Anxiety is a normal part of life and can affect anyone. Sometimes, if anxiety becomes overwhelming and doesn’t go away, it can be a sign of a more serious anxiety disorder. However, with treatment and support from family and friends, anxiety can be managed.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the feeling you get when you feel tense, when you might breathe a little fast, when your heart starts to race, and when you’re worried about the situation you’re in or what might come next.
A bit of anxiety from time to time is normal, especially for teenagers. It can help with motivation around school, sport or work, and can help keep them out of danger. But if these anxious feelings don’t go away, they can interfere with concentrating at school, socialising with friends or enjoying life.
How does anxiety affect teenagers?
Anxiety disorders can be especially serious for young people, because they are still developing. If left untreated, anxiety disorders in teenagers can have long-term effects that can continue into adulthood. Signs of an anxiety disorder include:
- feeling constantly agitated, tense, or restless
- having physical signs, including sore muscles, a racing heart, sweating, headache, stomach aches or shortness of breath
- being sensitive to criticism or extremely self-conscious
- having unhelpful, irrational and negative thoughts
- always expecting the worst to happen
- avoiding difficult or new situations
- being withdrawn
- having trouble concentrating and starting or finishing schoolwork
- having trouble sleeping
Types of anxiety in teenagers
Not all teenagers will have the same symptoms. There are many different types of anxiety disorders that teenagers can experience, including:
- social phobia or social anxiety
- generalised anxiety disorder
- specific phobias
- panic disorder
- separation anxiety
By talking to a health professional, a treatment plan can be made to suit your specific condition, or your child’s.
Treating anxiety in teenagers
Anxiety treatments for teenage mental health can range from simple lifestyle changes to counselling techniques.
For people with mild-to-moderate anxiety, treatment might include:
- a healthy lifestyle – exercise, eat well, get enough sleep
- dealing with any issues causing anxiety, whether that be homework, relationships, sexuality or anything else
- reducing stress levels through mindfulness, meditation or relaxation
- using online forums such as ReachOut and Youth Beyond Blue
- using e-therapies such as the BRAVE self-help program
For more severe anxiety, treatments might include:
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: May 2020