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Parents must recognize the behaviors of adolescents in the face of this pandemic that could be decisive for their future.
/ A.M. Costa Rica wire services photo.

Published Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Isolation increases anxiety in teenagers, specialist says

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Social Security calls on health services, parents and adults in charge of teenagers to be on the lookout of their youth showing symptoms of severe anxiety due to confinement.

Adolescents need help in two basic aspects: first, to understand the risk of covid-19 disease to avoid contagion; second, to be aware of their mental health, Social Security said in its statement.

According to psychiatrist Marco Díaz, the teenagers' brains has not yet reached full maturity, so they are unable to measure the risk of some behaviors and believe they are invulnerable.

The irresponsible attitudes of adolescents toward covid-19 is a result from information communicated at the beginning of the pandemic when it was believed that the disease exclusively endangered elderly people. We now know the virus affects people of all ages with or without pre-existing health conditions.

"If parents do not respect or apply the health prevention measures, it is expected that young people will follow similar behavior," Díaz said.

Parents should instill in their children that physical and social distancing is an appropriate measure to decrease the spread of covid-19. The physical measure can be a stressful life experience for teenagers as it makes them feel disconnected from their friends, isolated and lonely, which could lead to stress and anxiety.

Lack of social activities with their friends represents a loss that can be similar to mourning, given the lack of direct contact with their peers, and can be experienced by teens as a "catastrophic" situation with consequences similar to trauma, experts said.

Mental health professionals have said that panic-related anxieties can be overwhelming and lead to major disorders in teens.

According to Social Security, the effect on mental health of people has already been measured in other countries. According to studies carried out in China, the psychological impact of the pandemic affected the infected population by 53.8 percent. Among them, they reported 16.5% experiencing severe depression, 28.8% experiencing moderate anxiety and 8.1% experiencing stress with moderate to severe levels.

The need for specialists treatment is manifested when the adolescent presents the following symptoms: difficulties in sleeping, severe restlessness, fears, they are unable to control, can not carrying out their daily activities, panic attacks in which they are short of breath and cannot calm down easily, crying crisis, among other disorders, Díaz said.

Despite the national covid-19 emergency, Social Security continues providing treatment to teens with severe symptoms of anxiety or depression and requires urgent attention.

Parents must recognize the behaviors of adolescents in the face of this pandemic that could be decisive for their future. Specialists offer the following advice to the parents or guardians of the teens, to reduce fears caused by the isolation:

• Explain to youth why joining in so-called “covid parties,” where the intention is to see who gets infected with the coronavirus is irresponsible rather than fun.

• Provide information on the virus from official sources, to stop the spread of rumors.

• Explain the risk of contagion for the teenager and their loved ones.

• Explain the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to avoid overweight and obesity problems.

• Help to achieve a balance between high levels of physical activity and exercise, low levels of sedentary behavior and adequate sleep hours.

• Encourage 30 minutes of daily physical activity at home to avoid complications of a sedentary lifestyle and improve physical and mental health.

• Practice exercises to strengthen muscles and bones, at least 3 times a week.

• Breaking prolonged sitting time as often as possible: for every hour of sitting, get up at least five minutes to change positions and get moving.

• Encourage a healthy sleeping habit of at least 8 hours per night.

• Organize the day with routine times for food, physical activity, chores, waking up, going to sleep, school tasks, recreation and virtual communication with family and friends.

Parents and caretakers must refocus their energies to help them think about the future, to avoid worries about what they have lost and find ways of making plans and setting goals when the pandemic ends.

What other recommendation would you give to teens to avoid being affected by the isolation measures?  We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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