Anxiety in teens can lead to mental health issues, warn experts
Treatment for anxiety should be tailored specifically in order to better help teenage sufferers, according to new research.
A study by psychologists at the University of Reading found that adolescents are more likely to suffer from severe symptoms than younger sufferers. However, researchers say, the same treatments used with children are merely being adapted to treat teenagers.
Charities claim that the approach to teenage mental health is at a “breaking point” and argue that distinct methods should be introduced to combat the particular symptoms of teenage social anxiety.
The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, analysed the symptoms of 100 teens who were being treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and compared them with the symptoms of a group of 100 children treated with CBT, aged 6-12. Results suggested that adolescents were more severely affected by their symptoms, as well as being more likely than children to suffer from depression.
Lead researcher Polly Waite noted that inadequate methods of treatment could be detrimental to teenagers’ mental health.
Waite said: “We found teenagers were often receiving treatment designed for younger children which is simply being adapted or made cooler. For example, some of the pictures used in the online therapy were simply changed from teddy bears to images of grungy teenagers. This may mean they have poorer treatment outcomes, putting their futures at risk.”
Waite claims that by closely working with the affected adolescents, health services can discern which methods will be most beneficial to them.
She added: “By targeting more effectively, we could stop teenagers developing mental health problems, leading to fewer suicides and incidence of drug and alcohol problems.”
Meanwhile, teenage mental health charities have expressed the need for teenagers to have access to specific anxiety treatment when they need it. Lucie Rusell, director of campaigns at the YoungMinds charity, claimed that adolescent mental health services are at a “breaking point”.
She said: “It is worrying but not surprising that sometimes adolescents are not able to receive specific treatment for their needs. This needs to change if we want to stop the slide of many young people from children’s to adult mental health services because their problems weren’t addressed properly when they first started to suffer.”
Thomas Rhys Jones