Things your teen can do to help them cope with anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other mental health issues.
What do we do when our kids are having mental health problems?
Whatever we do, there are times when they might need a little more help…
Mental Health Treatment Tips for Teens
Most importantly, teens with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, should know what to do when these specific problems flare up (follow the links for detailed advice):
- extra anxiety – learn to manage anxiety when it attacks with different exercises, like deep breathing, focusing on their five senses, thinking positively for 12 seconds, or laughing at a video they typically find funny, etc. – are there specific social situations that make your anxiety worse during which you will need extra help
- extra sadness – learn grounding and mindfullness skills – teens who have trouble sleeping should learn about progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery – call your health care provider if this happens most days and have a plan in case it happens once in a while
- wanting to self medicate – see your health care professional if you are turning to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. Overeating is another negative coping skill to avoid.
- getting more easily distracted – talk to your health care provider, as this can be a sign of worsening anxiety and depression
- coping with a breakup – how can they deal with the heartbreak after a breakup?
- getting bullied – you’re not alone. – teens thinking of hurting themselves should know that they should seek immediate help
Whatever they are going through, it is especially important that your teen knows that things will get better!
Although that often doesn’t seem likely when you are in the middle of a crisis, it is true.
That can be easier to understand once you review these stories of hope and recovery!
What else can you do?
In general, things like keeping a journal, getting daily exercise, and talking to your friends and family members are positive coping skills that can be helpful.
Create healthy habits and avoid spending too much time online.
“We all need a little extra help sometimes. If you are feeling sad, afraid or overwhelmed, talk to someone you trust – whether it is a family member, close friend, therapist, or case manager. It is important to reach out for help if you need it.”
Hey Teens! Take Care of Your Mental Health
You can also always talk to your pediatrician or other health care provider.
More on Mental Health Tips for Teens
Mask Exemptions for Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic
If your child doesn’t want to wear a face mask, your pediatric provider might be able to offer more help than just an exemption.
Some parents who don’t want their kids to wear a mask at school might think about asking their pediatrician to write a mask exemption for their kids.
Before they do, they might understand that there are very few real medical reasons for these types of exemptions for wearing a mask.
Masks Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2
More and more, we are learning that masks can help prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, protecting both the person wearing the mask and the people around them.
“The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer. The relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”
Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2
Still, that doesn’t mean that everyone has gotten used to wearing them…
Hopefully, most folks do now understand why they are important though.
Wait, why are they important, especially if you are healthy and the people around you don’t have COVID-19?
- up to two days before they start to show symptoms
- up to two days before they test positive, even if they don’t have any symptoms
So if you are waiting to put on a mask until people around you have symptoms, then you will eventually get exposed, probably without even knowing it, and you might get sick, ending up in isolation, not being able to go to school or work.
And if you wait to put on a mask until you start to show symptoms, then you will likely eventually expose other people to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The alternative, if you want to reduce your risk of getting sick, is to just wear a mask any time that you can’t social distance (stay at least six feet apart) from other people.
Mask Exemptions for Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic
So what are the medical reasons that kids, like adults, can’t wear a mask all day while they are at school?
“The Department supports actions by the airline industry to have procedures in place requiring passengers to wear masks in accordance with the CDC Order, CDC guidance, and TSA SD. At the same time, the ACAA and Part 382, which are enforced by OACP, require airlines to make reasonable accommodations, based on individualized assessments, for passengers with disabilities who are unable to wear or safely wear a mask due to their disability.”
Notice of Enforcement Policy: Accommodation by Carriers of Persons With Disabilities Who Are Unable to Wear Or Safely Wear Masks While On Commercial Aircraft
In general, a child over age two years should wear a face mask unless:
- they have a physical or intellectual condition that would keep them from being able to remove their face mask by themselves
- they can’t tolerate wearing a face mask because they have a condition such as autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, or a mental health disorder
- they have a physical or intellectual condition and wearing a cloth face mask gets in the way of their ability to communicate
But shouldn’t these kids just do virtual school if they can’t wear a mask, instead of getting an exemption?
While that might be an option for some kids, others need the extra services that they get at school, which they can’t get with at home schooling.
In addition to a face mask exemption, some things that might work in some situations when a child won’t wear a mask include:
- a face shield
- a transparent face mask
- using different fabrics for the mask
- trying a bandana or gaiter
- try to desensitize your child to wearing a mask
What about asthma?
In general, most kids with well controlled asthma should be able to wear a face mask. If your child’s asthma is so severe that it is made worse by wearing a face mask, then they likely need an evaluation by a pulmonologist and it might be best to avoid being around others during the pandemic.
If your child can wear a face mask, but just doesn’t want to, then it might help to allow them to pick their own mask, with a comfortable fabric and fit, maybe even getting a mask with a favorite character on it.
“Model it! Make it familiar by wearing a mask too.”
Getting Your Child to Wear a Mask
And don’t expect your child to want to wear a mask at school if you don’t wear a mask when you go out or if you don’t believe that wearing a mask is necessary.
More on Mask Exemptions
- What to Know About Face Masks and COVID-19
- Fact Check – Did a Doctor Prove That Face Masks Don’t Work?
- 7 Things to Know About COVID-19
- CDC – Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2
- CDC – Disability groups and risk
- WHO – Children and masks
Screening Questionnaires in Pediatrics
These screening questionnaires can be a good starting point if you suspect that your child is having problems with anything from anxiety and depression to OCD and PTSD.
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic is having many effects beyond kids getting sick with COVID-19…
“Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect children and young people directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan.”
COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit
How we find these kids with social, emotional, and mental issues shouldn’t be a secret either.
Screening Questionnaires in Pediatrics
Of course, not all kids are having problems right now.
“Here are some quick ideas for how to get conversations started with children and young people about how they are feeling and what they are struggling with regarding COVID-19. You don’t have to use these exact words—you know best how to speak with your child, adolescent or youth. In addition, how we talk to children and young people varies depending on their age and developmental level.”
COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit
In addition to using some of the conversation starters in the COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit from the CDC and seeing your health care provider for a check-up, these screening questionnaires and checklists might help you discover issues that your kids are having.
You can’t ask your kids (whether you are a parent or a pediatrician) these types of screening questions if you don’t know these screening questionnaires exist…
While these aren’t necessarily designed for parents to use to screen their kids on their own, there are a large number of questionnaires and screening tools that your health care provider can use to make sure your kids are safe and healthy, including:
(ASQ) – a suicide risk screening tool (PHQ-A) – PHQ-9 depression screening modified for teens – parent and teacher scales for ADHD with scoring instructions – screens for eating disorders (EAT-26) – screens for eating disorders – screens for drug and alcohol abuse (S2BI) – screens for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use (BSTAD) – frequency of use questions to identify risky substance use by adolescent patients ages 12-17. – used to recognize psychosocial problems (SDQ) – a brief behavioural screening questionnaire about 3-16 year olds. (HAM-A) – assesses the severity of anxiety symptoms (GAD-7) scale (SCARED) – screens for signs of anxiety disorders in children -A Pyschosocial Interview For Adolescents – Comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment tools that cover many areas, including for substance use and mental health (FAST) – identifies factors that may influence problem behaviors. – identifies sleep problems in children (PSQ) – asks about snoring and other features of OSA (MOAS) – rates the patient’s aggressive behavior over the past week (YMRS) – screens for bipolar disorder (PQ-R) – screens for prevalent and targeted psychosocial problems such as parental depression and substance use. (WE CARE) – screens for family psychosocial problems (IHELLP) Questionnaire – screens for social factors impacting your patients’ health – food insecurity screening tool based – identifies and screens patients for adverse social determinants of health – Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 – Child and Adolescent Version (CARTS) – screens for domestic violence
At the very least, these types of pediatric screening questionnaires can be a good starting point if you suspect that your child is having problems.
