I haven't, but I've been one, though at an older age. The majority of teen angst isn't anxiety or depression, it's teen angst. For most people, youthful fears don't result in adult anxiety and depression. People in general are anxious about change, but that doesn't make it a serious mental problem, it makes them human. It's important to ascertain whether a problem is a chronic mental dysfunction or something that will pass with time and experience or is just a bad time -- and teenagers go through more bad periods faster than any other age. So if it's just angst, learning by doing is best; if it's truly an anxiety disorder, therapy is a good idea to prevent it from being a lifetime way of thinking. None of us on here can tell you which is the case with your niece.
Great topic! Near and dear to my personal life with my family.
Here's the thing that is really important regarding Anxiety. Everyone has anxiety at some point which is normal and nothing to be afraid of. While uncomfortable, it can't really hurt you. Being nervous before school starts is universal and to be expected. However, when anxiety moves into the area of clinical anxiety, there is a pattern to it with the most important part of an actual diagnosis being that it is frequent. Unrelenting for most who suffer clinical anxiety. There may be triggers that make it worse or resurface if it took a break for a while, but a key component in the criteria for clinical anxiety is that it is present every day for at least two weeks. Which is hard to live with and life changes can cause it to escalate.
I do have a son with general anxiety and social anxiety. He is always nervous about everything. I feel really bad for him. Because the normal nervousness that we feel is compounded exponentially for him. When he started a new school last year, he was a true wreck. He has sensory integration disorder as well so we were worried already about the transition. The weekend before school started, he was having fits, crying, wringing his hands over everything--- he was completely unreasonable about things. It is hard. But his nervous system was in overdrive.
It's always better once the event happens. We've also been talking about nervousness as something that is viewed as we are excited verses dreading something. Does that make sense? That the body is on alert because important and exciting things are happening . . . not because we are scared. Just a switch in mindset. It seems to help my son. There is a sports psychologist we follow and he talks about worry being something we have to acknowledge ( can't just say you shouldn't feel that way, it doesn't work)-- but to view your worries as an observer rather than being engrossed with it. He talks about the worry train. Each train car is a worry and you are at the cross stop and you are watching the worry cars on the train. You see them, one by one and know they are there but you watch them pass by. You don't top them and get on that worry car. You just let it go through. My son is a big train advocate so he likes this visual. :>) Knowing that it's okay to have the worry but don't get on the worry car and let it pass.
We also have worked very hard on breathing. He didn't buy into it for a long time. I had to keep going to it and practicing it with him. Because you read/hear over and over how breathing can help. So we have him do deep breathing to self soothe and calm through anxious moments. I had a proud mom moment when I saw him doing this all on his own (with no reminder to try it) the other day. He's FINALLY getting that. That's a big yay!
We still have a couple of weeks before school starts so I am not sure when this year will bring. We try to keep things light in the summer focused on letting go of stress for him. So, I feel for your niece purple and am just sharing some things that we do at our house to help an anxious student returning to school.
There are also a lot of great work books for teens with anxiety that I've found on ebay and amazon. They do them by themselves and they are given new perspectives on anxiety and worry as well as strategies of working through it. The anxiety work book for teens by Lisa Schab is an example.
If your niece is having spinning thoughts - like negative thoughts or worrying about the future, or even low self esteem, CBT therapy may help her. Its a type of therapy that be accomplished in 10 sessions and modifies your patterns of thinking. It can really change a life for the better and create optimistic outlooks. A good CBT therapist will have a PhD and charge around $200.00 per session. It is a lot of money, but if things continue or get worse it's always good to know what options are out there.
Thanks everyone for the feedback- very good information!