Written by Madelyn Dominiski, LMSW, clinically reviewed by Jacqueline Mitchell, LMSW

Anxiety is extremely common in adolescents, impacting 31.9% of American teenagers. So, how can you best support your child who may be struggling with anxiety? 

First, you need to know how to identify the signs and symptoms. 

What comes to mind when you hear the word “anxiety?” Perhaps you think of a person biting their nails or someone with sweaty palms or someone avoiding situations. While these can certainly be indicators of anxiety, it can also manifest in other (sometimes more subtle) ways. 

Here are some other signs to look for:

Anxiety Sign #1: Changes in Mood

You may notice your teen is exhibiting a great deal of worry, nervousness, or increased irritability. You may also notice more frequent outbursts or increased sensitivity. 

Pay attention to changes in your child’s mood, especially if they show up consistently over a period of time.

Anxiety Sign #2: Changes in Concentration

Is your teen finding it difficult to concentrate on their homework, to focus during class, or even to sit still at the dinner table? 

Persistent worry can often make it difficult to focus on other tasks. Anxiety may also cause feelings of restlessness that can disrupt focus. 

Anxiety Sign #3: Social Changes

You may notice that your teen is withdrawing from social events with peers and/or family events. Maybe your teen spends less time with previously close friends and avoids leaving home or stays in their room for longer periods of time than normal. 

Social changes can look like canceling plans with friends, spending more time alone, or avoiding/dreading extracurricular activities. 

Anxiety Sign #4: Physical Symptoms

Anxiety comes with a variety of physical symptoms that can vary across individuals. 

Some may experience extreme fatigue, increased nausea, racing heart, trouble sleeping, restlessness, and changes in eating habits. While these physical symptoms may sometimes be attributed to typical adolescent behaviors, try to observe any trends that may coincide with these physical symptoms. 

Does your teen struggle to eat breakfast before going to school? Does your teen complain of feeling sick before tests or after spending time with friends? By recognizing these trends with anxiety symptoms within your adolescent, you can better understand what they’re experiencing and how anxiety is impacting their daily life. 

Anxiety Sign #5: Impaired School Performance

You may notice a change in your child’s grades. Your child could be generally scoring lower on tests, essays and other assignments. This can also look like school avoidance or refusal, which occurs when teens work to miss school, often due to school-related stressors. 

It is important to note that school refusal does not always mean that a child fears school itself, but that there may be an element of attending school that induces a stress response, such as encounters with a bully, a difficult subject, or academic pressure. 

My Teen is Showing Symptoms of Anxiety. Now What? 

If your adolescent is experiencing anxiety, it’s important to help them find the support they need. Therapy has been proven to help teens with anxiety disorders to identify triggers of their anxiety, develop coping skills, and practice communication skills. 

One of the most common approaches to treating anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which helps teens to identify negative thought patterns and reframe those thoughts, in order to change behaviors.

Another way to support your teen is to have open conversations with them and exhibit empathy. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes. What must it feel like to experience these symptoms? When talking to your teen about their anxiety, start by actively listening to their experience and offering validation toward their feelings. 

Avoid statements that question or deny your teen’s experience. These statements can undermine what your teen is going through. Remember that fostering trust is key to any conversation with adolescents about mental health. 

Helping to identify, create, and use coping skills can also help. Practicing breathing techniques together and encouraging grounding hobbies such as painting, crocheting, playing or listening to music, etc. can help your teen to build their toolbox of coping skills. Movement and fresh air can also help to relieve symptoms of anxiety. By incorporating family activities like going on family walks, hiking, or game nights can help you to support your teen while modeling coping skills yourself.

Supporting Your Teen in the Midst of Anxiety 

Anxiety in teens can sometimes be difficult to detect, but working to notice the signs and symptoms and trends can help you to identify your teen’s anxiety and ultimately help you to support them. 

Remember that anxiety is absolutely treatable and by leading with empathy and compassion, your child learns to cope with and mitigate their anxiety!

If you’re interested in learning more about how Backpack Healthcare can help your teen manage their anxiety, visit this page to get in touch. 


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