Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Teens: A Parent's Guide

Is your teen's anxiety taking over your family? You're not alone. WayPoint Academy specializes in treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder in teens. Our specialized anxiety treatment center combines evidence-based methods for treating anxiety with a personalized approach that provides lasting relief for both your teen and your family.

Are you unsure if your teen's worry is normal or something more serious? We're here to help. Generalized anxiety disorder in teens is a real challenge, characterized by constant and overwhelming anxiety during a critical time in their lives. In this article, we'll cover the signs to look for, potential triggers, and proven treatments to empower your teen to regain control and find peace of mind.

Key Takeaways

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in teens is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable worry about everyday matters and can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as fatigue and fidgeting, potentially affecting 2.4% to 10.8% of adolescents.
  • GAD in adolescents can significantly impact their social interactions, academic performance, and family dynamics, leading to potential chronicity with fluctuating symptoms over time without proper intervention.
  • If your teenager is struggling with GAD, there are many treatment options out there. At WayPoint Academy, we have a specialized program designed to help teens with anxiety through exposure and response prevention (ERP) treatment. It's important to detect and treat GAD in teens as soon as possible for better results. Let's work together to find the best way forward for your teenager.
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WayPoint Academy’s Treatment Center for Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Teens

At WayPoint Academy, we understand the debilitating impact of anxiety on teenagers and their families. That's why we've created a comprehensive residential program specifically designed to help your child break free from the grip of anxiety, OCD, and related disorders.

Our Generalized Anxiety Disorder treatment program for teens offers numerous benefits for your family, including:

  • Personalized, Evidence-Based Approach - Our team of dedicated experts utilizes a strategic, multi-modal anxiety treatment plan tailored to your child's unique needs. Drawing from proven therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, we empower your teen to develop effective coping skills and reclaim their life.
  • Supportive, Nurturing Environment - WayPoint Academy provides a safe, peaceful haven where your child can focus on their recovery. Away from the triggers and distractions of everyday life, they'll have the space to heal, grow, and practice new behaviors in a supportive community.
  • Comprehensive Wellness - We address the mind, body, and spirit through a holistic blend of individual therapy, group sessions, family counseling, medication management, and enriching wellness activities. This integrated approach ensures lasting transformation.
  • Seamless Academic Support - Our accredited academic program ensures your teen's educational progress continues uninterrupted, setting them up for long-term success.
  • Lasting Change, Lifelong Impact - Through our proven treatment model and dedication to research-backed outcomes, we empower teens to overcome anxiety and OCD, reclaim their joy, and embrace life with courage.

Don't let anxiety control your family's future. If your teen is struggling with generalized anxiety disorder, WayPoint Academy can help. Our anxiety treatment center provides a comprehensive approach to recovery that equips teens with the tools and support they need to overcome anxiety and succeed. Let us help your teen thrive.

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Contact WayPoint Academy today to learn how our specialized anxiety treatment program can guide your teen towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.

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If you’d like to learn more about generalized anxiety disorder in teens. This article is meant to be as extensive as possible but will include sections that may not interest you. Please use the table of contents to find the information you need.

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    What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Teens?

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common and debilitating condition that affects millions of teenagers worldwide. In fact, research shows that approximately 8% of teens will experience symptoms of GAD at some point during their adolescence. Teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder might feel excessively anxious or worried about a range of things, like how they perform at school or in social situations.


    How is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed in Teens?

    According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or DSM-5 TR, teen anxiety becomes a Generalized Anxiety Disorder when:

    • A teen’s persistent, excessive anxiety or worry occurs more days than not and lasts for at least 6 months.
    • A teen frequently struggles to control or manage their anxiety or worry.
    • The anxiety or worry significantly impacts a teen’s quality of life including their family, schooling, social, work, or personal lives.
    • The anxiety cannot be better explained by another:
      • Mental health disorder
      • Physical health disorder
      • Medication or drug use
    • A teen’s anxiety is associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
      • Feeling restless or on edge
      • Being frequently tired or easily fatigued
      • Difficulty concentrating
      • Irritability
      • Muscle aches or tension
      • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up without feeling refreshed)

    Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

    At WayPoint Academy, we understand that anxiety in teenagers can manifest in complex and often unexpected ways. While we’ll discuss a more comprehensive list of teen anxiety symptoms below, there are four main patterns that we see in almost every teen and family we help. These include:

    Avoidance: Escaping Anxiety

    Anxious teens often engage in avoidance behaviors to escape situations that provoke anxiety. They may withdraw from social interactions, skip school, or disengage from activities they once enjoyed. While avoidance may provide temporary relief, it ultimately reinforces the fear and prevents your child from facing and overcoming their challenges.

    Need for Accommodations: Seeking Control

    Teens who experience anxiety might frequently seek out special accommodations. They might ask parents or teachers to lower their expectations, encourage them to do things they're avoiding, or require specific conditions to feel comfortable. This desire usually comes from wanting to control their environment and reduce anxiety triggers. Nevertheless, relying too heavily on these accommodations can make it more difficult for them to build resilience and coping skills.

