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Signs and symptoms

Fears (or anxiety) are a natural part of human life and are necessary for our survival. Anxiety is experienced by adults, adolescents and children. However, when fears become severe enough to stop your adolescent doing the things that they want to do they are considered anxiety disorders. An anxious adolescent may:

  • Complain of headaches or feeling sick before school, doing a test or going to sports
  • Be shy around others
  • Have difficulties being assertive
  • Be overly sensitive
  • Lack confidence in themselves
  • Prefer to spend time with you than with their friends
  • Always be worrying about something
  • Be concerned about making mistakes
  • Procrastinate or be perfectionistic with their school work
  • Be very well-behaved and never get into trouble at school or when around other people
  • Ask lots of ?What if?? questions and constantly seek reassurance
  • Become upset if there is a change in routine
  • Be a loner or restrict themselves to a small group of safe people
  • Hesitate to answer questions and rarely volunteer comments or information
  • Have poor social skills or refuse to participate in social activities
  • Have difficulties sleeping
  • Have difficulty separating from parents
  • Be clingy with a parent or loved one in situations outside home
  • Express worries about \"bad things\" happening
  • Avoid unfamiliar situations
  • May become distressed if a particular friend is not at school
  • Be argumentative (but rarely aggressive), especially if trying to avoid a feared situation
  • Be pessimistic and easily able to identify what may go wrong in any given situation

How common is anxiety in adolescents?

Anxiety disorders are very common, with one in ten children and adolescents experiencing anxiety at a level where they require help from a psychologist.

What types of anxiety are there?

Anxiety disorders can be broken down into areas based on the focus of the fear. They include:

Helping your adolescent

It\'s hard to be the parent of an anxious child. Often you don\'t know what is causing your child\'s anxiety and are unsure of how to help. Children and adolescents who are anxious often internalise their feelings, particularly if they have been bullied, making it even harder for parents to help them. So what can parents do?

The good news is that studies have shown that anxious adolescents can be greatly helped by learning how to face their fears. Furthermore, adolescents benefit most from treatments when their parents are involved. Parents know their children best and can help their child to apply the new coping skills and strategies learnt in the treatment.

The following reference is a helpful resource for helping young people with anxiety:

Getting professional help

If you, or someone that you know, is in need of additional assistance, the best person to speak to is your GP. They may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The following services may also be of assistance: