Quite often anxiety is hidden and parents can be unaware their teen is suffering from anxiety. They just think they have a ghastly teenager on their hands. Teenagers with their jumbled up emotions don’t recognise they are suffering from anxiety, and if they do they do not associate their behaviours with it. When your teen has difficulty managing their emotional responses they’re going to seem aggressive and conflict-driven.  And as parents we have to deal with all this aggression and conflict, when quite simply if you got them to a doctor to get an anti depressant to regulate their moods you would have a much different teenager.

I thought I would point out some of the behaviours other than aggression and conflict  that can be exhibited , so that parents can have a greater awareness of what their teenagers might actually be going through:

  • Recurring fears and worries about routine parts of everyday life
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Extreme self-consciousness or sensitivity to criticism
  • Withdrawal from social activity
  • Avoidance of difficult or new situations
  • Chronic complaints about stomachaches or headaches
  • Drop in grades or school refusal
  • Repeated reassurance-seeking
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance use

Not all anger is linked to anxiety, but often if individuals take a step back and uncover what is triggering their anger, they may discover that they are showing signs of fear and panic, which may be the root of an anxiety disorder. 

Given that teens experience a wide variety of physical and emotional changes as they grow, an anxiety disorder can be difficult to spot. Many red flags may seem like usual teens struggles or be chalked up to hormones. Watch for these hidden signs of anxiety in your teens:

  • Feeling “keyed up”
    Feeling on edge
    Difficulty concentrating
    Unexplained outbursts

  • Avoiding social interactions with usual friends
    Avoiding extracurricular activities
    Isolating from peer group
    Spending increased time alone

  • Frequent headaches, including migraines
    Gastrointestinal problems
    Unexplained aches and pains
    Excessive fatigue
    Complaints of not feeling well with no obvious medical cause
    Changes in eating habits.

It can be difficult to know whether fatigue is a product of anxiety or of a busy schedule. Watch for these red flags:
  • Difficulty falling asleep
    Difficulty staying asleep
    Frequent nightmares
    Not feeling refreshed after sleep

  • Significant jump in grades (usually downward)
    Frequently missed assignments
    Describes feeling overwhelmed by workload
    Procrastinates on, or has difficulty concentrating on, homework assignments more than usual

  • Rapid heartbeat
    Sweating and trembling
    Upset stomach
    Difficulty breathing
    Chest pain
    Feeling like they’re dying
    Feeling like they’re “going crazy”
    Numbness or tingling in arms and legs

The first step is to talk with your GP who will discuss these with you and together you can decide which is best for your teenager. Your doctor may refer your teenager to a mental health specialist for talking therapy.

0800 ANXIETY (HELPLINE)(0800 2694 389) is provided free of charge. Peer Support
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