The story of Harvard graduate, Scott Stossel, highlights the benefits of getting mental health professional support for teen anxiety early in life. His anxiety started at a very young age and continued throughout his early adulthood. What kept him going was the psychotherapy and prescribed medication. In his story, written about on the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website, he writes clearly: getting anxious kids help early can be crucial in heading off more serious problems later in life.
He starts his story off by describing his severe separation anxiety during elementary school. Later, at the age of 10, he had already developed a range of anxiety, fears of heights, small spaces, flying, and even a fear of vomiting. Finally, his parents took him for a psychiatric evaluation and sure enough he was diagnosed with a range of anxiety disorders.
He admits, and this is often the case with psychotherapy, that he got worse before he got better. However, with therapy and medication, he was able to manage the rest of his educational career. Yet, after graduation from Harvard, anxiety hit again, and he spent the rest of the next two decades trying various therapies and mental health treatment methods.
Recently, he says, he has come to accept his anxiety and has even been able to find some gold in it. In fact, he has written a book about anxiety as a means to share with others his experience of mental illness. In his book, My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind, Stossel clearly says that he still struggles with anxiety. However, he points out early treatment of his anxiety is what kept him going. “Without the treatment and assistance I’ve received along the way, however, I don’t know how I would have fared,” he wrote in his article.
Anxiety treatment often includes medication and therapy, as was the case for Stossel. Benzodiazepines are the most common class of anti-anxiety medication. They include Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin. The risk with Benzodiazepines, however, is that they are highly addictive and have severe withdrawal symptoms. Of course, any teen taking psychotropic medication, whether anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, should be closely monitored, especially at the beginning of treatment.
Another form of medication used to treat teen anxiety is antidepressants. They can be used to treat both depression, from moderate to severe, as well as anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
However, it’s important to know that medication alone is not a safe way to treat mental illness. In some cases, such as anxiety, it’s always safer to treat the underlying causes, in addition to taking medication. The anti-anxiety medication can provide a relief of debilitating symptoms, but those symptoms, if the underlying causes are not addressed, will return in full swing once you stop taking what you’ve been prescribed.
In fact, for most diagnoses, research indicates that the combination of both medication and therapy yields the best treatment results. Medication combined with a form of therapy that can begin to address the underlying issues has proven to be the most effective with psychological disorders such as anxiety. This combination has also been effective in treating depression, bipolar disorder, and other forms of psychological illness.
If your teen is suffering from anxiety, you probably know that it can be incredibly debilitating for your child. You may want to take your teen to a psychiatrist to help relieve some of those devastating symptoms through medication and a therapist to work through the underlying causes of teen general anxiety disorder.
By Robert Hunt
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