Understanding Your Teenager’s Anxiety: A Guide for Parents

Anxiety is a common emotion that everyone experiences, but when it becomes an overwhelming and chronic response, it can be concerning. As a parent of a teenager, it’s important to recognise the signs of anxiety and avoidant disorders that might be affecting your child’s well-being. 

During adolescence, when your teenager is navigating through numerous changes and uncertainties, anxiety can become a persistent background noise. Some teenagers may struggle with more severe anxiety, hindering their ability to engage in school, form and maintain friendships, and foster family relationships. Anxiety can manifest as generalised unease or escalate into panic attacks and phobias. 


Signs of Anxiety in Teenagers 

Anxiety symptoms vary among teenagers but commonly include excessive fears, inner restlessness, and heightened vigilance. In social settings, anxious teenagers may appear withdrawn or overly emotional, struggling with worries about losing control or concerns about social competence. Physical symptoms such as muscle tension, stomach aches, headaches, and fatigue may also accompany anxiety. 


Different Types of Anxiety Disorders 

Panic disorder, more prevalent in girls than boys, typically emerges in adolescence. It involves intense panic episodes with emotional and physical symptoms. Phobias, exaggerated and inexplicable fears, may centre around specific objects or situations, limiting a teenager’s activities. 

School avoidance is a common manifestation of anxiety, often triggered by performance or social pressures. This avoidance can lead to a cycle of anxiety, physical complaints, and further avoidance. Social phobia, extreme self-doubt, and worry about judgment or expectations in social situations, can also contribute to school-related challenges. 

Causes and Consequences 

Research suggests a predisposition toward timidity and nervousness, which may be influenced by a parent’s anxiety. Separation anxiety in childhood can evolve into adolescent anxiety disorders. Adolescents with anxiety may develop mood or eating disorders, engage in self-destructive behaviours, or use substances to cope. 


How to Respond as a Parent 

If your teenager opens up about their fears and anxieties, listen attentively without dismissing their feelings. Help them understand that anxiety about body changes, performance, and social acceptance is a natural part of adolescence. Encourage them to identify specific situations triggering anxiety and reassure them that, with time, they can develop coping mechanisms. 


Seek Professional Help 

If anxiety starts impacting your teenager’s life, or if it limits their activities, consider seeking professional advice. Qualified adolescent clinicians can evaluate the situation and implement treatment plans. 


Treatment Approaches 

Treatment often involves a combination of interventions tailored to the teenager and their family. For the majority of cases, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been proven to be the most effective in addressing anxiety by helping teenagers examine and correct exaggerated fears. Medications may be prescribed in severe cases, often in conjunction with therapy. 


Your Role as a Supportive Parent 

Supporting your teenager through their anxiety involves patience, understanding, and encouragement. Praise their efforts to face anxiety-inducing situations, and remind them of past successes. If needed, collaborate with professionals to create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the unique needs of your teenager. 

Remember, adolescent anxiety is a common challenge, but with appropriate support, the prognosis is generally positive. If you’re considering professional help for your child, request a callback to speak with one of our professionals about your situation and the best course of action.  

For more information about the difference between these professionals, or to discuss your childs difficulties, request a callback for a complimentary conversation with one of our professionals.

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An Occupational Therapist and Phd researcher, Joy has worked in paediatric disability settings, as well as community crisis intervention and inpatient mental health teams.

As a Counsellor and Psychotherapist, with a master’s degree in CBT, Melissa specialises in offering tailored mental health services to meet each client’s unique needs;  fostering a comprehensive and personalised therapeutic experience.

Managing Director of PrimaHealth, with a master’s degree in Applied Psychology from UCC, Danny is one of the team which liaises with parents to offer them empathetic support and guidance; finding the right mental health professional for their child’s particular needs.

Kelly Ann employs evidence-based techniques like CBT and mindfulness in her counselling to address adolescent issues such as anxiety and stress, emphasising strong therapeutic relationships and collaboration with parents for growth and emotional well-being.

Passionate about providing empathetic support, Breda, a psychotherapist with extensive experience, offers evidence-based techniques like CBT, DBT, REBT, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy to help navigate her clients through stress, anxiety and other mental health challenges they may face.

With over twenty years of therapeutic experience with young people and families, Rosaleen specialises in adolescent psychotherapy, holding qualifications including a BA in Applied Social Studies, a Certificate in Addiction Studies and a Diploma in Integrative Counselling & Psychotherapy, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Adolescent Psychotherapy.

Having had years of experience working in Child and Adolescent community mental health teams and inpatient settings as an Occupational Therapist, Fidelma has developed a clinical expertise in using therapeutic approaches to support young adults manage and overcome their difficulties. 

Marianne, an Occupational Therapist, specialises in pediatric and adolescent mental health, providing compassionate therapy focused on fostering self-compassion and safeness. She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise, enhanced by her continuous pursuit of alternative therapy courses and passion for wellness.