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Anxiety Disorders
How Teens Deal with Anxiety
Warning Signs - Anxiety Disorder
Behavioral Treatment for Kids With Anxiety
Best Medications for Kids With Anxiety
Why Childhood Anxiety Often Goes Undetected (and the Consequences)
How to Avoid Passing Anxiety on to Your Kids
Panic Attacks and How to Treat Them
What Is Social Anxiety?
24 Surprising Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety
2018 Children's Mental Health Report
Symptom Checker  Worried about a child? Use this tool to get informed

Anxiety Disorders

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness, and involve excessive fear or anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

How Common Are Anxiety Disorders?

In any given year the estimated percent of U.S. adults with various anxiety disorders are:

7-9%: Specific Phobia

7%: Social Anxiety Disorder

2-3%: Panic Disorder

2%: Agoraphobia

2%: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

1-2%: Separation Anxiety Disorder

Women are more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.

Anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior.

Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction – either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.

Anxiety disorders can cause people to try to avoid situations that trigger or worsen their symptoms. Job performance, school work and personal relationships can be affected.

In general, for a person to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the fear or anxiety must:

  • Be out of proportion to the situation or age inappropriate.
  • Hinder your ability to function normally.

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder and separation anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    Generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as restlessness, feeling on edge or easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or problems sleeping. Often the worries focus on everyday things such as job responsibilities, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments.

  • Panic Disorder

    The core symptom of panic disorder is recurrent panic attacks, an overwhelming combination of physical and psychological distress. During an attack several of these symptoms occur in combination:

    • Palpitations, pounding heart or rapid heart rate
    • Sweating
    • Trembling or shaking
    • Feeling of shortness of breath or smothering sensations
    • Chest pain
    • Feeling dizzy, light-headed or faint
    • Feeling of choking
    • Numbness or tingling
    • Chills or hot flashes
    • Nausea or abdominal pains
    • Feeling detached
    • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

    Because symptoms are so severe, many people who experience a panic attack may believe they are having a heart attack or other life-threatening illness and may go to a hospital ER. Panic attacks may be expected, such as a response to a feared object, or unexpected, apparently occurring for no reason. The mean age for onset of panic disorder is 22-23. Panic attacks may occur with other mental disorders such as depression or PTSD.

  • Agoraphobia

    Agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms. The fear is out of proportion to the actual situation and lasts generally six months or more and causes problems in functioning. A person with agoraphobia experiences this fear in two or more of the following situations:

    • Using public transportation
    • Being in open spaces
    • Being in enclosed places
    • Standing in line or being in a crowd
    • Being outside the home alone

    The individual actively avoids the situation, requires a companion or endures with intense fear or anxiety. Untreated agoraphobia can become so serious that a person may be unable to leave the house. A person can only be diagnosed with agoraphobia if the fear is intensely upsetting, or if it significantly interferes with normal daily activities.

  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Previously Called Social Phobia)

    A person with social anxiety disorder has significant anxiety and discomfort about being embarrassed, humiliated, rejected or looked down on in social interactions. People with this disorder will try to avoid the situation or endure it with great anxiety. Common examples are extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people or eating/drinking in public. The fear or anxiety causes problems with daily functioning and lasts at least six months.

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder

    A person with separation anxiety disorder is excessively fearful or anxious about separation from those with whom he or she is attached. The feeling is beyond what is appropriate for the person’s age, persists (at least four weeks in children and six months in adults) and causes problems functioning. A person with separation anxiety disorder may be persistently worried about losing the person closest to him or her, may be reluctant or refuse to go out or sleep away from home or without that person, or may experience nightmares about separation. Physical symptoms of distress often develop in childhood, but symptoms can carry though adulthood.

Risk Factors

The causes of anxiety disorders are currently unknown but likely involve a combination of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological and developmental. Anxiety disorders can run in families, suggesting that a combination of genes and environmental stresses can produce the disorders.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The first step is to see your doctor to make sure there is no physical problem causing the symptoms. If an anxiety disorder is diagnosed, a mental health professional can work with you on the best treatment. Unfortunately, many people with anxiety disorders don’t seek help. They don’t realize that they have an illness that has effective treatments.

