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Anxiety and teenagers

As many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives, according to the charity Anxiety UK.

For a teenager, anxiety can come from a number of sources, from home concerns, to school worries and problems with friends and relationships.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a natural reaction to stress.

Things like exams, meeting new people, speaking in public, going out with someone new or competing in sport can make us feel apprehensive. Sometimes it can be a good thing, for example, when revising for an exam, a little anxiety can make us study harder in order to do well. However, for some teens even thinking about certain situations can cause distress and then anxiety can be harmful, especially when it is excessive and irrational, and prevents them from being able to focus.

Sometimes anxiety can get in the way of day-to-day life, reducing confidence and interfering with school or social situations.

Remember if you feel anxious, you are not alone. Anxiety UK estimates up to 5 people in every school class may be living with anxiety - even if they appear confident on the outside.

How can teens cope with anxiety?

Understanding their anxiety is a start. Many teens find just acknowledging that a situation is stressful and being prepared to deal with it can reduce their stress. So, it's good to be able to recognise the types of events that cause their anxiety.

It can be helpful to breathe deeply and slowly or use other relaxation techniques so their focus is on something other than what is causing the anxiety.

However, if they still feel anxious, getting advice from their GP or a therapist is the next step - and sooner rather than later. Many anxiety disorders begin in adolescence, and the average time a person waits to seek help is more than 10 years.

How much anxiety is too much?

Here are some of the signs of excess anxiety:

  • You feel anxious, worried or afraid for no obvious reason
  • You worry constantly about everyday events or activities
  • You continually check whether you did something correctly
  • You're so panicky you're unable to function in certain situations, like sitting exams.

What anxiety treatments are available for teenagers?

Finding the right treatment is an important first step in reducing anxiety. Start with your GP who can make referrals to specialist services. Treatment can involve seeing a psychiatrist, clinical social worker, or psychologist.

Teens may also be able to get advice from youth counselling services without having to go through their doctor, or they could phone a helpline.

If their school has a counsellor, he or she may be able to help too. Treatment can improve many areas of their life, including their performance at school and their relationships with family and friends.

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