    Unfinished Tasks: Procrastination and Perfectionism

    When faced with anxiety, teenagers may find themselves unable to follow through on tasks or goals they genuinely desire to accomplish. Often, these adolescents express disappointment over missed opportunities, citing anxiety as the reason they were unable to act. Whether due to procrastination, perfectionism, avoidance, a lack of confidence, or a fear of criticism or failure, this can lead to a pattern of not completing. The consequences of this behavior are not limited to a single area of life; rather, they can severely impact both a teen’s academic and personal growth.

    Life-Interfering Behaviors: Maladaptive Coping

    When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can manifest in life-interfering behaviors that disrupt daily functioning. This might include social isolation, excessive gaming or screen time, or self-sabotage. These maladaptive coping strategies provide temporary relief but ultimately restrict personal development and growth.

    These are some of the most frequent signs of anxiety in teens and younger children. However, anxiety can manifest differently in each individual. For a more comprehensive list of symptoms, let's explore the wider range of experiences teens with GAD might encounter.

    Physical Symptoms of Anxiety in Teens

    • Gastrointestinal Issues: Anxiety can trigger the body's fight-or-flight response, making it harder for the body to properly digest food. This can lead to issues like diarrhea, upset stomach, and bloating, even without changes in diet or illness.
    • Jaw Pain: Teens may unconsciously grind their teeth or clench their jaw when feeling anxious. This can result in jaw pain, tooth shifting, and lockjaw, especially upon waking up.
    • Cold Hands and Feet: The fight-or-flight response triggered by anxiety can redirect blood flow away from the hands and feet towards vital organs. This can leave teens feeling cold and shivery, even in warm environments
    • Numbness and Tingling: Similar to the cold hands and feet, anxiety can cause numbness and tingling sensations due to the redirected blood flow.
    • Headaches and Migraines: Tension headaches and migraines are common in anxious teens, often caused by the muscle tension and stress of anxiety.
    • Sweating: Excessive sweating, even in cool environments or without physical exertion, can be a sign of a severe anxiety disorder in teens. This can lead to embarrassment and avoidance of social situations.
    • Frequent Urination: Anxiety can cause the body to release adrenaline, which can stimulate the bladder and lead to frequent urination. This can be disruptive to daily activities and cause embarrassment for anxious teens.
    • High Sensitivity: anxious teens can develop high sensitivities to noise, foods, and textures. As a result, they can become easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by their environment.

    Emotional Signs of Anxiety in Teens

    • Irritability: Anxiety can manifest as irritability, especially in teenagers who may have difficulty expressing their feelings. Frequent mood swings and short tempers can be a sign of underlying anxiety.
    • Low frustration tolerance/distress tolerance: Due to their heightened emotional sensitivity, anxious teens often struggle to tolerate distress or frustration when faced with challenges or unmet expectations. For anxious teens, even minor obstacles or delays can trigger feelings of dissatisfaction and an inability to cope with unmet needs.
    • Poor Emotional Regulation: Anxious teens tend to have difficulty regulating their intense emotions, leading to emotional sensitivity and reactivity. This poor emotional regulation can manifest as mood swings, irritability, and an inability to cope with distress.
    • Anger issues: due to low frustration tolerance and poor emotional regulation, many anxious teens also struggle with anger issues. Lashing out or having frequent outbursts in response to minor stressors can be a sign of underlying anxiety.
    • Difficulty with Boundaries: anxious teens often have trouble maintaining appropriate emotional boundaries. This lack of boundaries can cause them to become overwhelmed by the emotions and energy of others.
    • Reassurance seeking: Anxious teens may constantly seek approval and reassurance from parents, teachers, and peers. This need for external validation can be a coping mechanism for their underlying anxiety.
    • Challenges with Transitions: Anxious teens can find transitions between tasks, locations, or ideas to be distressing and overstimulating. This sensitivity to change is linked to the heightened emotional reactivity seen in adolescents with anxiety.

