Does your Teen Struggle with Anxiety? 

Teenage student girl with smart phone sitting on stone steps.
Author: Alison Seponara
Category: Anxiety
Published Date: 10/10/2019
Comments: 35

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You are a parent of a teen. You mostly want to rip your hair out on a daily basis yet wish that today will be the day that your teenage child starts to talk to you. Nope. Not happening. So how do you as a parent know when your teen may be struggling with significant stress levels or anxiety that interfere with learning, relationships, and other areas of functioning? Keep reading to find out. 

Teen Stress vs. Anxiety

Sometimes with teens there is often a less direct source of stress and they may become less aware of what they are even anxious about. They may even feel anxious about being anxious! 

The key between stress and anxiety is a sense of helplessness and ability to affect their daily functioning. Many times, when teens experience fear they feel helpless. As an adult, you may be more likely to dive into the problem causing the stress and know how to problem solve more easily. With anxious teens, they have not yet learned how to master this. 

What to Look For

Many times, teen stress can manifest in different ways and it is important to know what to look for when it comes to teen anxiety. 

Emotional changes: Your teen might appear irritable, agitated, excessively worried, or depressed. Pay attention to changes in behavior. 

Behavioral changes: Look for changes in eating or sleeping habits, and avoidance of normal daily activities or refuse to engage in new experiences (especially school avoidance). Teens may also isolate and avoid their usual activities, have less interest in hanging out with friends. IMPORTANT: **In an attempt to diminish or deny their fears and worries, they may engage in risky behaviors, drug experimentation, or impulsive sexual behavior.** 

Physical changes: Anxious teens are more likely to complain of stomachaches, headaches, or pain in the limbs and back. Teens may also notice their heart beating fast, have shortness in breath, and tense muscles. 

Cognitive changes: Your teen may exhibit decreased concentration, daydreaming, forgetfulness, or sullen, moody, and rebellious. 

When to Seek Help

In some cases, common teen stress can become concerning if your teens starts experiencing an excessive or unrealistic amount of worry, anxiety, and fear. Anxiety that is excessive and unrealistic is different than the ‘normal’ level of stress that a teen may experience. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters. 

If you notice any of these changes in your teen, he or she may be experiencing high anxiety. First, try your best to effectively communicate with your child. It is very important to keep the lines of communication open, spend more one-on-one time each week with your teen, and listen carefully and respectfully without discounting their feelings. This may increase the likelihood that your teen will open up to you when he or she is feeling overwhelmed. 

If that doesn’t work, then taking your teen to see a licensed psychotherapist who specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) would be the next step. CBT techniques are effective in addressing adolescent anxiety disorders and can help your teen recognize the exaggerated nature of his or her fears and develop a corrective approach to the problem. Cognitive-behavioral therapy also tends to be specific to the anxiety problem, and the teen actively participates, which usually enhances their understanding. To find a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist in your area go to 

How to Find Alison Seponara, MS, LPC:

Instagram: @theanxietyhealer
Facebook: Alison Seponara LPC

How do parents know when a teen may be struggling with anxiety and significant stress levels that interfere with learning and relationships?

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  • I just read your bio in addition to your article. Our son suffers from DDMD, ADHD, PTSD and Anxiety. 2 steps forward then 1 step back. We are staying the course. Thank you for talking about it.

  • I didn’t know the difference when my kiddos were teenagers. Thankfully there was someone nearby that did. This is something all parents should read to be aware of what their teens may be dealing with.

  • My daughter has a little bit of anxiety related to her grades and tests. I think that is normal, but if it were spilling into everyday of her life I would intervene.

  • This is helpful advice. It really is a good idea to keep an eye open for those behavioral changes. It’s nice when you can catch these things early so you can address them.

  • This is such important information. The teen years are a minefield for both our kids and us. We have to be on the lookout for what could be something more than just stress, and usually our kids aren’t going to tell us.