More on Pediatric Screening Questionnaires and Checklists
Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?
Why are some kids still getting sick if they are have been our of school and stuck in the house for weeks because of COVID-19?
COVID-19 has kept most kids out of school for some time now. Many are also out of daycare. And few are out playing with friends.
So why are some still getting sick? What else is going on with kids stuck at home while we are all social distancing to flatten the curve.
Why Are Social Distancing Kids Still Getting Sick?
The first thought of some parents and pediatric providers upon reading this might be, wait, what, kids are still getting sick?
And that’s because it does seem that in addition to flattening the COVID-19 curve, staying home from school and daycare, washing hands, and general social distancing techniques has worked to keeps from getting sick with the flu and most other contagious diseases!
So while pediatric providers are available to do telemedicine appointments, it certainly isn’t business as usual, even as their days have gotten quite unusual.
Some kids are still getting sick though, and while we know what you are thinking, most probably don’t have COVID-19.
It might be because:
- they aren’t social distancing as well as they think they are, keeping in mind that with many diseases, people can be contagious for a few days before they show symptoms and you can sometimes catch germs from touching fomites, or objects that a sick person has recently touched. That still doesn’t mean that they have COVID-19 though. If they have contact with others, they could catch almost anything.
- they caught something from someone who had a disease a few weeks or months ago and is still shedding. For example, some infants can shed RSV for as long as 4 weeks after they get better. And they can shed the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) for almost two months! Human parainfluenza viruses (HPIV), a common cause of colds and croup (seal bark cough), can also shed for many months.
- they caught something from someone who had a viral disease that causes a lifelong latent infection with periodic reactivation and shedding. Wait, what? While herpes (cold sores) is the main disease you might think of as causing a lifelong latent infection, there are others. You may not realize this, but after getting roseola (causes a high fever for a few days, followed by a rash after the fever breaks), HHV-6 (human herpes virus-6) kind of does the same thing. The big difference is that while you shed HHV-6 in your saliva from time to time, you don’t have any symptoms. You can get other folks sick though, especially older infants, once they lose the passive immunity they got from maternal antibodies.
- they have a sore throat caused by a virus, allergies, or reflux, but have tonsil stones and a positive strep test because they are a strep carrier. Nearly 20% of kids are thought to be carriers of strep, which means that every time they get tested, they will be positive, whether or not they actually have strep throat. That means that you don’t have to worry about testing the dog to see if they are carrying strep…
- they were exposed to a disease with a long incubation period. While the incubation period (the time between getting exposed to something to when you get sick) is just a few days for many diseases, it can be several weeks or months for others. In fact, your child might not get sick until 30 to 50 days after being exposed to someone with mono!
- they had a virus a few weeks ago and now have Gianotti Crosti syndrome (GCS), a post-viral rash on a child’s legs, arms, and buttocks. Although GCS might linger for weeks or months, it eventually goes away on its own. Another rash, this one likely caused by reactivation of the virus that causes roseola, might have you thinking your child is covered in ringworm (how would they get that if they haven’t left the house??). Instead, they likely have pityriasis rosea.
- their symptoms are caused by a non-contagious infectious disease that is spread from an animal or insect and not from another person – think Lyme disease (ticks), Cat scratch disease (cats), and West Nile virus (mosquitoes), etc.
- they got sick (bacteria, virus, or parasite) from contaminated lake or well water, which can cause diarrhea – giardiasis, Crypto, shigellosis, norovirus,
- they got sick (bacteria, virus, or parasite) from eating raw or contaminated food – giardiasis, shigellosis, norovirus, E. coli, salmonellosis
- their symptoms are caused by a non-infectious disease, which could be anything from allergies and asthma to poison ivy or herpes zoster (shingles).
It is also possible that their symptoms are being caused by anxiety, fear, and stress, which is not unexpected as they see schools closed, people getting sick and wearing masks, and are likely unsure about what’s coming next.
Has your child been sick recently?
Do you understand why now?
Now call your pediatric provider if you have questions and need help getting them well, especially if they seem anxious or have extra stress from being home all of the time and away from school and their friends.
You especially want to call if you think that they might actually have COVID-19. While most kids have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, if your child has a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, you should call your pediatric provider or seek medical attention.
More on Covid-19 Kids Getting Sick
Kids and COVID-19
Kids might not be at big risk from COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean that they are immune from stress and anxiety from hearing about it all of the time.
One good piece of news that is easy to pick out from all of the doom and gloom about COVID-19 is that kids don’t really seem to be at extra risk from this new disease.
“In this preliminary description of pediatric U.S. COVID-19 cases, relatively few children with COVID-19 are hospitalized, and fewer children than adults experience fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Severe outcomes have been reported in children, including three deaths.”
Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Children — United States, February 12–April 2, 2020
So far, fewer than 2% of cases in the United States have occurred in children and teens who are less than 18 years old. And of those who did get COVID-19, “relatively few pediatric COVID-19 cases were hospitalized” and even were admitted to the ICU.
Many did not even have a fever or cough!
That’s good news, as kids are often in high risk groups and at extra risk for other infectious diseases, like flu, measles, and RSV.
Kids and COVID-19
So why don’t kids get infected by SARS-CoV-2 more often?
“There have been very few reports of the clinical outcomes for children with COVID-19 to date. Limited reports from China suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 may present with mild symptoms and though severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon.”
Children and COVID-19
Well, we actually don’t know how many kids are getting SARS-CoV-2…
Right now, it just seems like most don’t get severe disease, but because of limited testing and a priority going to those with severe disease, it may be that many more kids are infected than we know.
“Though the evidence to date suggests this virus doesn’t inflict severe disease on children, there’s reason to think kids may be helping to amplify transmission. It’s a role they play to devastating effect during flu season, becoming ill and passing flu viruses on to their parents, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers.”
A critical question in getting a handle on coronavirus: What role do kids play in spreading it?
They could just be getting very mild disease or infection without symptoms.
While that’s certainly reassuring, we can’t ignore the possibility that kids could get and spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others in high risk groups, including older people and people with severe chronic health conditions.
“If parents seem overly worried, children’s anxiety may rise. Parents should reassure children that health and school officials are working hard to ensure that people throughout the country stay healthy. However, children also need factual, age appropriate information about the potential seriousness of disease risk and concrete instruction about how to avoid infections and spread of disease.”
Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
And we shouldn’t forget that there is one thing that children aren’t immune to right now – anxiety from hearing about COVID-19 all of the time!
More on Kids and COVID-19
What Is the Evidence for CBD Oil?
Besides treating seizures, is there any evidence for giving kids CBD oil or CBD kids gummies?
Are you wondering if your kids should be taking CBD oil?
That’s probably not a question you would be thinking of asking just a few years ago, but now that CBD products are everywhere, with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, and claims that it can treat everything from seizures and anxiety to cancer, you might be thinking you need to jump on this new fad.
What Is CBD Oil?
Many folks are likely skeptical when they hear about all of the benefits of CBD oil.
This is the stuff that is extracted from marijuana plants, right?
How is it even legal to sell CBD oil or gummies infused with CBD?
To understand that, you have to understand that cannabidiol (CBD) oil is the part of the marijuana plant that doesn’t get you high. That comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
And many of the products you see with CBD oil that is sold over-the-counter aren’t even derived from marijuana, but instead come from hemp plants.
Labeling something as hemp doesn’t necessarily make it legal though. Regulators in Ohio, for example, recently announced that CBD oil derived from hemp is illegal and that the only legal CBD oil will be dispensed in state-licensed dispensaries.
What Is the Evidence for CBD Oil?
There is definitely evidence that CBD oil can have beneficial effects in some medical conditions.
Except for treating some types of resistant seizures, there is no good evidence that CBD oil has all of these other benefits.
In fact, the FDA recently approved Epidiolex oral solution for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. Epidiolex is an oral solution of oil-based CBD that is extracted from marijuana plants.
What other medical conditions?
While it is not approved to treat any other medical conditions, cannabidiol is being studied to treat people with ADHD, anxiety, autism, schizophrenia, chronic pain, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson disease, Tourette syndrome, and substance use disorders.
Should You Try CBD Oil?
What does that mean right now if you have a child with anxiety or another disorder and you are interested in CBD oil?
Although it might be tempting to buy and try the CBD oil that you can find at your local health food store, remember that they aren’t the same thing as Epidiolex, the prescription version of CBD. When you buy an over-the-counter CBD product, you have no idea what dosage of CBD you are really getting.
Anyway, until further testing is done, you have no idea what dose to give your child with anxiety or any other disorder besides seizures anyway.
And like other drugs, CBD oil can have side effects.
Mindfulness for Kids and Parents
There might not be much proof that it works, but mindfulness might be worth a try if you are just looking for a way to help you and your kids relax.
Have you ever heard of mindfulness?
These kids don’t look like they need any help focusing on the present moment – having fun playing with each other! Photo by Todd Fahrner
Once upon a time, you probably would not have if you weren’t Buddhist.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation.
“Most of the time, we are lost in the past or carried away by the future. When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace, and love.”
Thich Nhat Hanh on The Long Road Turns To Joy
But much like yoga, an ancient Hindu practice, mindfulness has become popular without understanding its spiritual ties.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Why practice mindfulness?
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
You can actually find some studies that have found all kinds of benefits of mindfulness, from increased immune functioning to boosting your memory and attention span.
Now, I would view any of those benefits with a lot of skepticism, but the benefits that do seem plausible include decreasing stress and anxiety and improving your sleep, etc.
“Mindfulness meditation on breath, perhaps the most well-known type, involves sitting quietly, resting or closing your eyes and bringing your attention to your breath. When your attention drifts away, which it is likely to do, simply usher your attention back to your breath without judgment.”
AAP on Just Breathe: The Importance of Meditation Breaks for Kids
The American Academy of Pediatrics even suggests that mindfulness meditation can be helpful for children, although it is a clinical report from the Section on Integrative Medicine that is examining “best-available evidence.”
Does Mindfulness Work?
Many of us would like mindfulness to work.
Stress and anxiety are big problems today, both among kids and their parents. Their pediatricians too. So should we all start reading books on mindfulness?
Or go to a mindfulness group parenting class or start mindfulness-based cognitive therapy?
“Despite existing methodological limitations within each body of literature, there is a clear convergence of findings from correlational studies, clinical intervention studies, and laboratory-based, experimental studies of mindfulness—all of which suggest that mindfulness is positively associated with psychological health, and that training in mindfulness may bring about positive psychological effects.”
Keng et al on Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies
Considering that many reviews have been critical and the one with the most praise could only find a suggestion of positive associations, although I have always liked the idea of mindfulness, I am skeptical of its use as a medical treatment.
“I think the best current summary is to consider mindfulness like yoga, or a specific form of exercise. There is evidence that doing yoga has specific health benefits. However, those benefits are likely not specific to yoga and are universal to exercise. It is therefore more accurate to say that exercise has many health benefits, and yoga is a form of exercise.”
Steven Novella on Is Mindfulness Meditation Science-Based?
Can we just say that being mindful is a way to help you relax?
And being able to relax has some health benefits?
Give mindfulness a try if you want. Just don’t expect miracles and realize that with all of the distractions that you likely have in your life, being truly mindful is going to be much more difficult than you could ever imagine.
And while you can sell mindfulness, it is now a billion dollar industry, you can’t really buy it.
You can start with turning off the TV unless you are watching a specific program. And putting your phone down when the kids are around. Basically, get away from always trying to multitask and focus on who you are with or what you are doing at any one moment.
What to Know About Mindfulness for Kids and Parents
There might not be much proof that it works, but mindfulness might be worth a try if you are just looking for a way to help you and your kids relax.
More About Mindfulness for Kids and Parents
A Journey Into Mindfulness Featuring Thich Nhat Hanh
- Study – Mind the Hype: A Critical Evaluation and Prescriptive Agenda for Research on Mindfulness and Meditation
- Study – Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
- AAP – Just Breathe: The Importance of Meditation Breaks for Kids
- AAP – Mind-Body Therapies in Children and Youth
- Study – School-Based Mindfulness Instruction: An RCT
- Study – Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies
Understanding and Treating Teen Sleep Problems
Although teen sleep problems are common, they can cause serious daytime issues for your teenager, which makes it important to learn about good sleep hygiene and that help is available from your pediatrician.
Do your kids have to get up too early because school starts too early?
Parents often ask for help getting their kids to fall sleep and then stay asleep all night.
At least they do when they are little.
Teens often have trouble sleeping too though, but parents often don’t recognize these sleep problems and might not think to ask for help. They do likely see some of the issues that can be caused by a poor night’s sleep though, which can include irritability, sadness, a poor attention span, and hyperactivity, etc.
Why Teens Don’t Sleep Well
From being over-scheduled and having to get up early for school to staying up late on a screen, there are many reasons why your teen might not be sleeping well.
There are also many different types of sleep problems.
To understand what is causing your child’s sleep problems, ask yourself these questions and share the answers with your pediatrician:
- Does your teen sleep at least 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours each night?
