Anxiety in teenagers: how you can help
Written by Babylon Team
, 4 min read
With teenagers, it can often be difficult to know what they’re feeling. They may spend most of their time with friends, at jobs, in school, and with sports and activities. At home, they may prefer to be alone or keep their earbuds in. As a parent, you know when something seems off, or your teen may confide in you that they’re feeling anxious. It’s common for teens to experience anxiety, and there’s no shame in seeking help.
What causes anxiety?
A lot of things! Anxiety is more common in girls than boys. Life events or trauma can be contributing factors as well as family history. On top of that, all teens are facing the pressures of the modern world. High expectations and pressure to succeed are taking their toll. News of violent events and social unrest bombard young people daily whilst social media is constantly challenging their self-esteem.
What symptoms should I watch for?
It’s normal to have anxious feelings in stressful situations. Intense anxiety that interferes with daily life could be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can look different in each individual. You might notice several of these signs:
- Recurring fears and worries
- Changes in behavior like irritability or shyness
- Avoiding activities or being uneasy in social interactions
- Declining grades or school attendance
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Substance abuse or risky behaviors
- Complaints of fatigue, headaches or stomache aches1
- Eating disorders2
- Episodes of blotching skin, feeling flushed or sweating, hyperventilating, trembling or startling easily2
- Suicidal feelings or self-harming behaviors
- Frequent periods of crying3
How is anxiety diagnosed?
If your teen is showing signs of anxiety, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your pediatrician will ask about your teen’s physical symptoms, mood, behavior and activities. They’ll also want to know about what’s going on at home, at school and in their other activities. Your pediatrician may refer your teen to a mental health professional as needed for further evaluation.1
Are there different kinds of anxiety disorders?
There are several types of anxiety disorders, including:3
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety
A mental health professional can make a specific diagnosis for your child.
What is a panic attack?
A panic attack is an abrupt episode of severe anxiety with emotional and physical symptoms. Feelings may include fear, discomfort or sensations of unreality. Physical symptoms may include shortness of breath, sweating, choking, chest pains, nausea, dizziness and numbness or tingling in hands or feet.
How is anxiety treated?
Anxiety is highly treatable.3 Treatment can include professional counseling, medicine and education about anxiety. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help a teen understand their anxiety and develop strategies to address it.2 Parents and the school may be included in this process.4 For severe symptoms, anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed.2 If your teen is suicidal or is seriously depressed, hospitalization may be necessary.2
How can I help my teen?
At home, help your teen get regular exercise, eat healthy foods and get enough sleep. Manage caffeine intake and set healthy limits on technology use.
Listen to your teen without discounting their feelings.2 You can help your teen take on new challenges, build coping strategies, and learn resiliency skills.1 Reassure them that they can learn techniques to deal with their anxiety.2 Encourage your teen by reminding them of the times they were able to overcome their fears.
Help teens understand that what they may see on social media is often unrealistic. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some helpful tips for discussing electronic media with your teen.
If you have concerns, make an appointment today.
Parenting a teen is an around-the-clock job, and Babylon Health is here for you 24/7. To book an appointment, download the Babylon Health app. If you are worried about your team harming themselves or others, seek emergency medical care.
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1. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Anxiety in Teens is Rising: What’s Going On?” https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx. Accessed July 13, 2022.
2. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. “Your Adolescent – Anxiety and Avoidant Disorders.” https://www.aacap.org/aacap/Families_and_Youth/Resource_Centers/Anxiety_Disorder_Resource_Center/Your_Adolescent_Anxiety_and_Avoidant_Disorders.aspx. Accessed July 13, 2022.
3. Alice E. Schulger. Help Guide. “Anxiety in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide.” https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/anxiety-in-children-and-teens.htm. Accessed July 13, 2022.
4. CDC. “Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts.” https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html. Last reviewed April 13, 2022.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.