Warning Signs of Anxiety in Teens

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All teenagers experience anxiety to varying degrees. It’s a normal human reaction to stress that everybody experiences. Adolescence is a period of so much change and important choices so it is no surprise that teenagers can experience heightened anxiety.

It can be more difficult to read the signs of an anxiety condition in teens because during the teen years, a certain degree of stress and struggle is expected. More often than not, red flags are overlooked and blamed on hormones. Most normal feelings of anxiety will only last for a few hours or a single day. Many teens experience heightened anxiety when faced with tasks such as exams, public speaking, sports competitions, social situations such as the school formal or parties.

However, when feelings of anxiety are intense, carry on for a prolonged time period and interfere with everyday life, they need to be treated seriously. Identifying anxiety conditions early leads to better treatment outcomes and can limit the impact it can have on development. When anxiety is interfering with your teen’s day to day life, this is when professional treatment is required.


Signs of Anxiety Conditions in Teens

Social Changes

Anxiety can have a negative impact on friendships. If a teen is suffering from an anxiety disorder they may:

  • Suddenly stop wanting to participate in their favourite activities

  • Avoid social settings and stop making plans with friends

  • Isolate themselves from their peers and family

  • Begin to spend more time alone

  • Have increased sensitivity to criticism

  • Expect the worst to happen

  • Avoid new or difficult situations

  • Have difficulty facing new challenges

  • Become withdrawn or shy


Emotional & Behavioural

Some teens express feelings characteristic of anxiety conditions while others may experience more subtle changes:

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Restlessness and tension

  • Irritability

  • Feeling ‘on edge’ and agitated

  • Unexplained emotional outbursts

  • Persistent worry that is out of proportion to the problem or situation

  • Inability to relax

  • Feeling that one must perform a particular action, such as place things in a certain order or repeat actions

  • Obsessive thoughts or images that he or she cannot get out of their mind

  • Forgetfulness, easily distracted


Physical

Teens who are experiencing high levels of anxiety may display these common psychosomatic symptoms:

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Unexplained aches and pains

  • Changes in appetite and eating habits

  • Feeling generally unwell

  • Gastrointestinal upset

  • Frequent headaches or migraines

  • Tense or sore muscles


They also may suffer from a variety of sleep disturbances including:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Difficulty staying asleep

  • Still feeling tired despite sleeping 8-10 hours

  • Nightmares


Panic Attacks

Not everyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder will experience panic attacks, though many do. Panic attacks are important to be taken seriously because they can escalate to cause overwhelming fear and avoidance in a person’s life. Some symptoms of panic attacks might include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

  • Impending sense of doom

  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Sweating

  • Trembling and shaking

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Dizziness


Poor School Performance

The physical effects of anxiety, such as tiredness and physical issues, can lead to missing school. When teens with anxiety disorders are at school they can have a hard time concentrating. For others, performance anxiety may impact their ability to excel at exams- despite studying. Watch out for:


  • An out of character decline in performance

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed

  • Missed assignments

  • Increased absences

  • Heightened anxiety around exam periods

  • Procrastination and avoidance


How You Can Help

While the impact of anxiety on an adolescent’s social life, school performance, family relationships and their health can be devastating, there are many effective strategies for overcoming anxiety. Anxiety is highly treatable, particularly if it is treated early. With treatment, most teens are able to learn how to manage their anxiety. If you suspect that your teen may be suffering from an anxiety condition, please contact us or speak to your GP.