- Does your teen have trouble falling asleep or does he just wake up a lot in the middle of the night? Or does your teen seem to sleep enough, but is still always tired?
- Does your teen snore loudly at night – a sign of obstructive sleep apnea?
- Is your teen taking any medications that could cause insomnia, such as for ADHD (stimulant) or allergies (decongestant)?
- Does your teen have poorly controlled allergies, asthma (late night coughing), eczema (frequent itching keeping him awake), or reflux?
- Is your teen drinking any caffeine in the afternoon or evening?
- Do you think that your teen is depressed or has anxiety, either of which could cause problems sleeping?
- Have you noticed any symptoms of restless leg syndrome, including a strong urge to move his legs when he is sitting or lying down?
- Does your teen have too much homework and is staying up late trying to get it all done?
- What does your teen do just before going to sleep?
- Does your teen fall asleep easier when he goes to bed much later than his typical bedtime or does he still have trouble falling asleep?
- Are your teen’s sleep problems new?
And perhaps most importantly, what is your teen’s daily sleep schedule like? What time does he go to sleep and wake up, including weekends, and does he typically take a nap?
Treatments for Teen Sleep Problems
In addition to treating any underlining medical issues that might be causing your teen to have trouble sleeping, it will likely help if your teen learns about sleep hygiene and:
- goes to bed and wakes up at about the same time each day, instead of trying to catch up on “lost sleep” on the weekends
- keeps his room bright in the morning (let in the sunshine) and dark at night
- avoids taking naps, or at least naps that are longer than about 30 to 45 minutes
- avoids caffeine
- is physically active for at least one hour each day
- doesn’t eat a lot just before going to bed
- turns off all screens (phone, TV, computer, video games, etc.) about 30 minutes before going to sleep
- doesn’t get in bed until he is actually ready to go to sleep, which means not watching TV, reading, or doing anything else on his bed
- gets out of bed if he doesn’t fall asleep after 10 to 15 minutes and reads a few pages of a book, before trying to go to sleep again
If you teen is still having sleep problems, encourage them to try some basic relaxation techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and deep breathing or abdominal breathing. You do them at bedtime and again if you wake up in the middle of the night.
I especially like the idea of guided imagery for teens, as they can focus on something they like to do, whether it is building a sandcastle on the beach, or going horseback riding, surfing, hiking, or playing baseball, etc. They should focus on the details of the story they make up, coming back to it if their mind wanders, and hopefully they fall asleep as they get caught up in it.
With the deep breathing technique, they slowly breath in through their nose and out through their mouth. They can hold their breath for a few seconds or breath into their abdomen too (abdominal breathing).
Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that might help your child relax at bedtime. They simply tense and then relax each muscle group of their body, one at a time, starting with their toes and working their way up. If they make it up to their forehead and aren’t asleep, then they should work their way down, perhaps doing 3 to 5 repetitions for each muscle group, or try another technique.
And be sure to talk to your pediatrician if your teen continues to struggle with sleep problems.
What To Know About Teen Sleep Problems
Although teen sleep problems are common, they can cause serious daytime issues for your teenager, which makes it important to learn about good sleep hygiene and that help is available from your pediatrician.
For More Information on Teen Sleep Problems
Ten Things That Aren’t As Scary As Most Parents Think
Parenting can be a little less scary if you are prepared for when you child eats a bug, has a night terror, or wakes up barking like a seal.
Being a parent can be scary enough.
Don’t let these every day parenting issues freak you out even more.
Be prepared for when you child eats a bug, has a night terror, or wakes up barking like a seal.
- Breath holding spells – in a typical breath holding spell, a young child cries, either from a tantrum or a fall, etc., and then holds his breath (involuntarily) and briefly passes out. Although it sounds scary and the episode might look like a seizure, these kids usually quickly wake up and are fine after. Kids who have breath holding spells are often prone to repeated spells though, so you do want to warm other caregivers so they don’t freak out if your child has one. Eventually, kids outgrow having them.
- Febrile Seizures – parents often describe their child’s first febrile seizure as ‘the worst moment of their life.’ Febrile seizures typically occur when a fever rises rapidly, but although they are scary, they are usually brief, stop without treatment, don’t cause any problems, and most kids outgrow having them by the time they are about five years old.
- Nosebleeds – a nosebleed that doesn’t stop is certainly scary, but with proper treatment, most nosebleeds will stop in ten to twenty minutes (if not sooner), even if your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a bloody nose for what you think is no reason.
- Night terrors – often confused for nightmares, a child having a night terror will wake up in the early part of the night yelling and screaming, which is why parents think their child is having a nightmare. The scary thing though, is that their child will be confused, likely won’t recognize you, and might act terrified – and it all might last for as long as 45 minutes or more. Fortunately, night terrors are normal. Your child likely won’t even remember what happened the next morning. And they eventually stop.
- Eating a Bug – “Kids eat bugs all the time. Few if any symptoms are likely to occur.” – that’s a quote from the National Capital Poison Center, who must get more than a few calls from worried parents about their kids eating bugs. Or finding the evidence later – when you see a dead bug in their diaper…
- High Fever – pediatricians have done a lot of education about fever phobia over the years, but parents often still get scared that a high fever is going to cause brain damage or hurt their child in some other way. Try to remember that fever is just another symptom and doesn’t tell you how sick your child is.
- Playing Doctor – even though it’s natural for young kids to be curious about their bodies, the average parent is likely going to be scared and upset if they “catch” their kids playing doctor. Understand that it is usually a normal part of child development and don’t turn it into a problem by making it into more than it is.
- Hives – a child with classic hives might have a red raised rash develop suddenly all over his body. And since hives are very itchy, that child is probably going to be miserable, which can make hives very scary, even though without other symptoms (like vomiting or trouble breathing), they typically aren’t a sign of a serious allergic reaction. The other thing about hives that can be scary is that even when they go away with a dose of Benadryl, they often come back – sometimes for days, but often for weeks. And your pediatrician might not be able to tell you what triggered them.
- Croup – your child goes to bed fine, but then wakes up in the middle of the night with a strange cough that sounds like a barking seal, has a hoarse cry, and it seems like he is wheezing. Scary, right? Sure, but if you realize he probably has croup and that some time in the bathroom with a hot shower (getting the room steamy can often calm his breathing), you’ll be ready for this common viral infection.
- Choking – while choking can be a life-threatening emergency, most episodes of choking aren’t. In addition to learning CPR and how to prevent choking, remember that if you child “is still able to speak or has a strong cough” then you may not have to do anything, except maybe 911 if he or she is having some breathing difficulties. It is when your child is choking and can not breath at all (and can’t talk and isn’t coughing) that you need to quickly react and do the Heimlich Maneuver while someone calls 911.
Even with a little foreknowledge and preparation, many of these very common pediatric issues are scary. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to call your pediatrician for more help.
For More Information on Things That Scare Parents
Helping Kids Cope With Stress
Get help recognizing signs and symptoms of stress in your kids and helping them cope when stress gets to be too much to handle.
Children, especially teens, often have stress in their lives.
