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Helping your anxious child or teenager

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Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents, and mental illness is, by and large, the main reason behind this startling fact.

Adolescents are especially susceptible to developing anxiety disorders due to both biologic and environmental factors.

During adolescence, the area of the brain that controls our emotions experiences an increased level of activity; while the part of the brain that regulates the ‘emotional center of the brain’ isn’t sufficiently developed to handle this over-activity.

This imbalance causes adolescents to be more disposed to developing anxiety than children and/or adults.

The classic symptoms of an anxiety disorder include difficulty sleeping, social isolation and avoidance of certain situations (that the individual may once have enjoyed).

However, adolescents who are suffering from anxiety disorders may also begin to act irritable, angry and defiant.

Therefore, it is important for parents to talk with their teens if they notice an onset of ill-tempered behavior to try to get to the root of the cause, rather than react immediately with punishment.

There are certain steps that can be taken at home to help alleviate anxiety, such as keeping open communication and practicing relaxation techniques.

However, if these are not working and the anxiety continues to disturb your child or teen’s everyday life, it is time to seek medical attention with their doctor.

They may benefit from referral to an adolescent medicine and/or behavioral help specialist to begin treatment.

Medication, used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, has been shown to be the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders.

Fortunately, Cone Health Center for Children has an exceptional team of pediatricians, a developmental-behavioral specialist and an adolescent medicine specialist dedicated to treating children and adolescents throughout the community with anxiety disorders and other behavioral health issues, as well as providing top-notch, general wellness care for their patients.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Martha Perry is an adolescent medicine specialist and the medical director of Cone Health Center for Children and the Pediatric Care Division of Cone Health Medical Group. Dr. Perry received her Doctor of Medicine from University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1999. She completed her residency in Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital from 1999 to 2002, and a fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at University of California, San Francisco and Boston Children's Hospital from 2002 to 2005. She is Board Certified in both General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.