    Mental Signs of Anxiety in Teens

    • Difficulty Concentrating: Anxious thoughts can make it hard for teens to focus on schoolwork, conversations, or daily tasks.
    • Indecisiveness: For some anxious teens, even small choices can cause significant stress and an inability to decide. Feeling overwhelmed by choices and worrying about making the wrong decision is a sign of anxiety.
    • Perfectionism: Anxious teens may set unrealistically high standards for themselves, leading to a fear of failure and avoidance of tasks. This can cause significant distress and impairment in academic and social functioning.
    • Executive Dysfunction or Excutive Functioning Deficits: Teens with anxiety often struggle with executive function skills like planning, organization, time management, and self-regulation. These deficits can make it difficult for anxious teens to manage the demands of school, leading to poor academic performance and increased anxiety.
    • School Avoidance or School Refusal: Anxious teens may start avoiding certain situations, places, or activities that trigger their anxiety, including school. This avoidance behavior can lead to school refusal and absenteeism, further exacerbating academic and social difficulties.
    • Coping Skills Deficits: Anxious teens may lack effective coping strategies to manage their intense emotions and physiological symptoms of anxiety. This can result in maladaptive behaviors like withdrawal, irritability, and risk-taking as they struggle to find healthy ways to cope.
    • Self-Advocacy Challenges: Anxious teens may have difficulty articulating their needs and advocating for accommodations or support in the school setting. This can prevent them from accessing the resources and assistance they require to succeed academically and socially.
    • Problem-Solving Difficulties: Anxiety can impair a teen's ability to think flexibly, consider alternatives, and problem-solve effectively when faced with challenges. This can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and a tendency to avoid or give up on tasks.
    • Communication Issues: Anxiety can make it hard for teens to express their thoughts and feelings, both in academic and social contexts. This can strain relationships with teachers, peers, and family members, further isolating anxious teens.
    • Fixed Mindset: Teens with anxiety often have a fixed mindset, believing their abilities are set in stone and cannot be improved through effort and practice. This rigid thinking pattern can lead to avoidance of challenges and a fear of failure, further exacerbating anxiety.
    • Slower Cognitive Processing Speed: Anxiety can slow down a teen's cognitive processing speed, making it harder for them to keep up with the demands of school and social situations. This slower processing may cause them to feel overwhelmed and contribute to academic difficulties and social withdrawal.
    • Working Memory Deficits: Anxious teens often struggle with working memory, which is the ability to hold information in mind and use it. Impairments in working memory can make it hard for teens to focus, learn new information, and complete tasks, leading to increased anxiety and avoidance behaviors.

    As a parent, it's essential to recognize that your child's behavior outside of home may not reflect their true selves. Anxiety disorders can cause them to avoid situations, but they may feel more comfortable confronting these fears or letting their emotions out in a familiar and safe setting like home. This can be a good sign that your teenager feels emotionally safe around you, but it indicates that your teen may need help feeling safe outside the home.

    While some anxiety is a normal part of being a teenager, when worry and fear become persistent and disruptive, it's important to understand the difference between everyday anxiety and a diagnosed anxiety disorder. Let's explore this distinction in more detail.

    Other Conditions That Often Look Like Anxiety Disorder

    Generalized Anxiety Disorder vs Anxiety

    Anxiety is a natural human experience that we all face from time to time. However, for some teenagers, anxiety can become an overwhelming, debilitating mental health condition that requires specialized anxiety treatment. The main differences between having normal anxiety and having a Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are:

    Severity and impact on daily life:

    • Normal anxiety is a common human experience that can be managed and is proportional to the situation.
    • GAD is more severe, causing excessive worry that interferes with daily functioning and is disproportionate to the situation.

    Persistence and uncontrollability:

    • Normal anxiety is temporary and goes away once the stressor is removed.
    • GAD involves persistent, uncontrollable worrying that lasts for at least 6 months and occurs on most days.

    Focus of worry:

    • With normal anxiety, worries are focused on specific situations or events.
    • In GAD, worries are excessive and unrealistic, spanning multiple areas of life like work, health, family, etc.

    Physical symptoms:

    • Both normal anxiety and GAD can cause physical complaints, muscle aches, fatigue, and sleep difficulties.
    • However, in GAD these symptoms are more severe and persistent.

    Finding Relief:

    • With normal anxiety, it's possible to calm down using coping techniques.
    • Teens with GAD have difficulty finding comfort and relief from their worries.

    While everyday anxiety is a normal part of life, when worry and fear become persistent and disruptive, it's important to delve deeper into the specific challenges teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder face. Let's explore the underlying mechanisms of anxiety and how they affect the body in the next section.

    Is It Anxiety Or Something Else: Other Conditions That Are Often Confused with GAD in Teens

    At WayPoint Academy, we understand the importance of accurately identifying the type of anxiety your teen is experiencing. Knowing whether they are struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), other mood disorders, or a different struggle altogether can make all the difference in providing the right support and treatment. Here are some of the most common mental disorders that are often confused with GAD in teens.

    GAD is marked by persistent, excessive worry about a variety of issues, while a panic attack involves sudden, intense episodes of fear and physical symptoms. The focus of the anxiety, predictability of symptoms, and level of impairment are key distinguishing factors.

    Teens with GAD may experience chronic physical symptoms and a gradual decline in functioning, while panic disorder is characterized by acute attacks that can lead to avoidance behaviors.

    GAD is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about a variety of issues, while SAD involves intense fear or anxiety in social situations. Teenagers affected by GAD may suffer from long-term physical and psychological symptoms and a gradual decline in their overall functioning, while SAD often leads to avoidance of social situations, disrupting a teen's social life and development.

    In Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), individuals experience overwhelming and unmanageable worry across various aspects of their lives. In contrast, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involves intrusive and troubling thoughts (obsessions) that drive young people to engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions) as a means to relieve anxiety. Differentiating factors include the primary focus of anxiety, the presence of compulsions, and specific patterns of onset and duration. While both mental disorders significantly disrupt a teenager's everyday existence and functioning, they do so in distinct ways depending on the particular medical condition.