Whether caused by the loss of a friend or loved one, a recent move, being teased or bullied, difficulties at home, or problems at school, childhood stress can lead to behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, headaches, drug use, and insomnia, among many other symptoms and medical problems.
Other symptoms of stress can include mood swings or temper tantrums in a younger child, withdrawing from friends and family, and aggression.
What Causes Kids to Have Stress?
Unfortunately, the source of stress for a child is frequently not so easy to recognize and parents are not always very good at noticing things that could be stressors, which can include things like:
- a change at daycare for preschool age children, including attending daycare for the first time, moving to a new room, having a new teacher, or changing to a new daycare, etc.
- having too much homework
- being over-scheduled with sports and other extracurricular activities
- having expectations for his performance that are unrealistic and too high or a fear of failure, despite of having good grades, having a lot of friends, etc.
- a divorce or death in a friend’s family, which can raise fears that the same thing could happen to his own parents
- poor self esteem
- watching something stressful on the news, such as a school shooting, terrorist attack, or natural disaster
- a chronic medical problem, like asthma or diabetes, or an acute medical problem, like a burn or broken leg
- a medical problem in a family member
- a traffic accident
- financial problems at home
Keep in mind that common childhood transitions, such as moving to a toddler bed, starting kindergarten, going to camp, starting puberty, beginning high school, and going off to college, etc., can be very stressful for some children.
The other confusing thing about stress is that the symptoms of being stressed do not always immediately follow whatever is causing the stress and the same situations don’t cause stress in all children or even for the same child at different stages in their life.
Helping Kids Cope With Stress
Although overlooked as many parents and children look for a quick fix for their problems with stress, it is important not to overlook the importance of regular exercise, a healthy diet, and a good night’s sleep to help them cope with any problems with any stress they are having.
Other ways to help your child cope with stress can include:
- scheduling more free time for your child, especially if being too busy is the source of her stress
- spending quality time with your child and give them plenty of opportunities to talk about their worries and problems
- eating dinner together each night as a family and having other routines or rituals that you stick to on a regular basis
- helping your child set realistic expectations for himself
- be prepared for stressful situations that you can anticipate, such as the birth of a new sibling, a move to a new city, or a parent who is going to have surgery
- giving your child age appropriate responsibilities and allowing him to overcome simple challenges on his own without always bailing him out, which can help teach them basic problem solving skills that he will need throughout his life
- teaching your child ways to relax, including diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, listening to music, reading, keeping a journal, and drawing, etc.
Your pediatrician can be a good resource if your need help managing your child’s level of stress, especially if your child’s symptoms from the stress are not temporary. A mental health professional, such as a counselor, child psychologist, and/or child psychiatrist, can also be very helpful for the overly stressed child or even for a child who does not routinely handle stress well.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Facts for Families. No. 66; Updated Feb 2013. Stress Management and Teens. Accessed May 2016.
Can CBD Help With Teen Anxiety
Simultaneously, her oldest son started to experience some pretty severe anxiety.
He’s not alone in this .
Anxiety is the epidemic among teens with the numbers steadily going up.
A recent study showed that this demographic had the greatest jump in anxiety of any age group.
In fact, 70% of teenagers today now view mental health issues as the biggest challenge they face:
That’s a Feb 2019 survey.
In 2012, the percentage of teenagers with anxiety was 1 in 20 or 5%
It sure has gone up since then when looking at the survey above.
In 2007, it was 1 in 28 or 3.5%.
So in 5 years, it jumped over 40%!
That time just happens to coincide with the great recession!
We just wrote an entire article on Social Anxiety and CBD here which is very relevant to teenagers.
We’ll look at why this may be, how puberty affects anxiety, and what research is showing for CBD.
There’s tremendous research for CBD and anxiety here but we need to obviously consider safety with teenagers.
We’ll cover these topics along the way:
- What drives teenage anxiety in the brain
- How hormones and puberty affect teenage anxiety
- Social anxiety for teenagers
- THC’s effect on the teenage brain with anxiety
- The endocannabinoid system and the teenage brain
- What research shows for CBD and teenage anxiety
- How much CBD to take for teenage anxiety
- What’s the best CBD for teenage anxiety
Let’s get started.
As a parent of a teenager who experienced intense anxiety, I can tell you that this article is written with the utmost diligence and delicacy with a focus on safety.
We suffer almost as much as they do .
We’ll also look at some other tools we found along the way.
Let’s educate ourselves to make the best decision.
What drives teenage anxiety in the brain
We have very in-depth reviews of the mechanics of anxiety at our CBD and anxiety page.
We also further explored more fascinating detail in our CBD versus anxiety medication page.
There are 10K+ words of thorough investigation with dozens of NIH studies there for a general background of what’s going on with anxiety.
There’s a good general explanation of teenage anxiety here including symptoms, signs, etc:
No one is debating whether teenagers today have more stress than ever.
- The ratcheting up of academic workload and expectations
- The increased social scrutiny and online presence
- Self-medicating with substances that can actually increase anxiety long-term
- A constant barrage of media focus on physical attractiveness (especially for girls)
- Growing up in the shadow of the Great Recession of 2008.
Take your pick or better yet, add them all up cumulatively.
That being said, some teenagers experience ongoing anxiety while others don’t.
What’s THAT difference?
It’s not a character flaw or function of personality. it’s chemistry, brain and gut function.
Even increasingly immune response!
We’ll look at all of it!
Let’s first talk about the gorilla in the room.
Keep in mind that a study showed that 31% of teens would experience an anxiety event from age 13-18 and those were 2014 numbers!
Puberty is a massive state of flux and even the best teenage years are fraught with anxious moments.
There’s a very disruptive (but needed) “remodeling” of the brain during puberty.
- Amygdala – your emotional center with control over fear, fight or flight response, and more
- Prefrontal Cortex – your rational brain which acts to balance the initial fear response of the Amygdala
Basically, there’s a shift of power from the Amygdala (which actually thins out during puberty) to the prefrontal cortex.
During this process, the prefrontal cortex (right behind your forehead) gets “shut down” for remodeling.
Hence, all the risky and emotional responses during the teenage years!
There’s a spurt of growth right before puberty and then a pruning back of this entire system during puberty.
Remember that the prefrontal cortex is our brake for the Amygdala’s fear response.
Now it’s being pruned back for remodeling (which will eventually make it more efficient if we survive our teenage years!)
As we look at CBD and the mechanism of anxiety and CBD for social anxiety, overactive Amygdala signaling is a hallmark of anxiety itself!
It’s also critical to the whole puberty process in the brain!
Increasing sensitivity to emotional and social cues coincides with changes in neural structures, particularly the amygdala
Since puberty is a giant flux in hormones (which we’ll touch on below), how do they figure into this process?
Indeed, the amygdala is one of the few regions of the brain that contains both estrogen and androgen receptors [16-18], indicating that its function may be directly influenced by hormonal changes during puberty.
Great. so hormones directly impact the amygdala function.
Do they drive anxiety-type responses though?
