In the middle of a panic attack, teens may experience overwhelming physical sensations that make it difficult to breathe, let alone gather their thoughts and talk about their experiences. Sometimes anxious teens don’t want to talk about how they’re feeling because they worry their fears may sound irrational or their thoughts are racing so fast, it can be difficult to pinpoint what is really going on. Talk therapy is not always effective when teens are experiencing intense emotions or struggle with self-awareness. Mindfulness and movement can be valuable alternatives to talk therapy for anxious teens.
Difficulty Understanding Emotions
Many teens have a difficult time managing their emotions as it is hard to understand what they are feeling. Adolescence is a period of significant changes—physically, emotionally, socially, and neurologically. The brain develops at such a rapid pace that areas responsible for emotions are flooded with activity. When these areas are hyperactive, teens with anxiety often go into fight-or-flight mode, which makes it hard to connect with areas that help with reasoning and decision-making that are still developing.
When teens develop a larger emotional vocabulary, they are better able to articulate what they feel, explore possible causes, and accept their emotional experience for what it is. Accepting their feelings gives them more room to change how they feel than labeling these feelings as “bad” or “wrong.”
Listening to Somatic Experiences
Often, physical sensations of anxiety are so overwhelming that teens find it easier to name butterflies in their stomach than specific fears they may be worried about. Teens with anxiety may feel sick more often, even if there doesn’t seem to be a medical explanation for their ongoing symptoms.
Many teens believe that emotions and physical sensations are separate, but they tend to inform each other. Acknowledging this connection allows teens to try self-soothing techniques that take care of their physical body in order to manage anxious thoughts, which can be easier than identifying and challenging anxious beliefs.
The Value of Experiential Learning
Teens learn more from experience than they do from lectures. We believe that teens don’t need to talk about their feelings in order to effectively process them if they’re not ready, if they don’t want to, or if it doesn’t feel right.
Some alternates to Talk Therapy include:
- Journaling, which allows teens to explore their anxious thoughts without sharing them with others
- Drawing, which encourages teens to express their emotions without using words
- Practicing grounding meditation or doing a body scan to check in with physical anxiety
- Practicing yoga helps teens link movement with their breath
- Neurophysiological tools, like Brainspotting and Neurofeedback
- Equine Assisted Therapy helps address social anxiety
- Adventure activities and other physical activities help teens build confidence
Solstice East Can Help
Solstice East is a residential treatment center for young women ages 14-18 struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and addictive behaviors. This program focuses on helping young women heal, recover, and integrate healthy habits into their lives. Students will learn to build healthy relationships, cope with emotions, and effectively communicate. Solstice East gives young women the skills and confidence they need to lead happy and healthy lives. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 828-484-9946 to learn more about experiential therapy.