.

If you tend to scold your teen more than anything else, don’t be surprised if they eventually stop telling you what they’re really doing and start trying to hide things.

It doesn’t matter if what your teen did was wrong – most of the time, your teen knows that. It matters more to understand why they did it and talk to them about that. Be there as your teen’s champion, your teen’s coach, your teen’s guidance – not another reflection of the world around them enumerating all the things they’ve messed up in the last week or two.

2. Don’t Try to “Fix” Their Problems, Because You Can’t

At least, not all the time. The crux of this piece of advice is not to treat every question or encounter with your teen as an opportunity to deliver a straight answer.

For example, if a teen is having trouble with their friend, avoid giving specific advice or telling them what you’d do. Let them figure out what they should do – and provide guiding principles to help them make the right choice.

Similarly, when your teen misbehaves, ask questions. What were they thinking? Did they have a plan? What do they want? As parents, it’s impossible sometimes to control certain frustrations and avoid lashing out with accusations or condemnation. But whenever possible, use the situation to help your teen navigate their problems themselves.

3. Provide Guidance

It’s a popular sentiment that teens continuously pull away from their parents on the way to adulthood, but while that is true, it’s often paired with the misconception that parents become a waning influence on the health, well-being, and personality of their children.

Teens are absolutely shaped by their parents more than any other individual at that point in their life, provided their parents are around to shape them – much more so than their peers or teachers. In fact, contrary to popular belief, it’s usually a teen’s parent-child relationship that affects who they choose as their peers, and it tends to be the greatest influence on their overall mental health and likelihood to struggle at school or with substance or drug use.

Your teens will continue to mirror your attitudes and behaviors whether they realize it or not and will be reliant on you as their main role models until they leave home. That’s a significant portion of most people’s teen years as well as their young adulthood, especially as the economy worsens and more young adults opt to live with their parents.

All this is to say that no matter how it might feel at any given point, remember that what you say, do, and think as a parent will continue to impact your teen substantially, even as they become increasingly independent.

4. Manage Your Emotions

A lot of teens thrive on eliciting conflict. It’s not really something they do on purpose – teens are just generally getting accustomed to managing their emotions and, as such, are quick to resort to the dramatic. That means yelling, screaming, “I hate you!” and running away at the first sign of confrontation.

The worst thing you can do as a parent is give in to your inner frustrations and start scolding them or lobbing insults and yells of your own. Always, always, try to keep your cool.

Again, we’ve mentioned that we aren’t robots, and frustrations can seep through sometimes. But as much as possible, you need to emphasize rising above as a parent in order to provide proper guidance and set an example of emotional maturity. Show your teen that, while it’s healthy to let loose and blow off steam sometimes, it’s never appropriate to deal with a situation – especially a problem – by venting emotionally, especially towards other people.

5. Don’t Press the Issue, A Stone Won’t Bleed

As much as it pains a lot of parents to hear this sometimes, timing is quite important. Your teen won’t be open to a conversation all the time, and you can’t always press the issue just because you demand it. Your authority isn’t absolute anymore, especially when a teen feels quite strongly about something.

All you achieve by pushing when it’s no longer time to push is a much more antagonistic teen and an increasingly frustrated mindset.

This circles back to why it’s important to treat teens as individuals. They’re at a point where their development necessitates boundaries, privacy, and the ability to make choices that matter. Teaching them that also means understanding that there will be times when they draw these boundaries against you, and you need to give them some time to calm down.

6. Don’t Escalate

This last piece of advice can be very simple and very powerful. When your teen disagrees or responds aggressively, don’t immediately match their tone. Parents sometimes think the best way to respond to a teen with aggression is by displaying that aggression back towards them, but more often than not, this just seesaws into a screaming match.

Instead, try to take a pause. A moment of silence can mean a lot more than a loud yell. Sometimes, frustrated teens – whether it’s school stress, relationship problems, or even just simple hunger – can respond to questions like “have you done the dishes yet?” or demands like “take out the garbage, like you were told twice today” with venom.