Recent studies have demonstrated that directly administering sex hormones can increase amygdala response to emotional faces
So hormones in flux during puberty drive activity in our emotional (including fear and fight/flight) center of the brain based on social cues (faces).
Our reaction to faces (neutral or emotional) is a great proxy for social development during puberty.
It’s also a faithful signal for anxiety in teenagers:
Specifically, symptoms of social anxiety increase during adolescence for girls [2,35]—and anxiety, in general, has been shown to impact amygdala response to facial stimuli
Some of this rectifies as the brain matures through puberty (which lasts up to age 25 generally).
So the amygdala is very active in teenage anxiety as expected.
There’s a great synopsis of the transition of the teenage brain here:
The net-net is this…
Emotional parts of the brain run rampant while the impulse control area is under remodeling until about age 17.
This makes teenagers especially susceptible to anxiety since the Amygdala (fear center) if off the leash!
Combine this with areas of the brain which turn on for abstract thought (that’s why you can’t teach Algebra before certain modules in the brain turn on).
Now, teenagers can estimate how they are viewed by other peers!
Outside of getting good grades, all the other stressors for teenagers are peer-related (how I look, how I fit in, etc).
Let’s look at the big disrupters during puberty. hormones!
How hormones and puberty affect teenage anxiety
Estrogen and Testosterone are in full effect.
They literally transform the teenage body and brain into adult versions!
Both are highly correlated with mood instability (see CBD and PMS or CBD and perimenopause mood changes as an example, and testosterone for men is no slouch in that department either).
It goes beyond that .
One example is an interesting switch in brain circuitry involving allopregnanolone.
This is a master hormone that gets turned into (metabolized) other hormones such as progesterone.
Progesterone is a powerful inhibitory hormone in the brain that works with GABA to calm things down.
It has a known anti-anxiety effect.
GABA is the root chemical for anti-anxiety effects in the brain. And drowsiness!
See CBD and GABA article for more info.
In adults, the release of this allopregnanolone calms the circuits down.
This circuit is completely switched in the teenage brain where it actually revs things up!
It’s a fascinating read and helps to explain why girls have twice the probability of anxiety during puberty (progesterone is primarily a female hormone although men do have it).
Consequently, it is also why women entering perimenopause suddenly start to experience anxiety and other issues.
Check those progesterone levels ladies!
This research points to looking at hormone levels during puberty to help with anxiety.
It also points to the common anxiety/depression spikes after delivery, during the monthly cycle, and during perimenopause/menopause but we digress.
That’s a very specific example of how hormones can affect teenage anxiety directly.
The real player may be estradiol for women.
Look. estradiol had direct control over both the creation and removal of serotonin!
Check out CBD and perimenopause anxiety where estradiol spikes and drops significantly (sound familiar??).
Let’s keep going or we’ll never get to CBD.
Social anxiety for teenagers
The same usual suspects crop up with the Amygdala and Prefrontal Cortex at play.
We get into the neurotransmitters such as:
- GABA – calming chemical (key to benzo’s effect)
- Glutamate – the excitatory chemical in the brain
- Histamine – the immune excitatory chemical in the brain
We also look at the new theory or inflammation with anxiety and depression and how to correct its effect via neurogenesis.
For teenagers, there are really two common root drivers of anxiety.
- Genetic or past experience driver of general anxiety (systemic)
- Social anxiety as a result of brain remodeling from above (situational)
Meaning, we may have a general tendency towards anxiety which the stress of puberty exacerbates.
The sudden awareness of the social world via brain changes is anxiety causing.
Either way, the mechanics are pretty similar in terms of how the brain and body express anxiety.
The latter will likely rectify after puberty is done.
The first one may continue and require more effort.
A quick synopsis from our Social Anxiety and CBD article.
The circuit between the Amygdala and Prefrontal cortex is still front and center.
There’s also some interplay with the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex.
Before your eyes gloss over, this is part of the connector between the two other sections and it’s pretty interesting.
It’s just the seat of:
- Social rejection
There are studies showing how CBD can affect a person’s self-analysis which is critical for social anxiety.
Also, our CBD and negative thoughts is an interesting side-note on that front.
Again, check out the full article here.
For many teenagers, anxiety IS social anxiety.
This makes sense if you read the study above on teenage brain circuits being reversed due to hormones.
The sudden ability to see how others might see you (abstract thought) is a frightening new superpower!
Let’s look at important new research on THC and the teenage brain.
THC’s effect on the teenage brain with anxiety
THC is CBD’s chemical cousin in the cannabis plant but they’re very different.
In many ways, they’re actually polar opposites.
CBD has been shown to offset negatives of THC.
Here’s the deal.
Cannabis is increasingly becoming legal across the US and as the parent of a high schooler, I can tell you that it’s EVERYWHERE at that level.
The athletes are using it. The 4.0 AP students are using it. Everywhere.
As my son said during his sophomore year, “I can count on 2 hands the people who haven’t tried it and it’s shrinking all the time”.
First, let’s be honest about the situation.
It’s in the music. It’s in movies. It’s all over THEIR internet as being “healthy”.
We’re not anti-pot but THC has some issues.
Especially for the teenage, developing brain.
We’re only starting to get good research since it’s been a schedule 1 drug for so long.
A recent report showed that 1-2 uses at age 14/15 have an immediate impact on thickening the Amygdala.
That brain area (seat of emotional response and fear) should be recognizable to you by now.
It’s all over teenage anxiety!
Here’s the issue….the Amygdala should be thinning out at this point.
Think of brain area mass as signal strength.
The net effect of a thicker amygdala is more risk for anxiety in the future.
The problem is that we’re literally building the brain during this time!
Yes, the body can continue to remodel as we get older but it’s much harder.
Kinda like how it’s harder to pick up a language or musical instrument for adults.
If you’re a teenager. wait.
Let your brain finish cooking!
If you’re a parent. keep up the dialog and let them know about this study so they can make a better decision.
Otherwise, all they hear online is that everything is fine.
As for CBD…
- It’s not psychoactive
- It’s not habit-forming
- It offsets the negatives of THC
If anything, use it to counter the negatives.
Just a side note. THC has been shown in studies to increase or cause anxiety!
The original meaning of the “entourage effect” everyone uses to sell full-spectrum CBD (more on that below) was to offset this anxiety effect via CBD’s powerful effect.
THC is not good for brain remodeling in teenagers and can increase anxiety.
Learn about that here.
Finally. we’re getting there. One last stop before CBD for teenage anxiety.
The endocannabinoid system and the teenage brain
They may not want to admit it, but even teenagers share an endocannabinoid system with adults!
It’s roughly 600 million years old and is tasked with key systems:
- Nervous system – home to the Amygdala, prefrontal cortex, GABA, Glutamate and more
- Endocrine system – home to hormones like Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone and other drivers of puberty
- Immune system – inflammatory response due to stress and also histamine!
What about teenage anxiety?
