Today – Treating Teen Anxiety – Natural Remedies vs. Medication
Treating Teen Anxiety – Natural Remedies vs. Medication
A lot of parents are concerned about their teen’s anxiety as managing their emotions is just another challenge they have to face on top of school work, social pressures, and hormonal changes. Your teen might not know the best way to handle their stress, and by putting it off, they could be putting themselves at risk of lashing out or losing sleep among other stress-related problems. Here, we’re breaking down different natural remedies and medical solutions that you can pass onto your teen so they can find what works best.
These are the solutions that don’t require any medication. You can practice these strategies from home or on the go.
Pros– The biggest pro of natural remedies is that your teen will learn positive habits that they can carry with them throughout life. Plus, they are cheap, easy, and offer instant relief.
Cons– The major con with these remedies is that the effects are short-lived, and don’t usually do enough to protect against major stressful episodes such as panic attacks.
Aromatherapy– You could try introducing your teen to essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus that they can carry around in vials for instant stress relief. Spreading a drop of oil on their skin or giving it a smell can immediately calm a busy mind.
Listening to Music– Sometimes teens experience stress because they can’t get their mind off something that’s bugging them. Disconnecting from the world around them by putting in earbuds and playing calm music can transport them to a place where they don’t have to focus on stressors like an upcoming test.
Exercise, or Taking a Walk– Getting physical exercise is a proven way to boost mood in the long term, but even a simple walk can help the mind stop ruminating and start progressing onto new thoughts. This is great for physical anxiety like tight muscles too, as moving around will cause your teen to have better control over relaxing their body.
Meditation– You could encourage your teen to pick up quick meditative exercises. Many phone apps have a ton of guided meditations that can help your teen turn inward and manage their emotions whether they are out or at home.
Tea– Drinking an herbal tea has a lot of calming effects. Some herbs like chamomile have quantifiable effects on relaxing the brain, but in general, sipping a warm beverage and pausing to let it cool allows your teen to slow down and enjoy instead of moving and thinking fast.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation– This is an exercise that your teen can use to help unwind their body. It involves tightening their muscles and slowly letting them go. They should focus on contracting different muscle groups throughout the body to locate where they are holding stress. Relaxing each muscle group one by one will teach them how to let it go.
The medical solutions to anxiety might be these two categories: antidepressants and benzodiazepines. They are very different drugs that work best in different situations.
Antidepressants – Antidepressants are a daily medication that work by blocking the absorption of certain molecules called neurotransmitters. Many neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine directly influence our mood and our ability to regulate emotions. When we prevent these specific molecules from being absorbed, they build up a larger concentration in our brains, allowing for better emotional support. This is why the same medicine can be used for different issues like depression AND anxiety.
Pros– The chief pro of antidepressants is that they are long-lasting and can positively affect mood around the clock.
Cons– There are a few cons with antidepressants, such as a variety of potential side effects, and the fact that they can take weeks of regular use to become fully effective.
Benzodiazepines – Benzodiazepines are a class of drug that work instantly to alleviate stress. Many people use this drug to deal with acute panic attacks and situational anxiety like speaking in front of a crowd or dealing a fear like flying in an airplane. They work by flooding the body with a neurotransmitter called GABA, which slows down the rate of communication between cells in our nervous system, leaving us feeling very tranquil instead of overwhelmed.
Pros– The pro of using benzodiazepines is their instant and effective relief, even the most extreme situations of panic and anxiety.
Cons– The cons include their potential for addiction, dependency and abuse. Plus, chronic use of this drug can result in memory problems and depression.
What’s Best for My Teen?
We’ve introduced you to a handful of natural cures for anxiety as well as some proven medications that will help with your teen’s symptoms. All of these options have their own unique pros and cons that you should be aware of when suggesting strategies to your teenager.
We find that the best solution has to do with the severity and frequency of your teen’s anxiety. If your teen has infrequent anxiety that is not intense enough to prevent them from normal daily functions like going to school, having fun, and eating healthy, the natural remedies are probably the safest and most consistent way for them to manage their symptoms.
If your teen has infrequent anxiety, but when it does come up it’s extremely intense and results in panic attacks, flashback, or nightmares, a benzodiazepine would be extremely effective. We recommend that you speak with a psychiatrist about this option and try to control the dose, maybe giving out only pill at a time, so your teen doesn’t end up abusing this effective, feel-good drug.
If your teen has frequent anxiety, no matter how intense, the best option is likely an antidepressant because the natural remedies and benzodiazepines are both most effective for short term, acute anxious episodes. We suggest that you talk with a psychiatrist about different options for antidepressants so you can make a plan to safely introduce this daily medication with the lowest risk of side effects.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviours. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.
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