Who We Serve

How Anxiety is Manifested in Adolescents

WayPoint Academy is the only long-term treatment center in the United States that specializes in the treatment of adolescent anxiety disorders.  Adolescents who suffer from anxiety may manifest their struggles in a variety of ways.  However, parents seek our specialized approach, because their child has been struggling in many of the following ways.  

  • School Refusal
  • Social Isolation
  • An inability to complete assignments or responsibilities required for daily life.
  • Living vicariously through social media, using “screens” to escape or avoid.
  • Skill deficits in the areas of:  coping skills, self-advocacy, problem solving, communication, and frustration tolerance.
  • Executive deficits in the areas of:  task initiation, staying focused, goal- directed perseverance, and emotional control.
  • How the child appears to others outside of the home can be dramatically different from the behaviors exhibited within the home, particularly when the child’s avoidance is being challenged (i.e. “It’s time to turn of the computer”).
  • Tantrums aimed at getting others to accommodate them.
  • Physical complaints including:  G.I distress, illness, migraines, etc.
  • Sensitivity to noise volume, foods, textures, etc.

Students enrolled at WayPoint Academy are not “troubled youth” as their admissions are not due to natural consequences of prolonged misconduct. On the contrary, teenagers who suffer from severe anxiety often spend considerable energy to appear “normal” to the outside world. Often, friends and relatives of the family are surprised to hear that the child is struggling, and parents are pursuing a residential level of care. 

Teenagers who deal with severe anxiety are often “white knuckling it” during the day, displaying polite, helpful, and compliant behaviors. Yet at home, they struggle with emotional control and can exhibit disruptive behaviors, particularly when their avoidance is challenged i.e. (“It’s time to turn off the computer” or “You need to do your homework”). When the avoidance is challenged at home, it is not uncommon for the child to use behavior as a negotiating tool to get their parent to accommodate, by giving them what they are seeking or to remove or ignore certain obstacles that are anxiety provoking.

A common denominator for nearly all who struggle with severe anxiety is avoidance. Avoidance may be manifested in the overuse of digital media/video gaming, social isolation, psychosomatic complaints, overly critical judgments of others as a means of justifying isolation, self-sabotage, and a myriad of other maladaptive behaviors. Such avoidance further contributes to one’s inability to function adequately at home, in the community, and in traditional school settings. Due to the level of avoidance that has taken place over time, these youths lack the necessary skill development that will empower them to overcome the challenges of life.

Adolescents with severe anxiety do not suffer alone. Inevitably, the whole family is affected. Many parents recognize the symptoms of anxiety and their accompanying avoidant behaviors, yet feel powerless in bringing about positive changes. Parents often become overwhelmed by their child’s disorder, and develop patterns that accommodate avoidance in order to further avoid significant family conflicts. As a result, the external environment frequently adapts to the needs of the teen—at the expense of the youth learning to adapt to the demands of the world.

Family participation is essential in the healing process. Through family therapy, parent visits, and seminars, WayPoint Academy directs families toward making adjustments and changes to support their student’s progress.

Anxiety Disorders We Treat

Anxiety is a natural human reaction that involves mind and body. It serves an important basic survival function. Anxiety is an alarm system that is activated whenever a person perceives danger or threat.

When the body and mind react to danger or threat, a person feels physical sensations of anxiety — things like a faster heartbeat and breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms, a queasy stomach, and trembling hands or legs. These sensations are part of the body's fight-flight response. They are caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to make a quick getaway from danger. They can be mild or extreme.

The fight-flight response happens instantly when a person senses a threat. It takes a few seconds longer for the thinking part of the brain (the cortex) to process the situation and evaluate whether the threat is real, and if so, how to handle it. If the cortex sends the all-clear signal, the fight-flight response is deactivated and the nervous system can relax.

If the mind reasons that a threat might last, feelings of anxiety might linger, keeping the person alert. Physical sensations such as rapid, shallow breathing; a pounding heart; tense muscles; and sweaty palms might continue, too.

Depressive Disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her.

A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Depression is a common but serious illness, and most people who experience it need treatment to get better.

Depressive disorders come in different forms, just as is the case with other illnesses such as heart disease. Three of the most common types of depressive disorders are:

Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Such a disabling episode of depression may occur only once but more commonly occurs several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymic disorder, also called dysthymia, involves long-term (two years or longer) less severe symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning normally or from feeling good. Many people with dysthymia also experience major depressive episodes at some time in their lives.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is characterized by the onset of a depressive illness during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not respond to light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable and often irrational worry about everyday things that is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. It's normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially if individual’s life is stressful. However, severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with day-to-day activities may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder. These excessive worries often interfere with daily functioning. Individuals suffering from GAD typically anticipate disaster, and are overly concerned about everyday matters such as health issues, death, family problems, friend problems or relationship problems.

Individuals often exhibit a variety of physical symptoms, including fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, nausea, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, bouts of difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, trembling, twitching, irritability, agitation, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, hot flashes, and rashes and inability to fully control the anxiety. Living with generalized anxiety disorder can be a long-term challenge if untreated.

Social Anxiety (also sometimes called social phobia) is typified by extreme feelings of shyness and self-consciousness build into a powerful fear. As a result, a person feels uncomfortable participating in everyday social situations. People with social anxiety can usually interact easily with family and a few close friends. But meeting new people, talking in a group, or speaking in public can cause their extreme shyness to kick in. With social phobia, a person's extreme shyness, self-consciousness, and fears of embarrassment get in the way of life. Instead of enjoying social activities, people with social anxiety might dread them — and avoid some of them altogether.

Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring severe panic attacks. It may also include significant behavioral change lasting at least a month and of ongoing worry about the implications or concern about having other attacks. The latter are called anticipatory attacks. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, and individual might think he/she is losing control, having a heart attack or even dying. An individual may have only one or two panic attacks in a lifetime, but if having several panic attacks and having spent long periods in constant fear of another attack, such an individual may have a chronic condition called panic disorder.

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which and individual is avoiding situations that he/she are afraid might cause a panic attack. People with agoraphobia avoid being alone, leaving their home or any situation where they could feel trapped, embarrassed or helpless if they do panic. People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. The fears can be so overwhelming that some people may be essentially trapped in your own home. Although mostly thought to be a fear of public places, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks.

Specific Phobia is a generic term for any kind of anxiety disorder that amounts to an unreasonable or irrational fear related to exposure to specific objects or situations. As a result, the affected persons tend to actively avoid direct contact with the objects or situations and, in severe cases, any mention or depiction of them.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that leads to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions). With obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person may realize that his/her obsessions aren't reasonable, and may try to ignore them or stop them. But that only increases the distress and anxiety. Ultimately, the individual feels driven to perform compulsive acts in an effort to ease your stressful feelings.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder often centers on themes, such as a fear of getting contaminated by germs. To ease contamination fears, an individual may compulsively engage in hand washing until they are sore and chapped. Despite the individual’s efforts, thoughts of obsessive-compulsive behavior keep coming back. This leads to more ritualistic behavior — and a vicious cycle that's characteristic of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event resulting in psychological trauma. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Many people who go through traumatic events have difficulty adjusting and coping for a while. But with time and taking care of oneself, such traumatic reactions usually get better. In some cases, though, the symptoms can get worse or last for months or even years. Sometimes they may completely shake up an individual’s life. In a case such as this, a person may have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measure to hide of fix it. People with BDD think about their real or perceived flaws for hours each day. They cannot control their negative thoughts and do not believe people who tell them that they look fine.