Living with Anxiety Part 1: How to tell if your daughter is struggling with anxiety

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Nearly 1 in 3 teenagers (ages 13 to 18) will experience an anxiety disorder* at some point in their adolescent years. 

Not might….will. 

Those are some alarming statistics if you ask me.

So why is anxiety on the rise in teens? Here is an article that spells it all out.

You see…our brains are hardwired to experience fear as a defense mechanism. Without this natural emotional response, humans would take on too many risks and the population would decline. So to some extent, fear is a good thing. But when we become controlled by our fear, anxiety sets in and starts to take over our lives.

Fear = result of actual danger.

Anxiety = result of perceived danger.

Anxiety is not a good thing.

Are you concerned that anxiety is holding your daughter (or you) back from making healthy life choices, being successful at school, pursuing a meaningful career, finding the right lifelong partner, or [insert literally any life scenario here]?

To be clear, I am not a physician or any other medically trained professional. If you think that you or your daughter could be suffering from an anxiety disorder (or any other mental health issue), please seek the advice of a physician or psychologist.

However, I have struggled with anxiety most of my life, and now my daughters are too (all clinically diagnosed).

Because of that, I have been able to recognize certain concerning behaviors in myself and my daughters that could be indicative of an anxiety disorder. 

Here are some questions that have been helpful for me (and are hopefully helpful for you too) to determine whether or not anxiety has potentially become a roadblock in my daughters’ lives.

1. Is she a perfectionist?

2. Is she afraid to fail OR succeed?

Not trying their best or trying too hard could be a scapegoat driven by anxiety.

3. Does she feel confident enough to stand up for herself?

Being unable to confidently share her own opinions could be a result of having anxiety over how people will perceive her.

4. Is she busy all the time with school, extra-curriculars, commitments, friends, etc.?

This need to do it all, all the time, without any time to just BE can cause anxiety OR be the result of anxiety (in which case ‘business’ is used as a way to distract the mind).

5. Does she seem to be addicted to anything, both healthy and unhealthy?

I.E. working out too much or stressing over “eating clean” can be an addiction to something we would normally perceive as healthy that’s caused by anxiety over body image.

6. Does she procrastinate or become paralyzed when trying to accomplish tasks?

If this is a regular behavior – with both preferred and nonpreferred tasks – it could be rooted in anxiety.

7. Is she a control freak?

8. Does she constantly complain that she doesn’t feel good?

Anxiety triggers a stress response in the body which can negatively affect your health. Remember, your body doesn’t know the difference between stress from actual dangers and stress caused by anxiety over things that may or may not be real threats. The chemical response to ALL stress is the same, so feeling run down a lot may be a sign that her day-to-day stress level is too high.

Again, I am not a medically licensed professional, and I am not qualified to diagnose an anxiety disorder. Only a physician or psychologist can do that. 

But if you recognize any of these behaviors in your daughter, anxiety might be something worth looking into and talking to your daughter about. 

My daughters and I have suffered tremendously from many of the above issues. Because of my anxiety, I wasn’t able to live a life in full alignment with my purpose, joy, and happiness (or have enough money to align with my lifestyle goals) until I learned how to get my emotional control back and gained a new belief system.

In part 2 of this blog series, I will share the steps I use to control my anxiety and live a more aligned and worry-free life. Stay tuned!

If these questions were helpful for you, I would love it if you share this blog with another mom who could benefit as well! Please reach out to me via email, social media (@dawndahlby), or leave a comment right here when you do!

*McCarthy, Claire. “Anxiety in Teens Is Rising: What’s Going On?” HealthyChildren.org, 20 Nov. 2019, www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx.

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