    When it comes to distinguishing Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), three key factors stand out: triggers, thoughts/worries, and avoidance behaviors. General anxiety is marked by persistent and excessive worry across a range of issues, whereas PTSD is triggered by reminders of a traumatic experience. Unlike GAD where avoidance plays a smaller role, PTSD involves active avoidance of trauma reminders. Additionally, PTSD can lead to experiences such as flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and emotional numbing alongside other anxiety disorders.

    While both GAD and ADHD affect a teenager's executive functioning abilities, making it difficult for them to concentrate or causing them to appear forgetful or disorganized, there are some significant differences. GAD often develops gradually and persists for months or even years. In contrast, ADHD symptoms tend to be consistently present throughout a teenager's life and may be noticeable in various settings, such as school and home. Anxiety is a fundamental aspect of GAD, while some anxiety can also accompany ADHD, it is not the central feature. The focal point of the issues, onset and duration of symptoms, and patterns of emotional reactivity are crucial factors that parents know if it is adhd or anxiety.

    Telling GAD and depression apart in teens can be tricky. In fact, “some estimates show that 60% of those with anxiety will also have symptoms of major depression.” GAD is all about excessive worry, while depression brings down mood and energy. Teens with GAD might be restless and fret about the future, while major depressive disorder can make them sluggish and lose interest in things they used to love. Sleep can also be affected differently, with worry keeping GAD teens awake and depression causing them to sleep too much. If you're unsure if it's worry or low mood causing your teen's struggles, experienced mental health professionals can provide a diagnosis and the best path to recovery.

    Figuring out if it's anxiety or autism in your teen can be confusing. Anxiety is worry-based, while autism makes social cues and interactions tricky. Sensory sensitivities are an autism clue, not an anxiety one. Communication might be difficult due to nerves in anxiety, but autism can affect spoken language and eye contact too. If you're unsure, a qualified mental health professional with clinical experience in both areas can give your teen the right diagnosis and get them on the path to feeling better.

    Anxiety and anger issues can look similar, but the roots differ. Anxiety is worry-driven fear, while anger struggles stem from frustration. Anxiety makes teens nervous and restless, while anger issues cause outbursts and aggression. Physically, anxiety brings on racing hearts and sweat, while anger might lead to yelling or tensing muscles. Teens with chronic anxiety might avoid things they worry about, while anger can cause lashing out. If you're unsure, a mental health professional can untangle the cause and recommend the best path forward.

    The focus of the anxiety, triggers, and level of impairment are key distinguishing factors that help differentiate Generalized Anxiety Disorder from other anxiety disorders and similar struggles. Identifying the root cause of your child's anxiety is an important first step to effectively treat anxiety. Please seek an experienced mental health professional to evaluate your teen’s anxiety for an accurate diagnosis.

    No matter the specific anxiety disorder your child is facing, our team at WayPoint Academy is here to provide the specialized care and support they need to thrive. They can provide a comprehensive assessment and develop a personalized anxiety treatment plan to address your teen’s unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about our anxiety-specific treatment program.

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    Is it normal teenage behavior or is it something else? These assessments may help you know how much your teen's and family's life are being affected by anxiety.

    What Causes Anxiety Disorders?

    While the exact causes of anxiety disorders in children and teens are complex and can vary from person to person, let's explore some of the most common contributing factors:

    • Genetic Factors: Research suggests that genetic factors play a significant role in the development of anxiety disorders in teens. While we can't change our genetic makeup, understanding the role of genetics can help us better appreciate the complexity of anxiety and the importance of early intervention.
    • Environmental Factors: Environmental factors, such as peer pressure, trauma, social media, and technology, can also contribute to anxiety disorders in teens. At WayPoint Academy, we recognize the impact of these factors and provide a safe and supportive environment for our students to explore and manage their anxiety.
    • Brain Development: The adolescent brain is still developing, and this can lead to increased anxiety and emotional reactivity. Our program is designed to help teens develop healthy coping mechanisms and strategies for managing their emotions and anxiety.
    • Physical Environment: The physical environment can also play a significant role in teens developing GAD. At WayPoint Academy, we recognize the importance of creating a safe and comfortable environment that supports the well-being of our students.
    • Other Factors: Other factors, such as depression, sleep deprivation, and hormonal changes, can also contribute to anxiety in teens. Our program is designed to address these factors and provide comprehensive support for our students.

    At WayPoint Academy, we understand that anxiety in teens is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive approach. Our program is designed to provide support and guidance for our students and their families, helping them to overcome anxiety and thrive.

