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Recognizing Anxiety in Teens

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 30% of teens ages 13 to 18 experience anxiety disorders. While it’s normal for most teens to feel stressed or overwhelmed at times, anxiety can cause physical, emotional, and behavior symptoms beyond that of day-to-day stress. Knowing how to recognize anxiety symptoms in teens can help you determine the best course of action to help keep your teen happy and healthy.

Physical Signs of Anxiety

Physical signs of anxiety can often be the easiest to recognize. They include:

  • Restlessness, fidgeting or an inability to sit still
  • Tensed muscles
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches, body aches or unexplained pain
  • Constantly feeling fatigued
  • Unusual sweating or shaking
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Increased heart rate
  • Frequent urination

Emotional Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety can also cause changes in emotion. Although these signs aren’t often visibly noticeable, keeping an open line of communication can help you determine whether your teen experiences them. Emotional signs of anxiety include:

  • Feeling unable to control feelings of stress or worry
  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed or on-edge
  • Difficulty concentrating on day-to-day tasks
  • Worrying about things beyond their control or things far off in the future
  • Crying easily or often
  • Being afraid of making mistakes or of not being “good enough”
  • Worrying about peers finding out about their anxiety, not feeling comfortable talking about it with others

Behavioral Signs of Anxiety

In addition to physical and emotional changes, anxiety can cause changes in behavior too. Behavioral signs of anxiety include:

  • Increased irritability or unusual outbursts
  • Withdrawing from activities and social gatherings
  • A need for constant approval from peers, parents, and teachers
  • Obsessively washing hands, tapping feet, picking lips, or other compulsive behaviors
  • Trouble separating from parents
  • Decreased performance at school

Poor School Performance

Anxiety and school performance often go hand-in-hand. Teens who experience anxiety often experience challenges in performing well at school. Teens with anxiety disorders often have the following symptoms:

  • Trouble working with or alongside others
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed from homework, projects or overall workload
  • Extreme test anxiety

In some cases, they may want to avoid going to school or participating in class altogether. These symptoms can all contribute to lower grades and poor school performance.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are a symptom of anxiety disorders that can be characterized as a sudden wave of intense anxiety, apprehension, dread or fear. Panic attacks can involve the following accompanying physical symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Rapid or racing heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeling like they are dying or “going crazy”
  • Tingling in arms and legs
  • Feeling numb

Although not all teens with anxiety experience a panic attack, some can experience mild versions of one. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of panic attacks can help you have a better understanding of what your teen may be experiencing. If you think your teen, or a teen you know, experiences anxiety symptoms, Next Generation Village offers acute and outpatient programs for teens with anxiety disorders. Anxiety is treatable, and most teens can learn to manage and cope with their anxiety effectively.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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