What is Adolescent Anxiety?

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What is Adolescent Anxiety?

Children and adolescents experience anxiety much the same as adults do.

Adolescent anxiety is like an internal stress and can generally include the following three categories of symptoms:

1.Worry Thoughts & Feelings: excessive worries or fears, dread and worried anticipation, rumination, worries that are disproportionate to the event or situation
2. Physical Sensations: panic and distress in the body, including sore stomachs, butterflies in the stomach, headaches, racing heart, nausea, shaking
3. Behaviours: anxious adolescents tend to display strong avoidant behaviours such as resisting and refusing to go somewhere or do something. They seek to stay close to home, may show some regressive behaviours, and seek excessive reassurance. They may display anger, isolating behaviours, as well as acting out behaviours. Some adolescents may also appear to be easily startled and are on ‘high alert’ for danger.

10 Common Symptoms That May Signal Adolescent Anxiety:

adolescent anxiety
  1. Uncontrollable worry & a tendency to be fearful of lots of things
  2. Resists trying new things or going to new places
  3. Complains of reoccurring sore stomachs, headaches, feeling sick, butterflies in stomach, without any medical basis for symptoms
  4. May show regressive behaviours such as wanting to co-sleep again, or seeking comfort items again, or wanting to stay close to their parent or safe person more than usual
  5. Difficulties falling to sleep or staying asleep
  6. Refusing to go to school, school camps, or sleepovers
  7. Can get stuck or fixated on things, and find it difficult to move on, especially when something is not going as planned or wished
  8. Strongly dislikes making mistakes, likes things “just so”
  9. Have consistently high standards for themselves
  10. May spend excessive time around the worry, eg, over focus on their appearance, what to wear, spending too long on projects

When Should I Seek Professional Help?

It is normal for adolescents to feel anxious and insecure at certain times in their lives, and especially through their adolescent years as peer acceptance becomes much more important. Their brains are also “under serious construction”, with various hormones and changes to their brains and bodies going on. Many adolescents will manage these situations by seeking support from their friends or families, without any lingering difficulties.

However, some tell tale signs that an adolescent may be experiencing more anxiety than is typical for them is when their worry, fear and anxiety:

  • Significantly interferes with, or disrupts their ability to carry out everyday tasks and activities that is typical for a child of that age
  • Has been persisting for more than a couple of weeks
  • Prevents and holds them back from doing the things they want to do
  • Interferes with their ability to eat, sleep, and relax, or their relationships
  • They seem more emotionally reactive than usual, eg, more sensitive, and doesn’t tend to ‘bounce back’ from minor upsets
  • They are becoming withdrawn, sad, or showing more aggressive behaviours

Speaking to an experienced Psychologist can assist parents to better understand their adolescent’s worries and fears, assess whether their symptoms are typical or may require some assistance, and provide an opportunity to help their adolescent gain knowledge, strategies and support to build resilience, independence, and coping skills for some of the most important foundation years of their life.

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