    What Causes Anxiety Disorders
    Anxiety Triggers for Teens with GAD

    Anxiety Triggers for Teens with GAD

    Anxious teens can have their worries and fears can be triggered by a variety of factors, all of which can feel overwhelming and debilitating. Here are some common anxiety triggers in teens:

    • Uncertainty About the Future - Teens with GAD often struggle with excessive worry about upcoming events and situations they cannot control or predict. This sense of uncertainty can be a major source of anxiety, leaving them feeling powerless and stressed.
    • Social Pressures - Fitting in with peers and meeting the expectations of others, especially parents and teachers, can be a significant trigger for teens with GAD. Concerns about social acceptance and personal abilities can fuel their anxiety.
    • Academic Demands - The normal pressures of teenage life, such as academic performance and extracurricular activities, can lead to chronic stress and overthinking that exacerbates anxiety. Teens may worry incessantly about their competence and abilities.
    • Physical Changes - Developing earlier or later than peers can trigger anxiety about body image and social acceptance during the turbulent years of puberty. These physical changes can be a major source of distress for teens with GAD.
    • Comorbid Conditions - Teens with GAD are at a higher risk of developing major depression, which can further increase their anxiety and worsen their overall mental health. Addressing these co-occurring issues is crucial for comprehensive anxiety treatment.

    At WayPoint Academy, we are dedicated to helping teens overcome the triggers of their generalized anxiety disorder. Our specialized programs empower students with the coping strategies and resilience they need to manage their symptoms and reclaim their lives.

    Long-Term Effects of Untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder on Teens and Their Families

    Untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can have a profound impact on teens and their families. Ignoring the signs of this debilitating condition can lead to a cascade of long-term consequences that can derail a young person's life. Without proper intervention, teens with untreated GAD face an increased risk of:

    • Increased risk of depression: Untreated GAD can increase the risk of depression in teens, which can lead to a range of negative outcomes, including decreased life satisfaction, increased difficulty adjusting to work, and worse functioning.
    • Substance abuse: Untreated GAD can also increase the risk of substance abuse in teens, as they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with their anxiety.
    • Self-harm: Untreated GAD can also increase the risk of self-harm in teens, as they may feel overwhelmed and hopeless due to their anxiety.
    • Chronic stress: Untreated GAD can lead to chronic stress, which can have negative effects on both physical and mental health. Chronic stress can contribute to a range of physical problems, including high blood pressure, decreased immune function, heart disease, and obesity.
    • Impaired relationships: Untreated GAD can also impair relationships between teens and their families, as the anxiety can lead to increased irritability, anger, and withdrawal from social interactions.
    • Decreased life satisfaction: Untreated GAD can also lead to decreased life satisfaction in teens, as they may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with their anxiety.
    • Increased risk of anxiety disorders in adulthood: Untreated GAD in teens can also increase the risk of anxiety disorders in adulthood, as the disorder can persist and worsen over time if left untreated.
    • Impact on academic and social functioning: Untreated GAD can also impact a teen's academic and social functioning, as they may struggle to focus and learn due to their anxiety, and may also withdraw from social interactions.
    • Increased risk of mental health comorbidities: Untreated GAD can also increase the risk of mental health comorbidities, such as depression, substance abuse, and self-harm, in teens.
    • Impact on family dynamics: Untreated GAD can also impact family dynamics, as the anxiety can lead to increased stress and tension within the family, and may also affect the relationships between family members.

    It is essential to seek professional help if you suspect that your teen is struggling with GAD, as early intervention can significantly reduce the risk of these long-term effects and improve their overall well-being.

    The good news is that with timely, evidence-based anxiety treatment, teens with GAD can overcome these challenges and reclaim their futures. At WayPoint Academy, our specialized programs are designed to provide the comprehensive support needed to manage anxiety and build resilience. Contact us today to learn how we can make a lasting difference for your child.

    When To Seek Professional Help For Your Teen’s Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

    If your child is exhibiting signs of persistent, excessive worry, it's crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. Here’s why:

    • Untreated GAD can get worse or become a long-term problem for teens. Early treatment is crucial to ease symptoms and enhance normal development.
    • GAD is a serious mental health problem that requires professional evaluation and treatment. A mental health evaluation by a child psychiatrist or other expert is needed to diagnose GAD in teens. The symptoms are not just attention-seeking, but a sign of a serious problem.
    • Early anxiety treatment, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, ERP therapy, and/or anti-anxiety medication, can help reduce GAD symptoms and improve the teen's quality of life. Untreated, GAD can lead to other serious problems like depression, substance abuse, and self-harm.
    • As a parent, being involved in the treatment process and providing reassurance and support is crucial to helping a teen with GAD. Seeking professional help as soon as possible is the best way to get the right support for the teen.

    If your teen's anxiety is significantly impacting their daily life, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Early intervention with evidence-based treatment options can make a world of difference. In the next section, we'll explore effective strategies to help your teen manage and overcome generalized anxiety disorder.

    How to Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Teens

    The good news is that there are treatments out there that can really help teens struggling with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). In fact, there are several approaches that can empower your teen to build resilience and find lasting relief. Let's take a closer look at them together.