But if you give them a moment to reconsider what they’ve said with a simple, stern look, you may be surprised how often you’ll get a begrudged “okay, fine.” In moments like that, a win is a win, and it’s better than taking on their energy and spewing it back at them to no avail.

Practice Talking to Your Teen Today

Talking to teens isn’t easy. The context of any given moment, the million things on your teen’s mind, the way their emotions are at play at that given moment, and their individual personalities can make each and every conversation a minefield of its own.

Learning to deal with that takes time, patience, and a keen mind to understand how your teen tends to think and work. But it’s worth it. Becoming a better listener and developing a healthier verbal relationship with your teen can be a good predictor for positive outcomes in life, including better academic achievements and mental health.

For more information on teen mental health and treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Feelings Mental Health

Can Low Self Esteem in Teens Affect Mental Health?

Did you know that low self esteem in teens can pose many effects on their mental health?

Self-esteem is intrinsically tied to mental health – our self-worth is not just a reflection of how we see ourselves but can reflect on how we see the world, how we perceive opportunities and react to certain circumstances, and how resilient we become to outer stressors.

Greater self-confidence and healthier self-esteem can help a person cope with more hardship, get back up after setbacks, and better stand up to life’s challenges. Conversely, struggling to retain any pride or suffering from insecurity can make it that much harder to contend with life’s more difficult moments and makes it harder to refute or fight back in times of anxiety or depression.

Studies show us that self-esteem and mental health are strongly correlative – when one is down, so is the other. But there’s also evidence to suggest that the reverse can be true: by improving your self-esteem, you can improve your mental health. And by improving your mental health, you may make it easier to work on your self-esteem.

Let’s look at some of the ways low self in teens has an impact.

Which Came First?

When it comes to self-esteem and mental health in teens, it is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.

Which is more likely? That low self esteem in teens caused them to be more perceptible to stressors that led to a mental health issue? Or that their self-esteem is a reflection of existing mental health problems, such as a precursor of depressive symptoms in the formative years?

Sadly, it’s very difficult to tell – and it might not matter much in treatment.

For example, depression, like other mental health issues, is a multifactor problem. Inner issues, such as genes and a behavioral predisposition towards negative thinking, as well as outer problems, such as victimization, stress, trauma, or abuse, all contribute to a depressive cycle.

Treatment Modalities for Teen Mental Health

In the same way, treatment for certain mental health issues will require the use of several modalities.

There’s the therapeutic aspect:

  • Talking to a therapist, learning to regulate your mood, identify harmful thinking patterns, and use affirmations and more positive ways of thinking.

Then there’s the pharmacological aspect:

  • Utilizing antidepressants to reduce the severity of depressive symptoms.

And the use of non-therapeutic methods in long-term depression management:

  • Forest walkingspending time with your petjournaling, long walks with friends, better sleep schedules, a good diet, and taking a break from a stressful habit.

Self-esteem is one important facet of a larger set of factors that might help determine a teen’s mental health. Having healthy self-esteem is important and should not be mistaken for narcissism or grandiose thinking.

For example, someone with narcissistic tendencies – someone who might qualify for narcissistic personality disorder – will usually struggle with major insecurities, and part of their behavior and presented self-image hides a deeper fear that they cannot own up to that image, leading them to lash out when confronted about it.

Healthy self-esteem can be promoted through therapy and non-therapeutic activities alike, including skills-building and social activities.

Improving Low Self Esteem in Teens to Boost Mental Health

There are a million analogies for understanding how your sense of self reflects on your attitudes and behaviors regarding the world around you. In the simplest psychological terms, everything we experience is filtered through our perspective, and the more we struggle to internalize positive qualities within ourselves, the more we struggle to see the good and fortune in everyday circumstances. It can become a dangerous and self-destructive cycle over time.

