I distinctly remember getting frequent stomach aches as a young teen. The only explanation I can think of is that we moved from one house to another, and while we stayed in the same town, I was switched to another school where I didn’t know a soul. I was absolutely terrified but couldn’t identify the root of the problem. I remember having difficulty going to sleep-overs and even to my grandparents’ house. I didn’t feel safe anywhere except at home.
I had terrible trouble sleeping the summer before starting at my new school and could not fall asleep unless my mother was in the room with me. I had convinced myself I would be killed in my sleep unless someone was there to protect me. Back in the late ‘60’s, anxiety wasn’t discussed, not to mention depression or most other psychological conditions. In those days, anxiety wasn’t a “thing.” Today it seems to be everywhere, especially among teens.
The average onset of anxiety is age eleven…which is right about when I began to struggle. I’ve personally dealt with it on and off for decades—mostly off until three years ago when it descended with full force. During this time, my daughter was about to have her third baby, we put my mom in hospice, and put our house on the market. It makes sense now but at the time I couldn’t figure out what on earth was going on. I had always been the one able to get over any difficulties and make life work…until I couldn’t.
As a young teen, no one gave me a chance to talk about my feelings. At that time we were expected to suck it up and get over it, but you don’t just “get over” anxiety. You endure it, or you medicate it, or you fight it, but getting over it takes some work.
Life for a teen girl in 2019 is quite different than when I was growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. We had the usual teen temptations of drugs and sex, but not the bombardment of social media and the endless images flooding our minds the way teens do today. Add in the apparent epidemics of cyber-bullying, body shaming, self-harm, and teen suicide and you have a recipe for anxiety.
The one thing I want to make clear about anxiety is this: it’s not a sin.
Even when anxiety rears its ugly head we can be sure the God we serve is good. He’s a God who cares and who knows exactly what your teen is dealing with. It’s not all in their head! It’s a real emotion with real consequences if left unchecked.
One-third of teens will deal with an anxiety disorder by age 18. Sobering statistics, right? According to the National Institute of Mental Health 38% of teen girls have anxiety compared to 26% of boys. And the Anxiety and Depression Association of America shares yet another sad statistic: two thirds of anti-depressants prescribed and ninety percent of hospital stays for teen girls are for eating disorders.
I’m convinced social media plays a huge part.
Instagram and Facebook allow us to curate what might be interpreted as “the perfect life.” We can edit our photos to make us look better, thinner, or taller and it’s easy to define our worth by how many “likes” we receive on our posts. Social media fosters comparison and competition and causes many girls to become far too conscious of their appearance. Body insecurity is real and social media magnifies it.
Depending on the severity of your teen’s anxiety level, don’t hesitate to get counseling or use medication. But in addition, make a plan to battle the enemy with God’s Word. There’s lots of talk about anxiety in the Bible and many powerful scriptures we can pray.
The Word of God is our most effective weapon against anything the world throws our way and the bible talks about anxiety numerous times. Please understand, God isn’t surprised by it!
I see evidence of anxiety and depression all through scripture.
- Psalm 94:19 says, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comfort delights my soul.”
- Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;”
- Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”
- Psalm 22:1-2 says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O my God I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.”
- Psalm 69:1-3 says, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.”
Anxiety is no surprise to God, it’s part of the human condition, but as with all things He gives us the antidote: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3).
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
- Pray for your child! Ask the Lord to clearly show you what’s going on and how best you can help. Remind your girl who she is in Christ: beautiful, chosen, His bride, fearfully and wonderfully made, etc.
- Let your teen girl know that her negative thoughts can turn into negative feelings which can migrate into negative actions.
- When she expresses negative statements about herself, challenge her to tell you how it’s true. Help her look honestly at the truth of who God says she is, not what her wrong thinking may be telling her.
- Listen to her without judgment. Let her know you sympathize with what she’s feeling and that her feelings are valid even if they don’t reflect God’s reality.
- Help her come up with a personal manifesto and commit to believe what God says about her, His truth written in His word, and that His plans for her are always good!
SOMETHING TO PRAY
Father God, help me show my daughter just how much You love her and exactly how You see her. Help me to remind her she is Your masterpiece, made for such a time as this. When she speaks negative words, help me respond with truth, love, understanding and grace.
Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship (Masterpiece!) created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Kate Battistelli is a wife, mom, grandmother, writer, speaker and mentor who loves to cook! She’s married to Mike, her best friend, mom to Grammy-winning recording artist Franccesca Battistelli, and Mimi to Franny’s four children. Kate is the author of The God Dare: Will You Choose to Believe the Impossible? Find out more about her fun and inspiring life chasing her own God dares at www.katebattistelli.com