teen in hallway

7 Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling With Anxiety

Teenagers are notoriously unpredictable and moody. At this point in their lives they have a lot going on — academics, dating, peer pressure, after-school jobs, hormones, and beyond. Amid such a volatile mix, it can be easy to miss signs of distress. After all, anxiety is something that adults deal with. Kids have it easier, right?

Meanwhile, right under our noses, anxiety among teens is on the rise. As you read this, almost one-third of American adolescents have an anxiety disorder. When you factor in the number of teens who have not come forward to report their anxious thoughts, the number becomes staggering. A huge first step would be teaching parents to recognize the red flags. 

7 Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling With Anxiety

1. Academic Issues

teen in hallwayAnxiety can most often manifest in signs like lower grades, poor performance on tests, and a desire to skip school. This is a red flag — especially if your teen was previously thriving at school.

2. Withdrawal

Your teen may become too anxious to deal with other people. Thus, they begin avoiding social interactions and seem uninterested in activities they once loved. 

3. Negativity 

Listen carefully to how they talk about themselves. Are they slipping into patterns of negative self-talk? Also, are they often expecting the worst outcomes and needing regular reassurance? Do you notice sudden changes in their perspective?

4. Unexplained Physical Symptoms 

Any of the below signs not attributed to a specific cause may be anxiety-related: 


Regular fatigue

Sweating and trembling

Loss of appetite and no longer seeming interest in eating

Body aches and tension


5. Inability to Either Relax or Focus

Your teen may appear distracted, tense, and forgetful. Even when they try to take it easy, anxious teens find it difficult to relax and enjoy themselves. Anxiety makes it difficult to feel safe. 

6. Mood Swings

What to look for:

Angry outbursts

Chronic worrying

Easily startled

A steady sense of dread, like something bad is about to happen

Crying spells 

7. Risky Behaviors 

An anxious teen might seek out risky behaviors as a form of self-medication. This can take the form of substance abuse, criminal activities, driving dangerously, and having unsafe sex. 

Again, teen behavior can be tough to comprehend at times but noticing any of the above signs is most definitely worthy of your full attention.

A Few Steps to Help Your Teen Cope With Anxiety

Make yourself available to talk and make face-to-face communication a family priority. 

Stay aware of your teen’s actions and choices while resisting the urge to control them.

Help them to practice regular self-care — including healthy eating, daily exercise, steady sleep patterns, relaxation techniques, and taking regular tech breaks. 

Actively encourage them to choose face-to-face interactions whenever possible. Let them know that their friends are welcome in your home. 

In addition, be a role model. Your children watch what you do. So, lead by example but take care of yourself in all the ways you’re encouraging them to do. Show them what’s possible. 

Don’t Try to Handle Anxiety on Your Own

There’s so much a parent can do to help and you must commit to it. That said, your teen is a burgeoning adult, meaning:

They’ll need some independence when it comes to healing. 

No matter how helpful you are, a teen may also need an outside voice. 

The onus is on you to strike the healthiest balance and be ready to relinquish some responsibilities to a therapist. In such a setting, your teen can benefit from having a private connection with an adult who is not a parent or teacher. If you’d like to know more about how this works, I invite you to reach out and learn more about teen counseling.

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