Peer pressure, parental expectations, hormonal changes, and the “wiring” of the adolescent brain have always conspired to make the teen years tough — and those challenges have intensified in recent times.
“In my clinical practice, I do see more teenagers who are struggling with anxiety,” says integrative developmental and behavioral pediatrician Timothy Culbert, MD, cofounder of NaturalMentalHealth.com.
This is not just his perception: The National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly one-third of adolescents ages 13 to 18 suffer from an anxiety disorder, a 20 percent increase in a five-year span.
There are unique stressors for today’s teens that likely contribute to this trend:
How do you know when normal stress and worry are turning into something more ominous for your teen? These signs may indicate that your child could benefit from professional help:
Physicians often prescribe medications for anxiety, an approach that concerns many parents.
“Medications have a role when symptoms are so severe that the child can no longer function, but I also feel that medications are often prescribed too quickly and continued too long,” Culbert says. “In my clinical practice, I have seen an increasing interest in natural therapies for anxiety.”
He considers these nutrients to be safe and effective for teens:
Inositol is available as a capsule or a powder; the typical dose is 2,000 to 4,000 mg, up to three times daily.
Culbert has also observed an explosion of “electroceuticals,” such as HeartMath’s Inner Balance, a biofeedback device that measures heart-rate variability (HRV) — the beat-to-beat variations as the heart naturally speeds up and slows down.
When you’re anxious, stressed, or scared, the HRV pattern looks messy and disorganized. When you’re calm and content, the pattern becomes more rhythmic and organized.
Using an app on their cellphone, teens can see the changing HRV pattern and learn to control it: “They’re going to use their phones anyway,” Culbert notes, “so it may as well be in the service of managing their own nervous system.”