Everything You Need To Know About Teen Anxiety

Teenagers might struggle to express it, but they go through a lot of confusing and challenging emotional phases. With their ability for complex thought processes improving every day, they are learning more about themselves and the world. About the exciting and frightening aspects of life. In addition to all of this, they have to cope with the pressures of achieving academically and planning for their futures. Moreover, its important to them to be accepted socially and to have fun. It should come as no surprise that teen anxiety is quite common these days, and it is important that we understand where it comes from and how to treat it.

Teen Anxiety

Teenagers may begin to experience severe anxiety unlike anything they felt as children. Learning to cope with this anxiety is crucial if they want to enjoy their teenage years and grow into well-adapted adults.

What Is Anxiety?

Everyone in the world experiences anxiety. For some, it is an occasional buzz telling them that something might go wrong and that they should therefore take care. This sort of anxiety is not only a normal part of life, but it’s necessary if you want to achieve your goals. However, too much anxiety can become problematic and make it difficult to function.

What’s Normal?

The type of anxiety that reminds you that things might go wrong is normal. You may not like the feeling, but it motivates you to make sure you have done everything necessary. It also helps to prevent you from making dangerous mistakes. Many people feel a bit more anxiety than absolutely necessary, without it being a problem. It may cause them distress, but it does not get in the way of their day-to-day life.

How Much Anxiety Is Too Much?

Anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to affect your daily life. A person who is suffering from anxiety may spend more time than necessary focusing on small details, which can tire them out and make them feel distressed. Normal tasks can start to seem incredibly difficult or insurmountable. This may cause the person to procrastinate or avoid them entirely.

Causes of Anxiety in Teens

There are a number of causes of teen anxiety. Just before puberty, the thinking ability of children develops into a stage known by some as the formal operational stage. They become capable of abstract thought and develop the skill of conceptualizing difficult ideas. This leads to many discoveries that cause anxiety. For example, they begin to realize that adults don’t necessarily have the answers. They also become more self-aware and aware of the reality of death.

This kind of teen anxiety (or angst) is a common theme in literature and movies, and is recognizable to everyone who has gone through their teenage years. It can lead to self-discovery, but it can also cause despair and hopelessness.

In addition to teen angst, their academics along with the unsure future ahead of them leads to feelings of anxiety. They feel the need to get good results at school and to decide on a career, but they may not feel capable of achieving those things.

There is also the fact that their bodies are changing rapidly, and teens become very self-conscious about how they look. Any perceived faults or differences can become fixations which can add to teen anxiety.

Furthermore, teenagers experience many social pressures, and may feel humiliated when they are rejected or if they come up short. They spend a lot of time thinking about social situations, imagining what could go wrong. Teens tend to dwell on small mistakes which might embarrass them all over again.

Finally, they are also going through the process of finding out who they are. This includes what they like, and who they like. For LGBTQ teens and others who are different, this can lead to a lot of anxiety, including the anxiety that they may be “outed.”

Consequences of Teen Anxiety

Teen anxiety can lead to many difficulties and problems including self-destructiveness, addiction, academic issues, and additional mental health problems.

School Avoidance

Some teenagers start skipping school sometimes or avoid going altogether. This can be because of the anxiety associated with people and expectations at school. It could also be that the intensity of their anxiety makes them feel that they can’t manage school work or pressures.

Additional Mental Health Issues

Depression often accompanies anxiety, and one may lead to the other. For teens struggling with expectations over how they should look, or who have learned to cope by using fasting or food, eating disorders may become a problem. Excessive anxiety can lead to the feeling that things will never get better. Suicidal thoughts should be listened to and taken seriously.

Substance Abuse

Untreated anxiety can lead to substance abuse, as the teen starts self-medicating or self-soothing instead of using healthy coping mechanisms. They feel like they need to get rid of the difficult emotions, and end up using alcohol or drugs to try and get rid of them.

Symptoms of Anxiety

There are some common symptoms of teen anxiety you may be able to recognize.

How to Recognize Anxiety in Teenagers

Teenagers suffering from an anxiety disorder may show certain symptoms. Those suffering from social phobia may show a heightened sense of shyness. Others may be overly-vigilant and appear as if they feel unsafe. They may appear restless and fidgety, and portray a sense of general unease. Symptoms of teen anxiety include:

  • Feeling Jittery
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fear
  • Isolationism
  • Shame

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Teens suffering from anxiety may also experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue. They might blush and sweat when confronted with difficult situations or when socializing.

What Are Panic Attacks?

Some teens experience panic attacks as well. These are short but intense periods of fear or panic. Panic attacks include a combination of physical and mental symptoms. A panic attack presents as hyperventilating, cold sweats, dizziness, fear of imminent death, and terror that something terrible has happened or will happen. People suffering from a panic disorder often live in fear of the next panic attack.

Types of Teen Anxiety Disorders

There are a number of different teen anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the certainly the most common anxiety disorder. It is an excessive concern related to day-to-day activities and events, as well as a sense that something terrible may happen.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Teens suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder experience obsessive thoughts that something will go wrong. These are tempered by actions or rituals they feel compelled to do in order to prevent the obsessive thought from coming true.


Some individuals suffer from specific phobias, such as a fear of flying, heights, or spiders. They may live in fear of the object or situation, and adjust their lives to avoid it.

Social Phobia

Social phobia is the intense anxiety that accompanies social events. Teens may be excessively anxious about speaking in groups or attending parties and gatherings. They may blush and sweat and feel embarrassed about blushing and sweating.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur after someone has experienced a traumatic event or had a loved one who experienced a traumatic event. The nervous system continues to alert them of the threat, even long after the event has happened.

Which Anxiety Treatment Options are Available Today?

It is important that teen anxiety is taken seriously and that those suffering from it get treatment.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy gives teens the chance to share their anxieties and discover what caused them in the first place. They can learn to grow or get past them.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy uses rational thought processes to challenge the thoughts that cause anxiety. Over time, the rational response to irrational anxious thoughts becomes more natural.


Certain antidepressants can help teens struggling with anxiety. These are SSRIs and SNRIs that increase serotonin in the brain, which leads to better mood and lessened anxiety.

Alternative Treatments

Some alternative treatments include online therapy, which may help teens who feel more comfortable to share from their own home. It is also important that they make lifestyle improvements, such as improving their diets and getting regular exercise.

No matter what, it is important that they get treatment, so that they can learn to manage their anxiety.

Get Help For Teen Anxiety!

Get help for teen anxiety now. Whether through medication, therapy, or both. It is crucial that teens suffering from anxiety disorders get treatment and are given space to explore their feelings.

author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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