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to have a powerful effect on:
- Serotonin signaling
- GABA signaling and balance with Glutamate
- Histamine response
- Hippocampus neurogenesis
- Reducing neuroinflammation
- Balancing brain activity (see research on CBD and psychosis)
That all stands true for teenagers but let’s look at the ECS (endocannabinoid system) and puberty.
Is it involved in that process within the brain?
Emerging evidence suggests that during adolescence, changes in eCB signaling contribute to the maturation of local and corticolimbic circuit populations of neurons, such as mediating the balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission within the prefrontal cortex.
Let’s translate this, please.
“Corticolimbic” speaks to the old part of our brain that contains the hippocampus and Amygdala, both key to fear response processing.
The “corti” part is interesting as well.
It’s the connector between the emotional processing area (hippocampus and Amygdala) and the prefrontal cortex (our rational brain).
It includes areas such as the Anterior Cingulate Cortex which pops up prominently with social anxiety (let’s face it. that’s teenage anxiety as this circuit comes online during puberty).
This is THE circuit for teenage anxiety.
Continuing with the summary statement from the research…
“Mediating balance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission”.
Too much activity in the Amygdala (fear and emotional response) and not enough rational braking of this response.
This is at the heart of what research is finding out about the ECS.
Its role appears to find balance in other key systems.
In another animal study, they showed how endocannabinoids like Anandamide appear to help govern the hormonal transition during puberty:
There’s a great deal of research on cannabis by itself (including THC) which is not positive for the teenage developing brain in terms of the critical endocannabinoid system.
Teenagers must try to avoid THC and cannabis as much as possible so that their neural circuits can form correctly.
It’s akin to building a house in the rain.
Build the house first and then it can withstand the rain better.
See more below in the safety area.
Let’s move onto CBD.
Again, there’s lots of information on anxiety specifically here:
- A comprehensive look at CBD benefits for anxiety
What research shows for CBD and teenage anxiety
At those links above, you can see how CBD directly interacts with the contributors of anxiety.
CBD’s anti-anxiety effect might be it’s most pronounced (outside of brain area normalization for psychosis and epilepsy).
Quick bullet points before we look at teenagers specifically based on research:
- CBD helps to boost GABA (our calming neurotransmitter)
- CBD helps to balance Glutamate signaling (our excitatory neurotransmitter)
- CBD helps to stimulate neuron growth in the hippocampus
- CBD is a powerful anti-neuroinflammatory
- CBD helps to normalize signaling between the Amygdala and Prefrontal Cortex
- CBD calms the histamine response (excitatory in the brain)
On to the teenage brain.
Let’s look at specific studies that are in short supply.
The one specific to teenage anxiety involved a 10-year-old girl who had intense anxiety and insomnia as a result of pretty horrific abuse.
The standard anxiety meds were not helping her or had terrible side effects (see CBD versus anxiety meds here).
Her chief issues included anxiety, insomnia, outbursts at school, suicidal ideation, and self-destructive behaviors.
Again, other medical interventions did not work and her symptoms deteriorated.
CBD (cannabidiol) was a last-ditch effort for both her anxiety and insomnia.
A gradual increase in sleep quality and quantity and a decrease in her anxiety were noted. After 5 months, the patient was sleeping in her own room most nights and handling the new school year with no difficulties. No side effects were observed from taking the CBD oil.
Her results are here:
This is anecdotal and we need more research.
That being said, it’s very telling for teenage anxiety and she was very troubled, with an explicit PTSD diagnosis (see CBD and PTSD).
The FDA recently approved CBD for specific types of pediatric epilepsy.
The results were impressive there:
Patients with LGS taking cannabidiol oral solution at 20 mg/kg/day in two clinical trials saw a 42%-44% reduction in drop seizure frequency over a 14-week treatment period
This study gives a good track record for CBD’s long term effect during puberty since we now have more data and these kids have gone through puberty using CBD for epilepsy.
We do not see developmental issues as a result of that research.
Just a side note. research is showing that some stress during puberty actually primes the brain for being better able to handle issues later in life:
In fact, a certain amount of stress exposure or socio-environmental stimulation is probably necessary for normal development and exerts long-term stress-protective, anxiolytic, and antidepressant effects later in life [240, 277, 355, 356]
Let’s end where we began.
Remember how we discussed the “fear” and “threat response” circuits of the brain during puberty and teenage years.
It’s a tug of war that’s temporarily being won by the Amygdala while the prefrontal cortex is closed for remodeling.
What does CBD do here?
CBD is associated with increased resting cerebral regional blood flow (rCBF) in the left parahippocampal gyrus and decreased rCBF in the amygdala-hippocampus complex, including the posterior cingulate cortex
To translate. imaging showed that activity slowed down in the area that’s in overdrive for fear and emotional response during teenage years.
This showed especially during a time of highly charged emotional response:
A functional neuroimaging (fMRI) study found evidence for attenuation of the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) signal in the amygdala and the posterior and ACC in response to the presentation of fearful faces, combined with a reduction in subjective anxiety
We talked about fearful faces and the awakening of the teenage brain to social scrutiny above.
Taken together, these results point to both an anxiolytic effect of CBD and a critical modulatory role of the ACC.
Anxiolytic means anti-anxiety.
This is brain science folks (just behind rocket science in some circles).
What’s very interesting is that CBD did not interfere with brain activity for other tasks.
This is very important and a big difference with THC which happens to affect other aspects of judgment and task proficiency.
In fact, CBD was shown to help offset these effects of THC on the brain.
We’re going to take one more detour that you’re probably not going to find anywhere on the map for teenage anxiety.
Like we said. this is personal for us!
It’s a part of the brain that’s typically tied to reward and motor systems.
It’s not usually part of the anxiety discussion.
That’s because so much of the anxiety discussion is about adults and it’s all treated as one thing.
The teenage brain is not the same!
Why even look at this part of the brain??
the co-occurrence of the adolescent striatal development with the peak vulnerability of adolescents to anxiety disorders might potentially reflect a causal relationship.
The study goes on to show how the striatum function and activity directly mirrors puberty and is tied to the rest of the anxiety ‘circuit”.
We bring this up as ONE example of a brain area that is “normalized” by CBD.
It actually came out of studies on psychosis (keep your jokes about teenagers to yourself).
CBD was shown to normalize key areas of the brain in pre-psychotic people via brain scans.
One of the three main areas… the striatum!
Look, teenage years are fraught anxiousness for most teens.
The goal is to address more serious or debilitating levels of it.
Since we’re talking about teenagers and developing brains….is CBD safe to use?
Is CBD safe for teenagers with anxiety
This is tricky. not because we see evidence of safety concerns in the 100’s of NIH studies on CBD that we’ve read.
The safety profile is very strong for CBD.
Especially compared to benzos and SSRIs, the first-line treatment offered to many teenagers.
Really understand the risk there (we found out the hard way) at CBD versus benzos or CBD versus SSRIs.
That being said, we have only seen a few studies with adolescents or teenagers specifically.
The FDA approval for pediatric epilepsy does provide a tremendous amount of longer-term data as kids go through puberty and that data has been positive in terms of safety profile.
How do we weigh the benefits of teenage anxiety with any unknown variables?
