Elk River Teen Treatment Program

Anxiety in Teens

How Parents can Identify Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

Anxiety in Teens: How Parents can Identify Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

April 29, 2020

In unpredictable situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone, including children and teens, can feel a little anxious. When will I return to school? When can I see my friends? Will I be able to attend college in the fall? Although anxiety is common during uncertain times, some children might need more help understanding and managing their worry.

Anxiety is a normal and universal human emotion that is triggered by unfamiliar or stressful situations, such as economic depressions, school shootings, and devastating natural disasters. During adolescence, anxiety is especially common as teenagers face new experiences, responsibilities, and changes at school and in life. Anxiety will dissipate for most teens when they overcome the stressful situation. But anxiety will overwhelm others, preventing them from participating in usual activities.

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. Understanding anxiety and how to identify common symptoms of anxiety can help you support and guide your child.

Anxiety Disorder in Teens

While anxiety is a normal part of life, anxiety disorders involve constant and intensifying worry.

An anxiety disorder is characterized by unreasonable and persistent worry that impedes daily activities, such as going to school, attending social functions, or talking to friends. The person is unable to recover from their anxiety even when the stressor is removed and avoids future encounters that might cause anxiety.

Teen Anxiety Statistics

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in children (6-17 years old). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that almost 1 in 3 adolescents (13-18 years old) have an anxiety disorder, and the prevalence of anxiety disorder diagnoses among children 6-17 years old increased 56% between 2003 and 2012. Rates of major depressive episode in the last year increased 52% 2005–2017 (from 8.7% to 13.2%) among adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Anxiety Symptoms in Teens

According to the NIH, people suffering from anxiety disorders present with several common signs and symptoms:

  • Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

If your child presents with these symptoms for at least 6 months, consider talking to a medical professional about anxiety disorders.

Helping Teens with Anxiety

You can do several things to help prevent your teen from feeling overwhelmed by anxiety.

  • Explain that anxiety is common among children and adults
    The mental health professionals at Elk River Treatment Program advise against telling your child that nothing is wrong. Assure them that everyone, including their classmates, friends, teachers, and parents, experiences anxiety from time to time.
  • Talk about stressors in their life
    Discuss issues causing stress in their life. Help them put their worries in perspective and normalize reasonable fears by empathizing with their feelings.
  • Set reasonable expectations
    High expectations can cause stress and anxiety for your child. Academic achievements are important, but children also need time to develop their mental and physical health through social interactions.
  • Reduce social media and phone use
    Talk about the harmful effects of social media and limit your family’s social media use to one to two hours a day, preferably only for set times and in common areas of the home.

Anxiety disorders are treatable with several different intervention options, including therapy and medication. If you feel that your child’s anxiety may require professional care, Elk River Treatment Program is here to help. Consultations with our experienced mental health counselors are a service we are honored to provide at no charge. Call us today at 866-906-TEEN.