Addressing self-esteem problems does not have to start in a therapist’s office. Low self esteem in teens can be identified long before serious mental health symptoms, and in many cases, they’re completely normal. Most teens are self-conscious and insecure, and it is part and parcel of growing up and learning to live in your own skin.

Yet certain teens are more confident than others, and a lack of self-confidence can be a strong indicator of future problems, mental health issues, and an even lower quality of life. Here’s how you can change that.

1. Learn a New Skill

One of the quickest ways to improve your self-esteem and work on your self-confidence is to teach yourself something new. It could be a relatively lofty goal, like achieving your first backflip, or something a little simpler, like learning to use an image editing tool to improve your scanned drawings.

With free online resources all over the Internet and YouTube, there are countless things you can learn to do in just a few days of practice. You don’t have to show them off or compete with anyone but yourself. Pick anything you’re interested in and achieve a minor goal – then work up to something bigger!

2. Improve an Old Skill

Let’s say you’ve already spent a few years learning to draw or know how to play a few tabs on the guitar. Hone those skills! Pick a goal for your existing hobbies or skills, and let that goal revitalize your interest.

Simply spending time to improve on something that you like doing can be immensely gratifying and can help cement the crucial concept that no matter how you might feel about yourself today, you’re always capable of greater things than you might expect.

3. Find Healthy Communities

Learning to approach the problem of achieving a new goal will usually lead to questions and the experiences of others. That’s how many communities are shaped and grown.

Entire communities online revolve around teaching parkour skills to one another, sharing drawing techniques, or finding new ways to reduce run times on “speedruns” of retro video games. These communities are full of people sharing their successes and failures, their trials, and their victories. Those experiences can help you, as well, to find other people with similar interests and to push yourself. If you struggle with consistency in a new habit or skill, finding a community can help you maintain that drive toward achieving your goals.

4. Talk To Your Friends

The more a person struggles with low thoughts, the more likely they are to isolate themselves. But this usually leads to even worse symptoms of self-deprecation and lower self-esteem. We need our friends to help us formulate a better and healthier sense of self – no man is an island!

5. Stop Negative Self-Talk

Negative thoughts are a common aspect of depressive thinking and many mental health issues. It becomes part and parcel of the day to blame yourself for everything, but that second nature can be very harmful.

Like positive affirmations, negative ones can reinforce negative thoughts and negative behaviors.

If you’re late with a book report, don’t call yourself lazy or stupid. Don’t get upset about procrastinating or forgetting. Take a deep breath. Focus on the task at hand. Ask for an extension.

Whenever the urge comes to insult yourself – no matter what the context might be – stop it. Not only is it not productive, but it can be actively harmful to your mental health, no matter how much you might feel you “deserve” chastising yourself.

6. Talk to a Therapist

For teens with low self-esteem, it can be hard to remember that how they might see themselves is not necessarily a true reflection of who they are, and compliments or comments from others get brushed aside amidst instances of criticism or negative attention.

You don’t need to have a formal diagnosis to talk to a professional. People can and do seek out a therapist’s help without struggling with major depressive disorder or conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A therapist can help you sort out your emotions, learn to manage irrational thoughts or separate impulses from smarter decision-making, and learn to implement habits and thinking patterns that control some of your worst tendencies, especially if you tend to see the worst in yourself and/or others.

Get Help at Visions Treatment Centers

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, whether it’s a professional, someone at school, or your parents. If you know a friend or have a loved one who consistently struggles with self-confidence, help them build that confidence through some of the activities mentioned above or by talking to someone together.

For more information about low self esteem in teens or how to get help, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Self-Care

12 Ways to Practice Self Care for Teens

The topic of self-care and mental health conditions has grown in interest over the years, especially over the course of the pandemic – more than ever, people report struggling with professional burnout, stress-related illnesses, and social isolation. Yet these issues are not exclusive to adults. Teens, too, have been hit hard in recent times, and teenage rates of anxiety and depression continue to grow – making self care for teens and adults alike a priority.

Learning to manage your thoughts and minimize stress is valuable but difficult. Anxieties and worries can perpetuate themselves through the way they affect motivation, productivity, restlessness, and physical health – the longer you struggle with your mental health, the harder it is to improve it.

Can self-care help? Absolutely. While not a substitute for professional treatment, learning to incorporate different methods of self care for teens at home can help improve their mental health and even help combat symptoms of mental health issues like depression.

What Does Self Care for Teens Look Like?

Self-care does not need to be strictly defined. For some people, it’s a nice warm bath. For others, it’s a jog through the park. In some cases, self-care can be as specific as putting on your favorite song from a childhood movie and dancing around the living room or finger painting.

Self-care does not replace professional care – for teens who need therapy, self-care can be a supplemental regimen used to manage stress at home and avoid mental flare-ups.

For teens who aren’t diagnosed with anything but feel stressed out by exams, studies, relationships, or world events, self-care constitutes emotional awareness and learning to listen to your needs. Let’s go over a few concrete examples of proven and effective methods of self care for teens.

1. Start Journaling

Journaling is a powerful and often underrated tool for productivity, emotional awareness, and mental health.

More than just the ability to recount your dreams or go over your day, journaling prompts teens to be privately introspective, think back on and second-guess impulsive thoughts or negative impulses, and reinforce a healthier mindset – through journaling, a teen can come home from an upsetting day, write about it, calm down, review what they’ve written, and learn to come to a positive conclusion.

2. Create a Healthy and Realistic Schedule

As teens’ responsibilities grow, they quickly find out just how few hours there are in a waking day. Some teens overbook themselves, trying to manage school alongside friends, relationships, and a packed extracurricular program.

Teaching kids to leave time to dabble and experiment and then prioritize the things that interest them or bring them the most joy is important. Plan your day! Set aside the time you need to comfortably do your schoolwork and your chores and create timeslots for hobbies and interests.

Don’t cram for a test at the last minute, do homework an hour before it’s due, or play video games until the early morning hours. A sound, solid, and realistic schedule that leaves plenty of room for fun can help teens achieve their next big self-care goal.

3. Prioritize Good Sleep

Sleep can never be overrated, especially in the context of mental health. Even just an hour of missing sleep can have a significant impact on a person’s cognitive abilities and mental load, reducing their capacity for stress and ability to fulfill the day’s tasks and goals.

4. Using Video Games for Good

Video games have been a part of the mainstream for well over thirty years, ever since Nintendo and SEGA revitalized a dying industry in the 1980s. Yet despite polarizing headlines and worries about gaming addiction, there’s also been a lot of research showing that used sensibly, video games become an excellent tool for stress reduction as well as cognitive improvement.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying video games as a medium, especially if it’s your personal method of winding down after school – and in the modern era, video games have become one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with friends over the summer, or even over a pandemic.

Just don’t let your gaming habit eat into the rest of your schedule!

5. Swap Out Your Snacks

When it comes to self care for teens, it’s not just about what you do, it’s also about what you eat. A healthier diet can have a marked improvement in a person’s mental health and mood regulation.

If you’re not a big fan of eating your greens, for example, find other more appealing ways of getting your daily vitamin and nutrient intake, whether it’s dried fruit, berries, salted nuts, or health-oriented snacks, like edamame and cacao nibs.

6. Get Moving

You don’t need to do laps around school or struggle on a pull-up bar to benefit from the mental health effects of exercise. Any kind of regular movement will do, whether it’s a long walk through the park or a round of Just Dance in front of the TV.

The most important thing about exercising isn’t what kind of program you choose or which equipment to buy – it’s about finding exercises and activities that you can do consistently.

