Understanding Anxiety in Young People

Not all kids handle stress the same way. These signs can tell you when ordinary worries have become debilitating anxiety.

Anxiety: we all live with it. Anxiety is a normal reaction to the kinds of pressures we encounter every day. Unchecked or out of balance, anxiety can wreak havoc on a young person’s mental health.

But which is it, everyday worries or signs of anxiety? The differences aren’t always easy to read and are different for every child. Here is a brief guide to help you take a first step in deciphering if what your child is experiencing is regular worry or high anxiety.

Everyday Worries
Signs of Anxiety
Worry about test grades, athletic ability, romantic breakup or other important life events. Constant, nagging worry that causes anxiety and interferes with daily activities.
Embarrassment or shyness in uncomfortable or awkward social situations. Avoiding social situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed, humiliated or bullied.
A case of nerves or “butterflies” before a big test, an athletic or stage performance or other significant event. Panic attacks out-of-the-blue and feelings of dread or fear of having another one.
Realistic fear of a dangerous object, activity, place or situation. Irrational fear or avoidance of an object, activity place or situation that poses little or no threat of danger.
Anxiety, sadness or difficulty sleeping immediately after a traumatic event. Recurring nightmares, flashbacks or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event that occurred in the past.

Warning Signs of High Anxiety

  • Sudden feelings of anger
  • Fighting more than usual with family and friends
  • Headaches, stomachaches and other unexplained aches and pains
  • Appetite loss – or gain – or significant change in weight
  • Feeling tired without reason
  • Difficulty sleeping – or sleeping too much
  • Feeling sad, moody or lonely
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly

What Parents Can Do

If your young person is suffering from anxiety, the first thing you should do is to try to understand it. Learn about anxiety disorders and treatment options. Discuss questions and concerns with a health care provider to find the best treatment options for your child. For mental health resources, visit our Resources page.

Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

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