Anxiety affects approximately one in three American teens, with more than eight percent experiencing severe impairment in daily functioning. But according to a new review published in The Nurse Practitioner, mind-body therapies, such as mindfulness, yoga and hypnosis, can play a vital role in reducing the very common problem of adolescent anxiety.

“Mind-body therapies encompass self-regulation and positive thinking…to help promote self-control, physical health, and emotional well-being,” write Bernadette Fulweiler RN, MSN, CPNP-PC, and Rita Marie John DNP, EdD, CPNP-PC, DCC, of Columbia University School of Nursing, New York.

“A growing body of evidence supports the implementation of mind-body therapy as a low-risk and cost-effective strategy in the management of anxious teenagers.”

The researchers also emphasize the role of pediatric nurse practitioners (NPs) in integrating screening and treatment for adolescents with anxiety. NPs can screen young patients for anxiety at every health visit and help create a personalized plan to treat it.

And while NPs are often highly supportive of alternative medicine practices, they need ongoing education regarding the benefits and methods of integrating mind-body medicine into patient care, according to the researchers.

“Whereas anxiety and fear are typical reactions to the academic, social, and developmental challenges common during the adolescent years, clinical or pathological anxiety is excessive, persistent, and disruptive,” according to the authors.

So while anxiety is often situational and temporary, many teens develop chronic anxiety lasting six months or longer.

But the recommended treatments for adolescent anxiety — cognitive behavioral therapy and/or antidepressant medications — have important limitations. They are expensive, often difficult to obtain, and in the case of antidepressants, can have side effects. In fact, research shows that most teens with mental health disorders, especially anxiety, do not receive any form of mental health care.

For the study, the researchers reviewed and analyzed published research on mind-body therapy for anxiety in teens, focusing on four approaches: mindfulness, yoga, hypnosis and biofeedback.

Mindfulness techniques involve aspects of meditation, body scanning, and mindful breathing to help focus attention on the present moment and separate from negative thoughts. Six studies showed positive effects of mindfulness approaches for teens with anxiety, including school-based programs in high-risk populations.

Yoga is one of the most popular mind-body therapies, with positive physical and mental effects including reduced anxiety. The researchers cite five studies, including four randomized trials, reporting positive effects of yoga in school settings.

Hypnosis involves using imagery and relaxation techniques to help control stress responses. The review identified three studies of hypnosis techniques to lower stress in adolescents, including a tele-hypnosis intervention to reduce anxiety-related absences in high school students.

Biofeedback involves becoming mindful of your body’s involuntary reactions (such as the feeling of anxiety arising in the body) through electrodes attached to the skin. Then through the power of your mind, you can gain more control over such reactions. The review identified four studies of biofeedback approaches, showing significant reductions in anxiety and stress in teens receiving heart-rate variability (HRV) monitoring and video game-based biofeedback.

The researchers conclude by saying that mind-body therapies can help to meet the “dire need” for affordable and accessible mental health strategies in pediatric primary care.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health