Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry


Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

Contrary to popular belief, anxiety is actually pretty normal during adolescent and teenage years, for this period serves to be the most stressful stage in a person’s life. This is understandable for these years tend to be the most explorative and confusing years in one’s life. Normally, anxiety serves as a coping mechanism stimulated by the brain to deal with feelings of uneasiness during stressful situations. For most people, it is a normal phase that will dissipate over time on its own. However, some people experience severe anxiety which can negatively impact his or her life; symptoms start to hinder these people from socializing and participating in various activities. Overwhelming feelings of anxiety will then start to develop into worse conditions giving light to anxiety disorder, depression, or even phobias.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, almost 25% of teenagers, aging from 13 to 18 years old, have an anxiety disorder; while, 6% have a more severe anxiety disorder. This is a pretty hefty percentage rate, which should be given attention to by parents or other parental figures, for this can heavily affect a young person’s mental health as he or she grows. Unfortunately, symptoms of anxiety disorder can be very difficult to spot especially on teenagers. Oftentimes, signs and symptoms are mistaken to be brought upon by hormonal changes. Luckily, there are tell-tale signs that you can watch out for.

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

Mental Changes

People with anxiety disorder often manifest personality changes. Aside from extreme feelings of nervousness, dread, and worry, individuals will tend to display the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Extreme fear
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Unexplained outbursts  

Social Changes

Anxiety can also relatively affect your teen’s relationship with others. If your teen starts to act detached from family or friends, there is a problem. Observe for other signs such as:

  • Isolation
  • Avoiding participation even in favorite activities
  • Detachment from friends or even family
  • Frequent refusal to go out

Physical Changes

Aside from a change in mental state, anxiety disorder can manifest itself in various physical conditions as well. Most of the time, these symptoms are dismissed as complaints but pay attention to the frequency or pattern. The following are red flags that you have to watch out for:

  • Frequent headaches or migraines
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Complaints about not feeling even without medical issues

Other Symptoms

In severe cases, symptoms can become extremely obvious which will be manifested through sleep disturbances, insomnia, and panic attacks. Oftentimes, parents dismiss panic attacks as tantrums or unreasonable outbursts. But, panic attacks are distinguishable by the following signs:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sweating or cold sweats
  • Upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness in arms and legs
  • Tingling sensation in muscles
  • Difficulty breathing

Other Disorders Related to Anxiety

Aside from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), your teen can suffer from other mental health issues that can develop when his or her condition is left unchecked.

Separation Anxiety

This is a condition wherein a person feels scared of being separated from home or figures with major attachments. It might seem like a non-threatening condition, but it can lead to severe anxiety and even depression. It is often manifested through unwillingness to separate from certain people or leave home. This will lead your teen to further isolate himself or herself from other people. Separation anxiety also has a tendency to amplify feelings of insecurity and loneliness.

Panic Disorder

In extreme cases, panic attacks can become recurrent. In a way, anxiousness regarding panic attacks will start to trigger more panic attacks; this may even lead to physical or psychological harm. This will also develop unwillingness to socialize and engage or participate in activities due to fear of anxiety attacks.  When left untreated, panic disorders can lead to agoraphobia.

Social Phobia

As the name entails, this is the development of fear in associating and mingling with others. It also includes fear of embarrassment and humiliation in social situations. In severe cases, the person may find it difficult to execute normal day-to-day activities due to fear of socializing.

Effects of Anxiety on Teens

Anxiety disorder and other disorders associated to it are manageable by therapeutic approaches. However, these concerns have a long term effect on teens if left unchecked. It can significantly impair a person’s daily life. Effects of anxiety disorder include the following:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Poor academic performance
  • Frequent absences in school
  • Dropping out of school
  • Low self-esteem
  • Substance use and abuse
  • Alcoholism
  • Misdemeanors or committing of petty crimes
  • Persistence of anxiety disorder in adulthood

What can you do?

If you have observed that your teen display most of the signs and symptoms listed above, you can opt to ask for professional help. Aside from this, you can help in simple ways such as giving support. You can also encourage your teen to participate in activities or social gatherings. Friends can also play a big part in treating anxiety disorders; encourage your teen to make friends. Last but definitely the most important, you should spare some time to lend an ear to your teen. In most cases, anxiety disorder is caused by extreme worrying over circumstances that he or she is experiencing. Proper guidance and support can considerably help him or her.



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