Signs, Symptoms, and Effects of Teen Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety

Learn More About Anxiety

Being a teen in today’s world is not easy. In addition to pressure from one’s parents or guardians, young people often struggle with the expectations of their teachers, peers, and society as well. Adolescence, in general, is known to include a bit of emotional upheaval from time to time, though some young people struggle with more emotional pain than others.

Anxiety disorders, which are known to cause a great deal of strife when left untreated, impact the lives of numerous teens all across the United States. This type of mental disorder can ultimately thwart a youth’s academic endeavors, relationships with peers, and other pursuits that allow a teen to achieve to his or her highest potential. For this reason, it is important for a young person to receive appropriate treatment is any of the following anxiety disorders are impacting his or her life:

Separation anxiety disorder is an appropriate diagnosis for a teen who is unable to function when not near or around his or her caregiver or other close loved one. In the absence of this important person, the youth may become overly emotional and be unable to cope with such a change.

Social anxiety disorder happens when a teen is afraid or worried about situations in which he or she feels that he or she will be judged by others. Even if the satiation does not include scrutiny of any kind, a teen will still feel as though others are passing judgement on him or her.

Specific phobia is diagnosed in teens who experience overwhelming fear or worry about a specific trigger. Examples of such triggers can include spiders, blood, heights, and the like.

Agoraphobia may be an appropriate diagnosis for a youth who is overly apprehensive about situations in which he or she feels like he or she will be trapped with no means of escape.

Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed when a teen is overly anxious without an identifiable thing or situation to cause the worry. For a youth with this illness, it can feel like nothing can be done to alleviate the stress brought on by these feelings.

Panic disorder can include unexpected or expected panic attacks that can cause a teen to feel as though he or she cannot breathe, is dying, or is consumed with trepidation. Young people with this disorder frequently go to great lengths to avoid having another panic attack, which can adversely impact their ability to carry out tasks on a day-to-day basis.

Cornerstone to an anxiety disorder diagnosis is the impact that symptoms have on a teen’s functioning. If any of the conditions are impacting a youth’s life, the young person will likely be unable to cope with his or her fear, worry, and/or apprehensiveness in a healthy manner. Given this fact, it is important for teens to be afforded with the care they need to manage then anxiety disorder symptoms.


Statistics of Anxiety in Teens

The American Psychiatric Association, or APA, has concluded that the most common anxiety disorder impacting people today is specific phobia. Furthermore, the APA has also gone on record saying that social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder are the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders treated in treatment settings. The Anxiety and Depressions Association of America, or ADAA, has reported that anxiety disorders are the most frequently diagnosed mental disorders in the United States, with as many as 40 million Americans, including teens, being affected by these illnesses.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Teens with Anxiety

A great deal of research has to been done to understand why and how a teen comes to struggle with anxiety while other young people do not. Among the most commonly cited causes, one’s genetics and environment are believed to either increase or decrease a young person’s chances of developing an anxiety disorder. Additionally, researchers have concluded that certain other risk factors can trigger anxiety disorder symptoms to manifest in teens as well. Please consider the following:

Genetic: Mental illness is known to be heritable. Therefore, if a teen has a close relative who has also struggled with anxiety, there is an increased risk that he or she will also face similar challenges. Furthermore, if a youth inherits specific personality traits, which are also known to be passed down from one’s biological parents, the chances that an anxiety disorder will impact his or her life are high.

Environmental: In addition to one’s genetics, the environment in which a teen spends most of his or her time can affect the onset of anxiety symptoms. For example, if a youth resides in particularly stressful home environment, it is possible that that stress can cause a young person to eventually experience symptoms synonymous with anxiety. Additionally, exposure to adverse events can also make a teen vulnerable to suffering from an anxiety disorder. Trauma, abuse, and violence in the community can all lead to the manifestation of anxiety in a teen, especially if the youth lacks proper support and coping skills.     

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions
  • Experiencing overwhelmingly stressful life events
  • Lacking healthy coping mechanisms
  • Having an inadequate support system
  • Gender (females are more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders than males)
  • Personal history of trauma

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Anxiety

The symptoms of an anxiety disorder that are present are dependent upon the type of disorder that is affecting a teen. In order for parents and guardians, or another important person in a youth’s life, to know if an anxiety disorder is occurring, it is important to note the presence of any of the following signs of anxiety:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • No longer participating in things that were once enjoyed
  • Refusing to leave one’s home
  • Avoiding particular places, people, or things due to worry or fear
  • Difficulty adhering to daily responsibilities
  • Refusing to be away from one’s caretakers
  • Restlessness

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep disruption
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Stomachaches
  • Pounding heart
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suicidal ideation
  • Paranoia
  • Derealization
  • Depersonalization
  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty forming clear thoughts
  • Experiencing racing thoughts
  • Nightmares

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Helplessness
  • Uncontrolled worry
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of fear
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness


Effects of Teen Anxiety

Unfortunately, the longer anxiety disorder symptoms remain untreated, the more likely a teen is to experience adverse effects in several areas of his or her life. So as to avoid the below listed detriments, it is imperative that effective and appropriate care be sought as soon as possible to help a young person learn to manage his or her condition:

  • Inability to form healthy peer relationships
  • Substance abuse
  • Decline in physical health
  • Self-harm
  • Academic failure
  • Demise of meaningful relationships
  • Worsening anxiety symptoms
  • Social isolation
  • Need for hospitalization
  • Suicide attempts
  • Development of other mental health issues

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders & the Complexity of Teen Anxiety

Some teens have a genetic predisposition to certain co-occurring disorders, while others may develop additional mental health concerns when an anxiety disorder remains untreated. Among the types of co-occurring mental health conditions that a teen can struggle with at the same time as an anxiety disorder, the following are those that many young people struggle with at the same time as anxiety:

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Impulse-control disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Our Client Experience

My anxiety got to the point where I was unable to function properly in public settings. Fortunately, Greenleaf was the best treatment option available near me so I was able to not only get treatment for my anxiety, but also overcome it.

– April S.
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