    How to Treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Teens

    Effective Coping Mechanisms for Teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    At WayPoint Academy, we believe in equipping our students with a toolbox of effective coping mechanisms to manage the challenges of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

    Our comprehensive program helps teens develop the skills and resilience they need to thrive. Students will learn how to:

    • Breathe Easy - Mastering relaxation techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness can help calm the mind and body when anxiety strikes. Our clinicians guide students in practicing these grounding exercises, providing them with portable tools to find peace in the moment.
    • Reframe Your Thoughts - Negative, catastrophic thinking can fuel the flames of anxiety. Through cognitive-behavioral strategies, our students learn to identify and challenge these unhelpful thought patterns, replacing them with more realistic and empowering perspectives.
    • Find Your Community - Feeling connected and supported is crucial for teens navigating anxiety. At WayPoint, we foster a nurturing environment where students can build meaningful relationships with their peers and our caring staff.
    • Move Your Body - Physical activity is a powerful ally in the fight against anxiety. Our program incorporates exercise, yoga, and other wellness practices to help students manage the physical symptoms of GAD and cultivate overall well-being.
    • Establish Healthy Habits - Maintaining consistent self-care routines, from sleep schedules to balanced nutrition, can bolster a teen's resilience and ability to cope. We empower our students to develop these foundational healthy habits.

    Teens with GAD can find relief at home with these tools and the right support. But, if they are unable to manage their symptoms, it may be necessary to seek more intensive treatment. We understand how difficult this can be, and we are here to support you and your teen every step of the way.

    Treatment Options for Teens With GAD

    The continuum of care and treatment options for teens with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves a range of services and programs tailored to the severity and complexity of the individual's symptoms.

    Treatment Options for Teens With GAD

    The continuum includes:

    • Outpatient Therapy: This is the least immersive level of care, where teens meet with a therapist for about an hour once or twice a week in an office setting. Outpatient treatment is suitable for teens with mild or moderate symptoms that do not significantly prevent their participation in family, social, or school life.
    • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP): This level of care is for teens with moderate-to-severe symptoms that do not significantly prevent their participation in family, social, or school life. IOP involves participation in treatment 3-5 days per week for 2-3 hours per day.
    • Partial Hospitalization (PHP): This level of care is for teens with severe symptoms that significantly impair their ability to participate in activities related to family, school, and social life. PHP involves participation in treatment 3-5 days a week for 4-6 hours per day.
    • Residential Treatment Centers (RTC): This is the most immersive level of care, where teens live on-site at the treatment center and receive around-the-clock medical supervision. RTC is suitable for teens with symptoms that are so intense and disruptive that they impair – sometimes completely – their school, social, and family life.

    The level of care a teen needs depends on the severity of their symptoms, the degree of disruption their symptoms create in their daily life, whether they present an immediate danger to themselves or others, and their treatment history.

    How Can I Tell If My Teen Needs Residential Treatment?

    If your teen struggles with GAD, it can be hard to know when to seek more intensive levels of care like residential treatment.

    How Can I Tell If My Teen Needs Residential Treatment

    Here are some signs that your teen may need residential treatment for generalized anxiety disorder:

    • Severe Avoidance Behaviors: teens with severe anxiety often engage in extensive avoidance behaviors, such as missing school, isolating socially, and overusing digital media to escape. This level of avoidance significantly interferes with their daily functioning.
    • Life-Interfering Behaviors: anxiety can lead to "life-interfering behaviors" in teens, such as tantrums, physical complaints, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli. These behaviors disrupt the teen's ability to participate in normal activities.
    • Lack of Skill Development: due to extensive avoidance, teens with severe anxiety may lack the necessary coping, self-advocacy, and problem-solving skills to overcome their challenges. Residential treatment can help develop these critical skills.
    • Failure to Respond to Outpatient Care: when anxiety significantly impacts a teen's mood, functioning, and/or physical health on an ongoing basis, and symptoms are severe, outpatient therapy may not be enough. Residential treatment may be the best and most effective choice.
    • Significant Impairment in Daily Life: for teens whose anxiety is interfering with their education, social life, and overall quality of life, a higher level of care like residential treatment may be necessary to provide the intensive support they need.

    If your teen's generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has reached a point where outpatient care is no longer enough, our residential program at WayPoint Academy may be the answer.

    What Types of Anxiety Therapy Work For Teen GAD?

    At WayPoint Academy, we utilize a range of evidence-based therapies to help teens with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) manage their symptoms and reclaim their lives. Our comprehensive approach combines the most effective psychotherapies with holistic wellness practices and essential skill-building.

