Anxiety

Fears and worries are part of life. Certain kinds of fears are a normal part of growing up. Some teens and adolescents are more bothered by their worries than others. Their worrying may affect their schoolwork, ability to make friends and be with their family.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problems in children and teens. Nearly one in 10 children will have trouble with anxiety at some point. Anxiety disorders are often not diagnosed because children hide symptoms from their parents.

Sometimes anxiety disorders go away on their own. Other times, they can become long-term conditions. There are successful treatments for anxiety.

Several types of anxiety disorders are common in teens and adolescents:

Social phobia – This is an intense fear of being rejected or embarrassed in front of others. Teens and adolescents with this disorder are afraid of situations other people are not. Teens and adolescents with a social phobia usually appear shy. They may be afraid to talk to others, start conversations or go to school.

Separation anxiety disorder – This is a fear of being away from home or family. This is normal for small children. When teens or adolescents have this fear, it is considered a disorder.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – People who have OCD usually have behaviors they do over and over like hand washing, rearranging objects or counting. They may also have disturbing thoughts of violence or tragedy. People with OCD know their thoughts or behavior don't make sense. But they can't stop.

Post traumatic stress disorder – This disorder usually appears after traumatic experiences like being a victim of violence, witnessing violence or being involved in an accident or a natural disaster. Symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks sometimes start within days of the event. Sometimes symptoms take months to appear. People with this disorder may also be depressed, angry or extremely anxious.

Panic disorder – This disorder is more common in adults. But some teens and adolescents get panic attacks. Signs of a panic attack include shortness of breath, pounding heart, tingling or numbing of the hands and feet, hot and cold flushes. People having a panic attack feel like they might lose control or "go crazy."

Message to Teens and Adolescents: If you feel that you have any of these problems, don't be afraid to ask for help. Anxiety can be treated. You can feel better. Some people you can talk to include:

  • Your parents
  • Your teacher, counselor or minister
  • Your doctor or a behavioral health counselor.
  • If you are thinking about hurting yourself or others, call the Tennessee Crisis Hotline at 1-855-CRISIS-1 (1-855-274-7471). It's a free call. You can call 24/7.

You do not need to see your Primary Care Provider (PCP) before getting behavioral health care treatment.

Tips for parents of children with anxiety disorders:

  • Don't blame yourself or others. Focus on the present, and how you and your child can overcome anxiety.
  • Be patient and understanding. Telling a child to stop worrying or washing their hands will not make their fears disappear.
  • Encourage your child to develop skills to deal with anxiety. Let them know they can deal with their worries by themselves. You will not always be there to help your child. It's important for your child to be able to deal with anxiety away from home and loved ones

Want more information on anxiety disorders? Visit these websites: