Along with anger and guilt, anxiety and fear are major players in the lives of many teenagers. Anxiety can be defined as the experience of unrest, apprehension, dread or agitated worry. It has been described as a fear in the absence of real danger, or a fear of something that is not clearly understood.
Anxiety, fear and worry form a complex system of emotions that make clear differentiation between them quite difficult. They tend to overestimate the negative or threatening aspects of a situation while drawing attention away from the positive or reassuring aspects. The person is left feeling uneasy, concerned, restless, irritable and fidgety.
The causes of anxiety are many. It can be a result of unconscious intrapsychic conflicts. It can be learned by example, such as identifying with parents who are anxious. It can come from childhood conflicts. It can come from present-day situational problems. It can come from being anxious about being anxious. It can come from fears of inferiority, poverty, or poor health.
Five broad causes of anxiety:
He describes anxiety-producing threats as those which come from perceived danger, a threat to one’s feeling of self-worth, separation and unconscious influences. For example, anxiety may be caused by rejection or harassment from a peer, the possibility of parent’s divorcing, the prospect of fluncking a course in school, or any number of real or perceived threats.
There are three kinds of conflicts that produce anxiety according to Dr. Collins:
Fear can come in response to a variety of situations. Different people are afraid of failure, the future, achieving success rejection, intimacy, conflict, and meaninglessness in life (sometime called existential anxiety), sickness, death, loneliness, and a host of other real or imagined possibilities. Sometimes theses fears can build up in one’s mind and create extreme anxiety often in the absence of any real danger.
4. Unmet Needs
For many years psychologists and other writers have tried to identify the basics needs of human beings. The following list describes Six basics fundamental needs:
If we fail to meet these needs, we are anxious, up-in-the-air, afraid and often frustrated.
5. Individual Differences
People react differently to anxiety-producing situations. Some people are almost never anxious some seem highly anxious most of the time; many are in between. Some people are made anxious y a variety of situations; others find that only one or two issues triggers anxiety. Such differences may be due to person’s psychology, personality, sociology, physiology or theology.
1. It is essential that I am loved or approved by virtually everyone in my community
2. I must be perfectly competent, adequate and achieving in order to consider myself worthwhile.
3. It is terrible catastrophe when things are not as I want them to be.
4. Unhappiness is caused by outside circumstances, and I have no control over it.
5. Dangerous or fearsome things are causes for great concern, and I must continually dwell upon their possibility.
6. It is easier to avoid certain difficulties and self-responsibilities than to face them.
7. I should be dependent on others, and I must have someone stronger on whom I can rely.
8. My past experiences and events are the determiners of my present behavior, I cannot eradicate or alter the influence of my past.
9. I should be quite upset over other people’s problems and disturbances.
10. There is always a right or perfect solution to every problem, and I must always find it or the results will be catastrophic.
Parents and youth leaders may recognize such false beliefs as often characteristics of adolescents. Such beliefs can, of course, give rise to considerable anxiety.
Anxiety sometimes produces beneficial effects; it can motivate a person, for example. Too much anxiety, however, can produce severe, even crippling, effects.
It is widely known that a great stress and anxiety can produce ulcers, even in young person. Less well known are the other possible physical effects of anxiety:
In addition, the changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, and digestive and chemical changes caused by anxiety can, if they persist over time, cause severe harm.
When anxiety builds up most people unconsciously rely on behaviors and thinking which dull the pain of anxiety and enable us to cope. Such reactions may include:
Some people may uncharacteristically disagreeable, blaming other for their problems or throwing childish temper tantrums at the tiniest provocation.
Anxiety can motivate us to seek divine help where it might be ignored otherwise. But anxiety can also drive us away from God at a time when he is most needed. Fraught with worry and distracted by pressures, even religious people find that there is a lack of time for prayer, decreased ability to concentrate on Bible reading, reduced interest in church worship services, impatience and sometimes bitterness with heaven’s seeming silence.
It is with reason that anxiety is considered the most pervasive psychological phenomenon of our time. Anxiety can give rise to a dizzying plethora of disorders, such as:
Separation Anxiety Disorder. This psychological effect is demonstrated in excessive worry or fear of being from a parent or other important influence.
Avoidant Disorder of Adolescence. This behavior as when then teenager desires warm, close and affectionate relationship with family members but strongly avoids making contact with strangers, even peers.
Phobic Reactions. These reactions include fear of crowds and situations in which escape would be difficult (agoraphobia), fear of closed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia), and various social phobias.
Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. The eating disorders are characterized by anxiety about one’s weight and appearance.
The bible uses anxiety in two distinct ways: to signify uncessary worry and to indicate realistic concern.
The responses to the problems of Anxiety
Listen. Invite the young person to talk about his or her fears and anxieties at length, as much as he or she is capable of expressing such things. Take care, as much as possible, not to interrupt or dismiss the youth’s anxieties; a person suffering from acute anxiety will not be convicted by statement like, “Oh, that’s nothing to worry about”. You may consider helping the youth to express himself or herself by asking such questions as the following:
Emphathize. On of the greatest challenges in trying to guide a person suffering from acute anxiety is the tendency to become anxious oneself. Anxious people tend to make other people anxious. However, being aware of your own anxiety (even it is caused by the young person you’re trying to help) may help you gain insight into what the teen or preteen is feeling. As a concerned adult, you may express empathy by”
Affirm. The Bible says plainly “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). The enemy of fear is love; the way to put off fear, it to put on love. Fear and love vary inversely, the more fear, the less love; the more love, the less fear.
The youth leader, pastor, parent, or teacher who wishes to help a young person deal with anxiety may sometimes be able to make significant progress simply by carefully, consistently and sincerely affirming the young person as one who is valued and loved.
Direct. The youth leader or parent’s goal should not be to eliminate all anxiety from a young person’s life; that will not be possible. The goal should be to help the teen or preteen equip himself or herself to cope with anxiety.
This may be done by:
Enlist. Enlist the young man or woman’s participation, as much as possible, in devising a plan of action to handle stress and anxiety.
© 2008 Christian Youth Counseling Ministry.