Hi Dr. Scoresby. I hope this question finds you well. I wanted to ask you about my daughter. She is a bright, hardworking teenage girl. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that she seems a little anxious at times. With this anxiety, she will get extremely focused on things that aren’t really important in general but seem important to her. For example, she’ll tell members of the family the same story 3 or more times or ask the same question even after she has received a clearly explained answer. She will also stress out over homework assignments that aren’t due for weeks. She’ll start working on the assignment but get overly stressed if it seems difficult even though it isn’t something that has to be completed within the week. What suggestions do you have on how we should act in these situations as parents? How do I help her deal with her stress/anxiety while letting her know that it’s ok and I’m here to help her with things so she doesn’t let her focus take control of her or stress out on things that are weeks away?
Dr. Scoresby’s Answer
When a young person displays anxiety that is manifest in as many ways as you describe, it is probably wise to gather some additional information. This is because it could be a symptom of several different things, and any attempt to address it should take that into account. I suggest the following steps to help her.
- Have her participate in a fairly thorough physical exam, which includes a blood workup to see if there are any unusual variations in body chemicals.
- Keep track of these anxiety episodes, and see if they might be connected to sleep problems, eating problems, time of day, menstruation, etc.
- After identifying several situations, see if most of them have to do with performance anxiety, which typically shows up as part of tests, due dates, etc. If this is the case, then check to see how much pressure this girl feels from her parents, from her own expectations, from siblings, from friends, etc. If you discover there is considerable pressure, then part of the solution will be to help her develop some specific coping mechanisms as well as adapting her expectations to more realistic outcomes.
- If this is not the case, then I think it would be useful to invite her to visit a professional who has some background in anxiety to see whether the anxiety is connected to a cognitive problem such as ADHD. Sometimes this is difficult to pick up in females. Check to see if there any members of your family with this type of issue.
- Some effective counseling will also help.
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