Hope Beyond Anxiety
Nevin G. Alderman, MA, CMHC – New Haven Residential Treatment Center; Clinical Director
Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms faced by teens today. Anxiety can be defined as a debilitating preoccupation of thought and emotion that prevents an individual from attaining life goals and realizing one’s potential. Common emotional experiences correlated with anxiety include: fear, helplessness, paranoia, hopelessness, panic, and despair. Several factors determine the onset of anxiety. One factor is the unique biology of the individual. Examples of biology include genetic makeup and hereditary factors that predispose an individual to anxiety. Another major contributor to anxiety is life experience, which can include a variety of factors including environment, parenting style, traumatic experiences, and other chronic or poignant stressors.
Whatever the contributors to the onset of anxiety, anxiety is rarely experienced on its own. Anxiety is commonly experienced along-side depression due to the life-limiting and helpless nature of anxiety. Substance abuse or addictions are also commonly manifested along-side anxiety, as the individual attempts to self-medicate or numb the chronic, anxious experiences. The development of an eating disorder, such as Anorexia or Bulimia, or turning to self-harming strategies such as cutting or suicidal planning, are also commonly manifest alongside anxiety as one becomes more desperate for a sense of control or relief.
There is hope. Many therapeutic strategies have been formulated to effectively alleviate the debilitating effects of anxiety. Some of these therapeutic strategies include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Meditative Therapies, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Trauma Informed Therapies, Experiential Therapy and Systematic Desensitization (Exposure Therapy), to name a few. These therapeutic strategies allow the teen to explore the core contributors that perpetuate the debilitating emotions and experiences associated with anxiety, and are most effective when facilitated within a strong therapeutic relationship between the anxious youth and a caring mental health provider. A therapeutic approach that involves the family of the struggling teen is also advantageous as family work is vital to supporting lasting healing from debilitating anxiety.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals will experience anxiety at some point in their lifetime. Over 80% of the adolescent females we serve at New Haven Residential Treatment Center have an anxiety related diagnosis. There are few things that are more fulfilling than watching a young woman and her family realize the peace and satisfaction of life beyond anxiety.