Teens and Anxiety: 5 Things Parents Need to Know

During the teenage years, it’s all about growth, self-discovery, and navigating the ups and downs of life. But, for many adolescents, anxiety becomes a frequent companion, adding an extra layer of complexity to their journey.

The connection between teenagers and anxiety is intricate, sometimes not well-understood, and can be deeply woven into their lives. In today’s fast-paced, constantly connected world, understanding this essential relationship is vital for your child’s emotional and mental well-being.

In this blog, we’ll uncover five vital insights that every parent needs to know about teen anxiety. Each point will shed light on a different aspect of anxiety, helping you better comprehend what your teen is going through and how you can help.

  1. Understanding the True Nature of Anxiety

Going Beyond General Nervousness

Anxiety disorders in teenagers can often be mistaken for typical teenage nervousness, but it’s important to recognize the distinction. General nervousness, such as feeling butterflies before a big test or social event, is a normal part of adolescence. However, anxiety disorders take these feelings to an extreme level, resulting in constant, overwhelming worry, fear and over thinking.

Teens with anxiety disorders may experience physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and even panic attacks. These symptoms can severely interfere with their daily activities, including school, social interactions, and extracurricular activities.

What You Can Do:

  • Establish open lines of communication with your teen. Create a non-judgmental space where they can express themselves freely. Let them know that it’s okay to talk about their feelings and fears, and that you are here to listen. 
  • Be observant. Monitor for any sudden changes in behavior, such as avoiding social events, deteriorating academic performance, or unusual shifts in mood and energy. These could be signs that your teen is struggling with anxiety.

Identifying Types of Anxiety

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to anxiety, as there are different types of anxiety disorders that teens may experience. These include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and others. Understanding the specific type of anxiety your teen is dealing with is crucial for seeking targeted treatment.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, for example, is characterized by excessive worry and fear about everyday situations. Social Anxiety Disorder involves an intense fear of social situations and interactions. Panic Disorder brings about sudden and intense panic attacks.

What You Can Do:

  • Consult a therapist for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment options. They can help determine the specific type of anxiety your teen is facing.
  • Educate yourself about the specific type of anxiety disorder. Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the more effectively you can offer support.

2.The Alarming Rise in Teen Anxiety: Why Now?

The Influence of Social Media and Academic Pressure

In recent years, the landscape of adolescence has been reshaped by the digital age. While social media platforms allow teens to connect with their peers and the world, they also expose them to various stressors. Cyberbullying, body image issues, and the fear of missing out (FOMO) have become prevalent concerns among teens.

Additionally, the pressure to excel academically has reached new heights. Teens often find themselves juggling demanding coursework, extracurricular activities, and college aspirations. This quest for perfection can contribute to heightened stress levels.

What You Can Do:

  • Encourage digital detox periods to help your teen break away from the constant buzz of social media. Promote activities that foster face-to-face interactions, such as family game nights or outings.
  • Discuss academic pressures openly with your teen. Create a collaborative plan to manage schoolwork and other responsibilities effectively. Encourage them to seek help from teachers or tutors when needed, emphasizing that it’s okay to ask for support.

Pandemic-Induced Anxiety

The global pandemic has added a unique layer of stress to the lives of teenagers. The uncertainties surrounding health, virtual learning, and limited physical social interaction have taken a toll on their mental health.

What You Can Do:

  • Be empathetic and understanding about the challenges your teen faced due to the pandemic. Acknowledge any feelings that may come up for them. 
  • Celebrate New Opportunities: Encourage your teen to continue with in-person social interactions, school activities, and events. Celebrate these opportunities for growth and connection.

3. Recognizing the Signs: Emotional, Physical, and Behavioral Symptoms

Emotional and Physical Indicators

Anxiety often manifests as a combination of emotional and physical symptoms. Emotionally, your teen may experience constant worry, irritability, and restlessness. These emotional symptoms can be distressing and overwhelming for them.

Physically, anxiety can lead to a range of issues, including chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, and even gastrointestinal problems like stomachaches. These physical symptoms can be challenging for your teen to cope with.

What You Can Do:

  • Be vigilant and proactive when it comes to recognizing these symptoms in your teen. If you notice persistent emotional distress or physical complaints, consult a healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation.
  • Keep an open dialogue about their emotional and physical well-being. Sometimes, knowing that someone is listening and taking their concerns seriously can be comforting.

Behavioral Changes: More Than Just “Being a Teen”

It’s essential for parents to distinguish between typical teenage behavior and potential signs of an anxiety disorder. Withdrawal from activities, a decline in academic performance, or increased isolation can be significant red flags.

What You Can Do:

  • Encourage your teen to maintain a balanced life. Help them prioritize tasks and commitments, but also ensure they have time for relaxation and self-care.
  • Offer emotional support and constructive solutions when you notice behavioral changes. Instead of opting for consequences in response to declining grades or decreased participation in household chores, delve into the underlying reasons for these changes together.

4. Starting the Conversation: Tips on Discussing Anxiety

Choosing the Right Time and Place

Initiating a conversation about anxiety with your teen requires careful consideration of the setting and approach. Selecting the right time and place can significantly impact how receptive your teen is to the discussion.

What You Can Do:

  • Opt for a quiet, comfortable setting where you won’t be interrupted. Choose a time when both you and your teen can sit down and talk without distractions.
  • Use ‘I’ statements to express your concerns without making your teen feel defensive or accused. For instance, you can say, ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve been spending more time alone, and I’m concerned about how you’re feeling.”

5. When It’s Time to Seek Professional Help

Identifying the Right Time for Therapy

Recognizing when it’s time to seek professional help is crucial for supporting your teen’s mental health. If anxiety starts to interfere with daily life to the point of dysfunction, it’s a clear indicator that therapy may be necessary.

Therapists specializing in adolescent mental health can offer a range of treatments tailored to your teen’s unique needs. These may include talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and in some cases, medication prescribed by a psychiatrist.

What You Can Do:

  • Look for a qualified therapist who specializes in treating adolescents. Seek recommendations from your pediatrician, or people in your area. 
  • Be open to various treatment options, including therapy and, if deemed appropriate, medication. Collaborate with the therapist to determine the most effective approach for your teen’s well-being.


Teen anxiety is a challenge that requires understanding, effective communication, and consistent support. By recognizing the signs, offering guidance, and seeking professional help when needed, parents can help their teens effectively manage anxiety and develop crucial life skills. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this effort. Professionals who specialize in adolescent and family support can work together with you to create an environment where teens can grow, learn, and successfully overcome anxiety, leading to a healthier and happier future.

Hi, I’m Victoria! A mental health therapist in Jersey City, New Jersey and the owner of In-Balance Psychotherapy. I’ve spent 5+ years diving deep into this fascinating field, and my goal is to share my knowledge and insights with you! Feel free to connect with me on Instagram @inbalancepsychotherapy or drop me an email at victoria@in-balancepsych.com. If you’re located in NJ, FL, SC or VT and looking for a therapist- don’t hesitate to reach out!