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Teen in school feeling teen anxiety

Common Symptoms of Teen Anxiety and How to Help

By: Kristina Murr

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Let’s face it: teens often have it rough. They’re learning to juggle responsibilities like school, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs. They’re also trying to keep up with their social lives and hobbies while being exposed to social media and an increasingly volatile black-and-white news cycle.
It’s no wonder that anxiety among teenagers is increasing. It’s important to recognize the signs so you can guide them through this difficult time and prepare them to be a well-adjusted adult.

Symptoms of teen anxiety

Anxiety in teenagers can manifest in various ways. It can be difficult to spot, since many signs can be simply normal teen behaviors. Here are some common symptoms to watch for:

Excessive worrying

Teens with anxiety often worry about everyday situations beyond what’s considered normal. Look for stress that seems disproportionate to the actual situation.

For example, they might become fixated on a school project. Before they even begin working on it, they may talk about how they’ll fail and never get into college. In reality, one project isn’t likely to make or break their future.

Sleep disturbances

Anxiety can severely impact sleep. Your teenager may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or experience restless and non-restorative sleep. This might mean they take hours-long naps during the day, which will only fuel the problem.

Avoidance behaviors

Teens with anxiety might avoid certain situations or activities that trigger their anxiety. This can include skipping school, avoiding social events, or quitting activities they once loved doing. Pay attention if their friends or teachers reach out about your kid missing events.


Increased irritability, restlessness, and agitation are common in anxious teens. They might seem on edge, have difficulty sitting still, or exhibit nervous habits like nail-biting or fidgeting. This can also mean getting into more arguments with parents, siblings, and friends.

Difficulty concentrating

Your teen might seem forgetful or easily distracted. This can translate to poor academic performance, missing other obligations, or even neglecting personal hygiene.

Physical symptoms

Anxiety isn’t just mental. It can lead to various physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension, and fatigue. Your teen might complain about feeling sick or in pain without any obvious medical cause.

Navigating teen anxiety

Be their safe space

Let your teen know you’re here for them no matter what. Make sure to listen to their problems without judging or dismissing them.

Validating their feelings can go a long way toward building trust between you. Celebrate their victories, and be patient as they work to soothe their anxiety symptoms.

Promote a healthy lifestyle

Healthy habits are proven by research to benefit mental health. Encourage your teen to do regular physical activity, eat a balanced diet, and get better sleep.

Teach coping skills

Mindfulness, meditation, and creative and physical outlets all help cope with anxiety. Try getting them into deep breathing practices, journaling, or meditating when they feel particularly stressed. If these strategies don’t work for them, find an activity you can do together that you’ll consistently turn to.

Limit screen time

Excessive screen time, particularly on social media, can make anxiety much worse. Encourage your teen to take regular breaks from screens and engage in offline activities that they enjoy. Make sure they especially avoid scrolling on their phones at night, since that makes sleep more difficult.

Build a social network

It’s important to connect with others to feel more engaged in the world. Encourage your teen to maintain healthy relationships with friends and family. Enroll them in group activities and sports to build confidence.

Get help from a mental health professional

If your teen’s anxiety is affecting their ability to function day-to-day, it’s time to talk to a therapist. A teen therapist can help them challenge negative thought patterns, learn to cope with daily stressors and build their self-esteem.

To find out more about how teen therapy can help address teen anxiety, please reach out to us.

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