It comes down to this…
It looks at the safety and effectiveness of CBD and the benzo’s or SSRI’s (most popular classes of medications for anxiety).
As parents, we actually had to make this decision (Klonopin or Xanax versus CBD) ourselves.
That is what prompted us to learn everything we could about both for teenagers.
We spend about 2 hours a day research NIH studies on CBD.
Check out our article are whether there are any reasons NOT to take CBD here.
The safety profile of CBD is here.
The Anxiety meds article goes through safety for the common anxiety meds and our experience with those is what drove us to study and try CBD.
Do the research. Be your own advocate. Make an informed decision.
Also, we have a full review of CBD and child anxiety here.
Finally, we’re working on a full review of silexan, an extract from lavender which is showing effects on anxiety similar to benzos without the addiction and other issues. Very exciting. You can get it here.
Master overview of CBD and anxiety pathways to look at various aspects we can directly affect.
Links to CBD and anxiety research with dozens of anxiety-specific topics.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
Marijuana for Anxiety in Teens
As medical marijuana use has been growing in popularity, many wonder whether the drug is a potential alternative way of treating anxiety in teens
A majority of U.S. states have approved the use of medical marijuana for treating a few specific conditions. As governments become more permissive in allowing the use of medical marijuana, people have begun to wonder what mental health conditions the drug might alleviate. Many people use marijuana recreationally to “calm” their mind, but researchers warn against the long-term risks of prescribing medical marijuana to teenagers.
No parent wants to see their teen suffer from anxiety, and severe anxiety can have a negative impact on a teen’s school performance and their social life. Psychotherapy is generally recommended for treating anxiety in teens, and some young people also may benefit from anxiety medications. Often parents and teens may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information about anxiety medications on the Internet and beyond. As medical marijuana use has been growing in popularity, many wonder whether the drug is a potential alternative way of treating anxiety in teens. But researchers and doctors agree that the risks outweigh any potential benefits when it comes to marijuana and the adolescent brain.
What is medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana has only been approved by the FDA to treat a few medical issues, including nausea from chemotherapy and nerve pain. However, the FDA has not approved the use of medical marijuana for teenagers or children for any medical condition. These FDA-approved medications contain cannabinoid chemicals in the form of the pill. Cannabinoids are the chemicals found in marijuana, and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical responsible for affecting the body’s central nervous system. Some medical marijuana medications approved by the FDA contain synthetic THC.
There is also very little research about whether medical marijuana can effectively and safely treat mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression in teens or adults. Researchers know much more about the potential psychiatric risks of marijuana than its benefits. Studies show that some people who use marijuana can become dependent on it. Research has also found that 20% to 30% of people who recreationally use marijuana will experience severe anxiety and panic attacks. It is unclear whether marijuana can increase the risk of developing an anxiety disorder or whether people with anxiety simply are more likely to use marijuana. Studies have found, however, that people who begin to use marijuana in their early teen years are at increased risk of experiencing psychosis later in life.
Concerned your child is suffering from anxiety?
Take our 3-minute anxiety assessment to see if he or she could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.
What is CBD?
There is another chemical known as cannabidiol oil (CBD) that is being studied more by researchers, and there is a possibility that it can be used to treat various anxiety disorders. CBD is a type of cannabinoid, but CBD is different than medical marijuana because it does not contain THC and does not produce a “high.” Some states allow the use of CBD, and others do not. It comes in a variety of forms, including capsules, tinctures, or vape form. Scientists don’t totally understand how CBD affects the brain, but it is believed by some to have a positive effect on serotonin levels. CBD has been shown to reduce stress in various animal studies, and the scant human research has shown both positive and inconclusive effects. More human research is needed to determine how CBD could be useful in treating social anxiety, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders.
How could medical marijuana affect the teen brain?
Teen marijuana use is at its highest point in decades, with teens now more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco. Teens frequently subscribe to myths about marijuana use, believing that the drug won’t cause long-term damage or that it won’t affect their thinking. But the use of marijuana among teens can cause school problems, memory difficulty, accidents, aggression, and additional risky behaviors. Long-term use can cause breathing problems, decrease intelligence, increase the risk of additional mental health problems, and decrease the effectiveness of mental health medication.
The brain is developing until young people reach their mid-20s, so it’s important to consider how marijuana can affect the brain and the future or your teenager. One research study found that people who persistently used marijuana since their teenage years experienced a decline in neurological functioning and IQ. Marijuana use can affect the parts of the developing brain that control emotion, cognition, and responses to stress. Because THC potency in marijuana has increased in recent years, the risk of cognitive damage has risen as well.
Most evidence that medical marijuana can be used to treat teenagers is anecdotal in nature. Because no large-scale research has established that using medical marijuana to treat psychiatric conditions in children or teens is effective or safe, researchers still agree that the risks far outweigh any potential benefits.
What medications have been approved to treat anxiety in teenagers?
There are medications other than medical marijuana that have been approved by the FDA to treat anxiety-related disorders. When teens are prescribed medication to treat their anxiety, doctors typically begin by prescribing antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications are not habit-forming and have proven beneficial in treating various anxiety disorders among teens. SSRIs and SNRIs carry warnings that they may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, particularly among young people. Although the risk is low, communicate with your teen about side effects so that you will know if they are experiencing any suicidal thoughts. Sometimes benzodiazepines are prescribed to be taken as needed, but these medications can be habit-forming, so it’s important to talk to your child and their doctor about the risks and benefits.
How can I talk to my teen about marijuana and anxiety?
Permissive attitudes toward marijuana in many states may lead teens to believe that it is safe to use marijuana to “calm down.” If your teen has anxiety, it’s important to them to talk about how using marijuana can cause short-term and long-term problems. Share your concerns about their growing brain, and ask them what positive ideas they have about how they can manage their anxiety. You and your teen can reach out to their school counselor or their doctor for information about therapy and other treatment options.
It’s important to remember that just because medical marijuana is legal in many states does not mean that it is safe for your child’s growing mind or that it is effective in treating anxiety. Much research has yet to been done about the benefits and risks of medical marijuana in treating anxiety disorders. So don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s doctor about safe, effective options in treating their anxiety that also protect your teen’s mind and future.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This article mentions drugs that were FDA-approved and available at the time of publication and may not include all possible drug interactions or all FDA warnings or alerts. The author of this page explicitly does not endorse this drug or any specific treatment method. If you have health questions or concerns about interactions, please check with your physician or go to the FDA [link] site for a comprehensive list of warnings.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol. Available at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2015/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol. Accessed 08/16/18.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Marijuana and Teens. Available at: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Marijuana-and-Teens-106.aspx. Accessed 08/16/18.
Recent Patents on DNS Drug Discovery. Cannabinoid-related agents in the treatment of anxiety disorders: current knowledge and future perspectives. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691841/. Accessed 08/16/18.
National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. Marijuana. Available at: https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana. Accessed 08/16/18.
Journal of Psychopharmacology. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20829306. Accessed 08/16/18.
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