What Does Anxiety in Teens Look Like?

teenager with head in handsAnxiety comes in many forms, especially in teens. Anxiety in teens looks different because teens haven’t developed adult coping mechanisms to tough emotions. Their brain chemistry also hasn’t fully developed. Because teens haven’t developed these coping skills, they might not understand what they’re experiencing.

Because teens might have a troubling experience with anxiety, it’s crucial for adults to help them identify with their anxiety symptoms and develop a treatment plan. This article discusses the many signs of teen anxiety, how to spot them, and options such as considering a residential treatment center for teens.

Use this as a guide to bring up difficult conversations with your child about mental health. Having an open, accepting environment is one of the most crucial elements for teens struggling with mental health issues.

Physical Signs of Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety differently. That’s why you need to be on the lookout for the following physical symptoms in your child or teen:

  • Often complains of headaches or stomachaches, with no medical reason
  • Refuses to eat in the school cafeteria or other public places
  • The child or teen changes eating habits suddenly
  • Won’t use restrooms away from home
  • Gets restless, fidgety, hyperactive, or distracted (but doesn’t necessarily have ADHD)
  • Starts to shake or sweat in intimidating situations
  • Constantly tenses muscles
  • Has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep

These physical symptoms can be signs of any anxiety disorder including generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Emotional Signs of Anxiety

Emotional signs of anxiety can be more challenging to identify in your teen since your teen can conceal them more easily. The following symptoms are the emotional symptoms of anxiety:

  • Cries often
  • Becomes cranky or angry for no clear reason
  • Is afraid of making even minor mistakes
  • Has extreme test anxiety
  • Doubts their skills and abilities, even when there’s no reason to
  • Can’t handle any criticism, no matter how constructive
  • Has panic attacks (or is afraid of having panic attacks)
  • Has pressing fears or phobias
  • Worries about things way off in the future
  • Often has nightmares about losing a parent or loved one
  • Has obsessive thoughts or worries about bad things happening or upsetting topics

Many of the symptoms of anxiety can also be symptoms of depression. You should be on the lookout for these symptoms if you’re concerned about your teen.

Behavioral Signs of Anxiety

Behavioral signs of anxiety can also be discreet and under-the-radar, similar to emotional signs of anxiety. Since anyone can experience most of these symptoms from time to time, it’s important to consult with a physician about the symptoms you notice in your teens to determine the next steps for your treatment.

  • Avoids participating in-class activities
  • Stays silent or preoccupied when expected to work with others
  • Refuses to go to school or do schoolwork
  • Avoids social situations with peers
  • Refuses to speak to peers or strangers in stores, restaurants, etc.
  • Becomes emotional or angry when separating from family or loved ones
  • Begins to have explosive outbursts
  • Starts withdrawing from activities
  • Constantly seeks approval from parents, teachers, and friends
  • Has compulsive behaviors, like frequent handwashing or arranging things

The treatment a doctor recommends will depend on your teens’ anxiety symptoms.

Declining Academic Performance

You may be tempted to blame your child for their declining academic performance. However, mental conditions, more often than effort, are teens’ cause for academic decline. You should be aware of your child’s report cards and progress reports because they can signal you need to take action.

Anxiety can cause teens to procrastinate on their schoolwork and it can cause them to experience more distractions than normal. This increased distraction can cause a steady or sudden decline in your teens’ academic performance. Though decreased academic performance is one sign of anxiety in teens, teens can still perform well while suffering from anxiety.

Difficulty Sleeping

If your teenager has difficulty getting eight to ten hours of sleep per night, they may suffer from an anxiety disorder. However, there are more reasons than anxiety for sleep disorders. Teens may lose sleep due to excess screen time, increasing their blue light exposure.

Teens can also start to experience anxiety as a result of sleep disorders. In these cases, teens can suffer from a painful cycle of losing sleep, becoming anxious, and repeating. This cycle can make it difficult for physicians to diagnose your teen.

To see if your teen is suffering from sleep deprivation, look for the following signs:

  • Going to bed late at night
  • Waking up late in the morning
  • Daytime sleepiness

To aid your teen in their sleep habits try to get them to see the damaging effects electronics have on sleep. Remove electronics from their room at least a half-hour before bedtime.

Social Withdrawal

Teens struggling with anxiety often remove themselves from social situations. They might do so to avoid the stress occurring from social interactions. Conversely, social withdrawal can result in your teen feeling even more anxious due to their feelings of isolation and internalizing their emotions.

Anxiety causes people to inwardly focus more often than normal. This internal focus can produce a distorted reality that exacerbates their state.

Look for the following shifts in your teen’s attention when trying to find signs of anxiety:

  • Fewer interactions with friends
  • Skipping extracurricular activities
  • Spending more time alone

Teens with anxiety also need to distract themselves from their fears. Typically, they will attach themselves to tasks that distract them from their anxiety and don’t require social interactions.

Conclusion- What Does Anxiety In Teens Look Like?

Anxiety in teens comes in many forms. Symptoms can present themselves as emotional, behavioral, or physical. To make sure you devise the right treatment method, you need to be aware of all the potential symptoms and be sensitive to how they present in your teen.

Mental conditions and disorders are challenging to diagnose. Because mental conditions are often very similar in nature, you need a physician’s opinion to accurately diagnose your teen’s anxiety.

There are many forms of treatment for teens who struggle with anxiety. For example, residential treatment centers for youth can be an excellent option for teens who have a particularly challenging time with anxiety.

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