    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) - CBT is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal for treating teen GAD. By helping your child identify and change the negative thought patterns that fuel their anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapies equip them with the coping skills needed to manage worry and fear. Our therapists are experts in tailoring CBT to the unique needs of each adolescent.
    • Exposure Response Prevention (ERP) Therapy - ERP therapy takes CBT one step further by gradually exposing teens to anxiety-provoking situations in a controlled, therapeutic setting. Under the guidance of our skilled clinicians, your child will learn to face their fears head-on while practicing techniques to minimize avoidance behaviors. ERP is a proven method for reducing the intensity and frequency of anxiety attacks.
    • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) - Teens with GAD often get stuck in worry cycles. ACT therapy helps them accept anxious thoughts without judgment and focus on values-driven actions. This empowers them to build resilience and live a fulfilling life, even with anxiety.
      Relaxation Techniques - Anxiety can take a heavy toll on the mind and body. That's why we incorporate relaxation practices like visualization, meditation, and yoga into our treatment plans. These holistic approaches help teens find calm amidst the storm of anxiety, restoring a sense of balance and well-being.
    • Medication Management - For some teens with GAD, in addition to psychotherapy, medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be helpful. Our psychiatrist can assess whether antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, or other medications could provide additional support. We take a conservative approach, always prioritizing therapy first and only considering medication when clinically indicated.
    • Skill-Building and Confidence - Overcoming anxiety is about more than just symptom reduction - it's about helping teens develop the skills and confidence to thrive. Our therapists work closely with each student to build up their hobbies, social connections, and sense of self-worth. With our support, your child can look forward to a future where anxiety no longer holds them back.

    At WayPoint Academy, we know that no single therapy is a silver bullet for teen GAD. That's why we take a multi-pronged approach, combining the most effective anxiety treatment with individualized care. Contact us today to learn how our proven therapies can help your child break free from the grip of anxiety.

    Conquering Anxiety Through Exposure Therapy

    At WayPoint Academy, we know that generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can feel like an insurmountable challenge for teens. That's why we've made exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy a cornerstone of our comprehensive treatment approach.

    ERP is a highly effective, evidence-based therapy that helps teens overcome the debilitating worry, fear, and avoidance that characterize GAD. By gradually exposing your child to the situations that trigger their anxiety, our skilled clinicians empower them to face their fears head-on.

    Here's how ERP works:

    • Exposure: We start by identifying the specific scenarios and stimuli that provoke your teen's anxiety, whether it's public speaking, social interactions, or certain sensory experiences. Then, we systematically expose them to these triggers in a controlled, therapeutic setting.
    • Response Prevention: During exposure, we prevent your child from engaging in the compulsive behaviors they typically use to cope with or avoid their anxiety, such as excessive checking, counting, or avoidance. This helps break the cycle of anxiety and maladaptive coping.
    • Habituation: With each exposure, your teen learns to tolerate their anxiety and eventually habituate to the trigger. They discover that their worst fears don't come true, and that they have the inner strength to manage their worries.
    • Cognitive Restructuring: Alongside exposure, our therapists guide your child in challenging the negative thought patterns that fuel their anxiety. They learn to replace catastrophic thinking with more balanced, realistic perspectives.
    • Relaxation Techniques: To further equip your teen, we teach a variety of relaxation strategies, from deep breathing to visualization exercises. These tools empower them to self-soothe in the moment when anxiety strikes.
    Conquering Anxiety Through Exposure Therapy - 2

    Through this comprehensive ERP approach, your child will develop the confidence and coping skills to reclaim their life from the grip of generalized anxiety disorder. Contact us today to learn how WayPoint Academy can help your teen break free.

    Choosing the Right Residential Program for Your Anxious Teen

    At WayPoint Academy, we understand the immense challenge of finding the right residential treatment center for a teen struggling with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). As a parent, your top priority is ensuring your child receives the specialized, comprehensive care they need to overcome their anxiety and reclaim their well-being.

    Teen Anxiety Treatment Program for Boys | WayPoint Academy

    When evaluating residential programs, there are several key factors to consider to determine if WayPoint Academy is the best fit for your family:

    • Specialized Expertise in Anxiety Disorders - Not all residential programs are created equal when it comes to treating adolescent anxiety. At WayPoint, our clinicians have extensive experience and specialized training in evidence-based therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention (ERP) - the gold standards for managing GAD.
    • A Supportive, Therapeutic Environment - The setting and atmosphere of a residential treatment center can have a profound impact on a teen's ability to heal. WayPoint Academy provides a calming, nurturing environment that feels like a home away from home, with ample opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery.
    • Collaborative, Multidisciplinary Care - Overcoming severe anxiety requires a treatment team approach. Our residential program brings together therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists to address your teen's needs from every angle. You can trust that we'll work closely with your family throughout the treatment process.
    • Family-Centered Approach - At WayPoint, we recognize that family support and involvement are crucial to a teen's long-term recovery from GAD. That's why we make family therapy, parent education, and caregiver collaboration central components of our residential program.
    • Accreditation and Licensing - When it comes to your child's care, quality and safety are non-negotiable. WayPoint Academy is fully accredited by the Joint Commission and licensed by the state of Utah to provide the highest standard of residential treatment for adolescents with anxiety disorders.

    If your teen is struggling with debilitating worry, fear, and avoidance due to GAD, WayPoint Academy may be the answer you've been searching for. Contact our admissions team today to learn more about our specialized program and determine if it's the right fit for your family.

    Why Choose WayPoint Academy for Teen Anxiety Treatment?

    At WayPoint Academy, we understand the immense challenges of parenting a teen with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). You want to find a residential anxiety treatment center that will provide your child with the specialized, compassionate care they need to overcome their anxiety and reclaim their life. That's exactly what you'll find at WayPoint Academy.

