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Is Your Teen Anxious?

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

By Catherine Karega | Updated March 6, 2023

<a href="https://storyset.com/people">People illustrations by Storyset</a>

Anxiety is a normal human reaction to stressful situations. It is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. Some young people experience anxiety that persists when there isn’t a stressful situation.

In some cases anxiety remains a general feeling of uneasiness. At other times, it develops into an anxiety disorder when one's ability to function in school, at home or at work is negatively impacted.

Causes of anxiety

There is not just one cause of anxiety in teens. Stress and overthinking are all common causes of anxiety in teens. These worries often typically center in the way their body looks and feels, social acceptance, and conflicts about independence.

Given the array of changes and uncertainties that characterize adolescence, feelings of being overwhelmed and fearfulness are common among teens.

For some teenagers, anxiety becomes chronic and interferes with their ability to attend school and to perform up to their academic potential. To add on, making and keeping friends, and maintaining a supportive and flexible relationship with family can become difficult.

When experiencing anxiety, adolescents;

  • May appear extremely shy

  • May avoid their usual activities or refuse to engage in new experiences

  • Protest whenever they are apart from their friends

  • May engage in risky behaviors, drug experimentation, or impulsive sexual behavior in an attempt to diminish or deny their fears

Anxiety in teens is not always a bad thing. It can help to keep teenagers by getting them to think about the situation they are in. It can also motivate them to do their best for instance when getting ready for challenging situations such as public speaking or sporting events.

Signs/ symptoms of anxiety in teens

Symptoms can include:

  • Worries

  • Feeling irritable/ nervous

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on edge

  • Being easily fatigued

  • Difficulty concentrating, and/or mind going blank

Physical symptoms include:

  • Sleep problems

  • Muscle tension

  • Headaches

  • Stomach aches and pain

Treatment for anxiety

Various therapeutic techniques can be used to alleviate anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy teaches anxious kids strategies of thinking differently about anxiety and responding to it differently when it occurs.

Psychotherapy also provides a collaborative opportunity for a client and the therapist to work together to identify specific concerns and develop concrete skills and techniques for coping with anxiety.

These approaches can be done in individual therapy and in group therapy.

Coping skills

Teens can decrease stress with the following behaviors and techniques

  • Exercise and eat regularly

  • Get enough sleep and have a good sleep routine

  • Rehearse and practice situations which cause stress

  • Learn practical coping skills for instance, break a large task into smaller more attainable tasks

  • Learn to feel good about doing a competent or “good enough” job rather than demanding perfection from yourself and others

  • Take a break from stressful situations. Activities like listening to music, talking to a friend, drawing, writing, or spending time with a pet can reduce stress

  • Decrease negative self- talk: challenge negative thoughts with alternative, neutral, or positive thoughts

How to respond to your teen feeling anxious

If your teenager is willing to talk about his fears and anxieties, listen carefully and respectfully. Without discounting their feelings, help them understand that increasing feelings of uneasiness about the changes they are experiencing are all natural parts of adolescence.

By tracing their anxiety to specific situations and experiences, you may help them reduce the overwhelming nature of their feelings.

If fear begins to take over your teen’s life and limits their activities or if it lasts over six months, seek professional advice from a therapist.


Sources

1. American Psychological Association. (2016, October 1). Beyond worry: How psychologists help with anxiety disorders. https://www.apa.org/topics/anxiety/disorders

2. Anxiety and Stress in Teens. (2021, April 12). Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/ACH-News/General-News/Anxiety-and-Stress-in-Teens

3. Miller, C. (2023, January 5). How Anxiety Affects Teenagers. Child Mind Institute. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://childmind.org/article/signs-of-anxiety-in-teenagers/

By Catherine Karega, MA Clinical Psychology


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