How Anxiety Disorders Influence Adolescent Behavior

Health care experts have expressed concern about the development of children with anxiety-related illnesses. How do conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder affect a child’s development?

Anxiety and Adolescence

Research indicates that besides causing difficulties in school and in interpersonal relationships, childhood anxiety disorders can lead to a troubled adolescence. Frustration and a lack of understanding and support from others often makes teens with an anxiety disorder feel alienated and hopeless.

Substance abuse can be a major issue for teens in general. A study from 2006 showed that nearly 75 percent of the seniors had consumed alcohol during the past year, illustrating what a serious and pervasive issue teen drug use is in America. The study also revealed the lack of rehabilitation programs for teens who drop out of school. This is an issue for kids who have untreated ADHD or OCD because they’re at a higher risk for quitting school.

For adolescents with an anxiety disorder who are not receiving adequate treatment, drugs can be even more of a temptation. A teenager with a condition like ADHD or OCD may feel especially misunderstood. Drugs may temporarily seem like a reprieve for teens who struggle with anxiety, but substance abuse only serves to worsen behavioral problems in the long run.

A teen who has an undiagnosed condition is at the greatest risk for abusing drugs because he or she may experience more bullying for being different and unable to control or hide the symptoms. These adolescents may also receive more punishment from parents and teachers who label the behavior as intentionally disruptive. Teachers who are unaware of a child’s condition are more likely to become impatient or irritated with his or her actions.

Knowing about the presence of a disorder allows the parents and the school officials to work together to make accommodations for the affected student. It also helps the teen or child to learn to work around the condition, and to understand that there are others who struggle with it. It can be a relief for some people to finally understand why it’s so difficult for them to stop certain behaviors, or why most other people can’t relate when they try to explain.

Resources for Parents and Teens

The International OCD Foundation provides a database of treatment providers for children, adolescents, and adults. There are also sites where you can find treatment centers in your area for children and teens with other anxiety disorders.