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Symptoms and Support for Anxiety in Kids and Teens

Symptoms & Support for Anxiousness in Kids & Teens

anxiety kids/parenting Sep 03, 2020
Timothy Culbert, MD, IFMCP


Symptoms of Anxiety in Kids and Teens May Not Be Obvious

Anxiety in kids and teens may not look like it does in adults. Emotional changes are more easily spotted, but social, physical, and sleep changes are also common for both anxiety and depression. 

Emotional Changes 
  • Increasing anger, irritability, and/or emotional reactivity
  • Feeling keyed up or restless
  • Flat affect (lack of showing emotion)
  • Anhedonia (not enjoying activities once enjoyed, decreased ability to feel pleasure)
  • Easily bored
  • Sad
  • Panic, new fears, and/or persistent worries
  • Increase in oppositional, non-compliant behaviors
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble separating from parents
  • Phobias
  • Obsessive/compulsive behaviors
Social Changes 
  • Withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Changing peer groups
  • Avoiding participation in extracurricular activities
Physical Changes 
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Appetite change
  • Stomach aches
  • Low energy 
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Complaints of vague unease or not feeling well without an obvious medical cause
  • Less physical activity
  • Muscle tension
  • Sensory sensitivities
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Rapid breathing 
Sleep Changes
  • Sleeping too much
  • Sleeping to little
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep
School Performance
  • Significant decrease in grades
  • Missing assignments
  • Trouble concentrating
  • School avoidance
  • Feeling overwhelmed by academic demands
  • Procrastination on homework assignments

Parents can support their teen who has anxiety in many ways:

  • Support your adolescent’s health literacy. Help them identify and understand reliable mental health information that is available online. Read more about health literacy here.
  • Be a good listener and acknowledge their anxiety. Ask them how they are feeling, be patient, and reflect back to them what you think you heard them say.
  • Be supportive but realistic. Let them know that you have confidence in their ability to handle stress and challenging circumstances but also encourage them to ask for help if needed.
  • Help them practice healthy lifestyle factors that reduce anxiety such as a good sleep, daily exercise, and eating a balanced diet.
  • Safety first! Don’t hesitate to refer your kid/teen for professional assessment and treatment especially if their symptoms are severe.



Mental Health Books for Kids 


Tired All the Time? Meet The Three Energy Thieves

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Resilience Training and Our Roots of Resilience Series

Apr 17, 2024


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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice and is not a replacement for advice and treatment from a medical professional. Consult your doctor or other qualified health professional before beginning any diet change, supplement, or lifestyle program. See our terms for more information.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call the NAMI HelpLine: 1-800-950-6264 available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., ET. OR text "HelpLine" to 62640 or email NAMI at [email protected]. Visit NAMI for more. You can also call or text SAMHSA at 988 or chat 988lifeline.org.