    • Specialized Focus on Anxiety Disorders - Our clinicians are experts in treating adolescent anxiety, with extensive training and experience in evidence-based therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure response prevention (ERP). We specialize in helping teens with GAD develop the skills and confidence to manage their worry and fear.
    • Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment - At WayPoint Academy, we take a multifaceted approach to treating teen anxiety. Your child will receive individualized therapy tailored to their unique needs, while also participating in our accredited academic program, medication management (if necessary), holistic wellness practices, and essential skill-building. We leave no stone unturned in supporting their recovery.
    • Nurturing, Therapeutic Environment - Our beautiful, serene campus provides a safe haven for teens to focus on their healing. With private rooms, inviting common spaces, and ample opportunities for recreation and self-discovery, WayPoint Academy feels like a home away from home. Your child will be surrounded by a supportive community of peers and staff who understand what they're going through.
    • Family-Centered Care - We recognize that family involvement is crucial to your teen's long-term success. That's why we make parent education, family therapy, and caregiver collaboration central components of our residential program. You'll work hand-in-hand with our team to support your child's progress and learn strategies to help them thrive.
    • Proven Track Record - With over 10 years of experience, WayPoint Academy has a strong reputation for helping teens with anxiety disorders achieve lasting recovery. Our outcomes research demonstrates the effectiveness of our approach in reducing symptoms, improving functioning, and empowering students to live fulfilling, anxiety-free lives.

    If your teen is struggling with debilitating worry, fear, and avoidance due to GAD, WayPoint Academy is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our specialized residential program and how we can support your family on the path to healing.

    Reclaim Your Teen's Future at WayPoint Academy

    If your child is struggling with debilitating generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), help is available at WayPoint Academy. Our specialized residential program is designed to provide the comprehensive, evidence-based care your teen needs to overcome their anxiety and reclaim their life.

    Our multidisciplinary team of anxiety specialists will work closely with you and your child to develop a personalized treatment plan, combining therapies like CBT and ERP with academic support, individual, family, and group therapy, medication management, supportive community, and holistic wellness practices. Throughout the process, we'll ensure you're an integral part of your teen's journey to recovery.

    Don't let GAD continue to hold your child back. Take the first step by contacting our admissions team today. We'll guide you through the process and determine if WayPoint Academy is the right fit for your family. Together, we can help your teen break free from the grip of anxiety and rediscover their true potential.

    To get started, call 801-491-2271 or email [email protected]. We're here to listen, answer your questions, and provide the support your family deserves.

    We're Proud to Achieve the Highest Standards of Accreditations and Professional Memberships


    Backed by The Joint Commission which ensures programs adhere to the highest quality of clinical and medical practices.


    Full member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), which ensure regulation of programs that serve children and adolescents.


    Full Member of the International OCD Foundation, which ensures our staff has access to the most up-to-date OCD treatment practices and research.

    About the Authors


    Bryan Wilde, LCSW

    Executive Director

    Bryan is a proud native of Utah. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Utah, and is a certified ERP therapist through the Behavior Therapy Training Institute (BTTI). Bryan started his therapy career by providing care to adolescents at Island View Residential Treatment Center. Co-founding Pathways to Healing in Bountiful, Utah allowed him to further expand his professional endeavors as a Clinical/Program Director. In addition, Bryan has worked extensively in private practice specializing in working with adolescents and families dealing with mood disorders, anxiety, obsessions and compulsions, trauma, and addiction. His therapeutic approach is comprehensive and emphasizes building strong relationships as the cornerstone for success. Bryan firmly believes in establishing rapport and trust to guide students and families toward realignment. Students at WayPoint describe Bryan as authentic and fair while also recognizing his unwavering dedication as an advocate for their health and well-being. Bryan's exceptional clinical abilities are complemented by his active involvement as an administrator at WayPoint, where he effectively oversees multiple departments. In his leisure time, Bryan enjoys running and spending quality time with his family


    Mark Rainsdon, LCSW

    Clinical Director

    As the clinical director at WayPoint Academy, Mark Rainsdon, LCSW brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our team. Having earned a Master's in Social Work from the esteemed University of Utah, Mark possesses a range of qualifications that distinguish him as a specialist in the field. He has obtained certification as an Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinical Specialist (ASDCS) and is a BTTI-certified ERP therapist. His expertise lies in aiding teenagers struggling with severe anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), along with students facing neurodiversity-related difficulties. In 2012 Mark got his start in the world of mental health by teaching social skills classes to elementary school students. Since then he has worked in various roles across the mental health field, including as a field staff and primary therapist in wilderness therapy and other treatment programs. Since first joining WayPoint in 2018, Mark has helped countless teens and their families find hope and overcome their mental health struggles. Outside of work, Mark's favorite things to do include spending time with his family, making things, and soaking up the great outdoors.

    Contact us today!

    Contact WayPoint Academy today to learn how our specialized anxiety treatment program can guide your teen towards a brighter, more fulfilling future.


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