Everyone has fears and things that cause them anxiety, and teenagers are no exception. Most of us learn to live with our fears and effectively manage our anxiety without allowing these issues to cripple us. However, some teens may need more help than simply growing older and gaining experience can provide.
Whether due to trauma, mental health issues, or lack of experience, some teens can develop avoidance behaviors and severe disorders that require more intensive therapeutic help, such as residential treatment for troubled teens. If your teen has been struggling with their anxiety and fears to the point that their behavior is becoming disordered, it is essential that you understand what this behavior means and how you can help.
Defining Teen Avoidance Disorders
There are four basic ways that teen avoidance disorders are defined. Your teen may display one or more of these issues, though a therapist is generally needed to make a diagnosis.
- Phobic avoidant – Teens struggling with this disorder work to avoid any situation or things that trigger feelings of anxiety. Often, teens will focus on projecting future possibilities and obsess over predicting and avoiding their fears.
- Hypersensitive avoidant – For teens with hypersensitive avoidant disorders, they will often struggle with paranoid thoughts and take a defensive and aggressive attitude toward others. This outward behavior helps these teens to mask their fears and inhibitions.
- Conflicted avoidant – Taking pessimism to an extreme, teens with conflicted avoidant disorders will often take the worst view of everything. While these teens will voice very negative views, the greatest amounts of negativity are focused inward at themselves.
- Self-deserting avoidant – Particularly dangerous, teens who have self-deserting avoidant disorders will neglect themselves to the extreme to prioritize others. In attempts to care for others and ignore personal suffering, these teens can become profoundly depressed and suicidal.
Signs Your Teen Is Struggling With Avoidance Disorders
With the different ways teens can express avoidant disorders, you may have a good idea if your teen is struggling with an avoidance disorder. However, if you aren’t positive, here are some of the common signs that your teen is struggling with an avoidance disorder.
- Extremely vulnerable to any kind of criticism from others.
- Constantly holding back on expressing beliefs, opinions, and thoughts in front of others.
- Undergoing elaborate ways to avoid phobias and fears.
- Deeply held feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.
- Continual fear of being a social inferior.
- Goes to excessive lengths to avoid interactions with other people.
Ways To Help Teens With Avoidance Disorders
There are a number of ways you can go about helping your teen that is struggling with an avoidance disorder.
Talk to your teen – Part of the issue when it comes to avoidant disorders is that teens often feel like they cannot talk to anyone about their fears. These fears can grow and become more distorted the longer the teen has no one to talk to, so do your best to draw your teen out. Try to create natural intervals where your teen can talk, whether you go on walks together or you set aside time to be available.
Avoid being dismissive – The fears and paranoias of those struggling with mental health may seem absurd to someone who is mentally healthy. However, it is critical that you are not dismissive of your teen if they choose to confide in you. Your teen’s fearful thoughts have already told them that you won’t believe them, so it is essential that you prove those false voices wrong.
Have teen attend therapy – It is important to bring in a trained therapist to help your teen break free of their disordered thinking. With the help of a therapist, your teen should be able to develop the tools needed to disrupt negative thoughts and behaviors.
Look into medication – Sometimes, medication may be needed to help shore up your teen’s mental health as they work through therapy. Be sure to coordinate with your teen’s therapist to see if the therapist believes that medication may help the process.
Consider a therapeutic school – Sometimes, once-a-week therapy and medication aren’t enough to help your teen overcome their fears and anxieties. In these cases, a therapeutic boarding school may be the ideal environment, as they incorporate therapy into all aspects of the school. From group therapy to individual therapy, teens can enjoy a deeply supportive environment.
It is critical that you help your teen manage their avoidance behaviors while they are still young, as it can make the difference between successful young adulthood and a lifetime of anxiety and failure. So, rather than hoping your teen grows out of their issues, be proactive, and help your teen grow beyond their fears.