7. Exercise a Creative Muscle!

Creative endeavors can be a wonderful way to release stress and enter a state of psychological flow. Not only is this great for skills development – whether it’s learning to play a musical instrument or learning to sketch – but it helps build a healthy habit that you can use to deal with adult stressors later in life.

8. Spend More Time with Pets

Spending time with your pet can be incredibly cathartic and stress relieving.

Animals like cats and dogs have been our companions for hundreds of generations, long before any of today’s existing civilizations were around – and the bond between humans and companion animals has significant evolutionary benefits for both.

9. Don’t Ignore Your Friends

The worse you feel, the easier it gets to isolate and stay away from others. When you notice that feeling is encroaching, try to spend more time with your friends.

Don’t stay away! Do the opposite. We’re social creatures, and interactions with other people are important for our mental well-being, regardless of whether you thrive in larger crowds or prefer hanging out with just one or two best buddies.

10. Be Outdoors

Whether it’s a longer hike or the occasional walk in the woods, being one with nature – even if that boils down to hanging out near a tree and reading a book – has a marked effect on mental and physical health, to the point that it’s become a researched phenomenon.

11. Go On a Social Media Break

You don’t need to radically delete your profiles or turn off and lock your phone away in a safe, but going through a social media cleanse every now and again can do a lot to reduce your stress levels, recalibrate your self-esteem, and even improve your empathy.

Social media is a wonderful tool – it’s a borderline miracle to be connected with so many people at once. But with it comes a heavy burden, as well. There’s just too much noise and far too much content, and it can become wildly distracting, especially when you’re in the middle of trying to build good habits and healthy schedules. Take a break every now and again, especially if you feel overwhelmed.

12. Volunteer (In Any Way!)

Doing good for others is a surefire way to feel better yourself, ironically. While it might not seem like we’re the most altruistically inclined species, there are genuine selfish benefits to doing something without asking for anything in return. Join the fire brigade for a summer or two! Help a homeless shelter. Work with rescue animals. Choose any cause that interests you, and give it a try.

Start Practicing Self Care Today

Taking care of your own mental health is difficult but important. Prioritize the things you need to function well – three meals, good sleep, enough water, and a nature break every now and again, for example, as well as less basic needs, like the occasional outing with some friends or a little alone time with a good book.

But when tough situations get tougher, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it from time to time.

For more tips on self care for teens and mental health treatment, visit Visions Treatment Centers.

Categories
Anxiety Mental Health

Sleep Anxiety in Teens: What Is It?

Is your teen struggling to regulate their sleep schedule? Are they often up at odd hours and can’t get out of bed until late the next day? Has your teen been complaining about a lack of sleep or being unable to concentrate at school? What your child may be experiencing is referred to as sleep anxiety in teens, which can develop from an existing anxiety disorder.

What is Sleep Anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is not insomnia. Rather than being unable to fall asleep for no discernable reason, people with sleep anxiety cannot fall asleep because of a fear of falling asleep.

Unforunately, it’s a common anxiety, ranging from discomfort or worry about falling asleep, to sheer panic or phobia symptoms related to sleep, also known as somniphobia.

In other words, teens who have sleep anxiety are somehow anxious about falling asleep and will try to delay sleeping as much as they can, even if they want to sleep.

Sleep Anxiety Is Complex

Sleep anxiety in teens, and sleep anxiety in general, is a complex issue because sleeping is often inherently tied to mental and physical health, especially anxiety symptoms. A lack of sleep can greatly amplify feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and fear, meaning that trying to avoid sleep can actively make a teen’s anxiety surrounding sleep much worse.

Sleep anxiety has its share of physical and mental symptoms, as well as co-occurring disorders. Common issues that co-occur with sleep anxiety include sleep paralysis and nightmare disorder.

Sleep Paralysis and Nightmare Disorder

Sleep paralysis is a condition wherein a person may wake up from REM (rapid eye movement) sleep while their body is still under the effects of a self-induced paralytic state (called muscle atonia).

This state is triggered by the brain during deeper forms of sleep to avoid excessive thrashing during sleep and keep us from hurting ourselves in our dreams. However, waking up while paralyzed can be massively distressing. Because the body isn’t quite awake yet, and the mind is still in a half-sleeping state, it is also very common to experience vivid hallucinations as a result.

Because of the combination of immobility and hallucinations, sleep paralysis stories often involve “demons” or “monsters” that appear in the corner of the eye or are actively hovering/standing near the sufferer.

Some researchers even believe that old stories of demonic hauntings and possessions – such as the infamous story of the incubus sitting on a victim’s chest – are early examples of sleep paralysis being retold in myth or art form. In these cases, we become the victim of our own imagination and the brain’s capacity to translate fear and distress into nightmarish imagery.

These episodes can greatly affect a teen’s anxiety around falling asleep. Sadly, sleep paralysis is relatively common – as many as one in five people experience an episode of sleep paralysis occasionally, and over three-fourths of these episodes involve some form of hallucination. For many teens who experience sleep paralysis, anxiety surrounding sleep can become a serious long-term issue and make recurring episodes more common.

Sleep Anxiety vs. Other Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the world, including the United States. Conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder affect millions of people every year, and many of them experience symptoms for years and years.

Most anxiety disorders have their onset in adolescence, meaning teens experience a spike in these conditions as they enter adulthood. Dealing with sleep anxiety in teens is particularly important because of the way sleep plays a role in modulating our mental and physical health – without proper sleep, the body becomes more susceptible to illness, less resilient to stress, and struggles with recurring problems.

Unfortunately, one of the more common signs of a lack of sleep is recurring sleep paralysis. This can serve to further deepen a teen’s fear of sleeping, creating a powerful and destructive cycle.

The Onset of an Anxiety Disorder

While the onset of an anxiety disorder may be triggered by a distressing experience or particular event, most cases of anxiety occur randomly, and their cause can often be traced back to family history. However, while genes are a major contributing cause in anxiety disorders, there are other risk factors that make anxiety more common – and protective factors that improve a teen’s resilience against anxiety symptoms and make them less of a problem over time.

Learning to minimize these risk factors and build on your teen’s protective factors is important. Sleep is a big part of it.

Is Sleep Anxiety a Form of Insomnia?

Insomnia is described as a problem with falling asleep or an inability to fall asleep. In a way, sleep anxiety does include insomnia as a symptom, as teens don’t want to fall asleep. But rather than being unable to, it is a teen’s fear that affects their ability to sleep. As such, the answer to treating sleep anxiety in teens is not quite the same as other forms of sleeplessness or insomnia.

Addressing Sleep Anxiety in Teens

Paradoxically, the most direct way to treat sleep anxiety in teens is to help them improve their sleep hygiene and naturally induce a healthier sleeping schedule.

If there are other psychological or physical barriers to good sleep – such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy – medical instruments and several different forms of medication may be necessary.

If a teen’s reluctance to fall asleep is not accompanied by another form of sleep disorder, then a more effective answer would be a comprehensive anxiety treatment plan, including individualized talk therapy and, if needed, an anti-anxiety medication.

Improving a teen’s sleep can help them address their sleep anxiety by bringing them back to a state of calm, deep, fulfilling nightly sleep.

Consider Professional Help

Sleep hygiene and sleep anxiety in teens is not an easy subject to tackle. It can take radical change to help a person truly address their sleep – including physical activity, a change in diet, aromatherapy, and a major rework to the bedroom, from dimmed lighting to better temperature control, a different mattress, and certain bed-related rules, such as limiting the bed to only sleep (meaning, no lying in bed while reading, studying, or playing games) and cutting off screen time after 9 pm.

Consider talking to a professional at Visions Treatment Centers about addressing your teen’s anxiety symptoms and sleep-related problems.

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