Although each anxiety disorder has unique characteristics, most respond well to two types of treatment: psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” and medications. These treatments can be given alone or in combination. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy, can help a person learn a different way of thinking, reacting and behaving to help feel less anxious. Medications will not cure anxiety disorders, but can give significant relief from symptoms. The most commonly used medications are anti-anxiety medications (generally prescribed only for a short period of time) and antidepressants. Beta-blockers, used for heart conditions, are sometimes used to control physical symptoms of anxiety.

Self-Help, Coping, and Managing

There are a number of things people do to help cope with symptoms of anxiety disorders and make treatment more effective. Stress management techniques and meditation can be helpful. Support groups (in-person or online) can provide an opportunity to share experiences and coping strategies. Learning more about the specifics of a disorder and helping family and friends to understand better can also be helpful. Avoid caffeine, which can worsen symptoms, and check with your doctor about any medications.

Related Conditions

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Acute stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Adjustment disorder


How Teens Deal with Anxiety

It is natural for parents to worry about teens and anxiety. Teenagers are under pressure to perform academically to secure admission to the best colleges. Compound that pressure with their changing bodies and navigating a new social landscape and social media. Even the most well-adjusted teens can find their stress becoming a lot to handle.

Some teenage anxiety is a normal natural response to events. For most teenagers, it is short-term, based on specific circumstances, and relatively benign. However, when that anxiety comes too often, out of proportion to events, and begins having a noticeable effect on daily life, it becomes a serious teen and mental health issue.

Experts describe a “rising epidemic” of anxiety in children and teens.[1] According to the National Comorbidity Survey, 31.9 percent of adolescents aged 13-18 met the criteria for some form of anxiety disorder.[2] From the total sample of teens, 8.3 percent were suffering from severe anxiety disorders.[3] Anxiety disorders can hurt academic performance and contribute to substance abuse and other behavioral problems. The effects can last well past graduation. Anxiety was the most common complaint (50.6 percent) of college students seeking university counseling according to a 2015 survey.[4]

Signs of Anxiety

Some signs of anxiety in teenagers can be physical changes. Teens may feel consistently irritable and restless. Anxiety can disrupt teenagers’ sleep patterns. They may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up at appropriate times. Teens may complain of chronic fatigue, muscle tension, and headaches. Anxiety can also cause or exacerbate a range of gastrointestinal issues for teenagers. Abrupt changes in appetite and diet could signify a teenager is struggling with anxiety. Excessive and irrational worrying about such symptoms can be an indicator of anxiety as well.

Anxiety can also manifest through changes in a teenager’s behavior. Parents may see their child’s schoolwork decline abruptly. Teens coping with anxiety struggle to concentrate, complete assignments, and remember deadlines. Anxiety can also have a major impact on lives outside of the classroom. Teenagers can withdraw from the world, avoiding social interactions and extracurricular activities they previously enjoyed.

How to Manage Anxiety

A first step for how to manage anxiety is removing the stigma surrounding mental health disorders and anxiety in particular. Even among those suffering, there can be a reluctance to acknowledge and, consequently, treat the problem. World Mental Health surveys showed that only 41.3 percent of the global population meeting the criteria for an anxiety disorder thought they needed care.[5] Just 27.6 percent of them received any treatment, and only 9.8 percent received “adequate treatment.”[6]

Teens should understand that their anxiety is not a stain on their individual character or capability. Suffering from an anxiety disorder is not making excuses or a sign of weakness. It’s not a normal thing that everyone deals with. An anxiety disorder is a serious mental health issue, but one that can be resolved with treatment. Parents should also understand that their child’s anxiety may not be a product of his or her home life and upbringing.

Mental health professionals can be a major help to teenagers suffering from anxiety disorders. They can provide teenagers with cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy tries to instill positive thinking patterns and to provide teens with tools to help manage their stressors rationally and healthily. Mental health professionals can also prescribe medication to aid teenagers with more severe anxiety disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are common antidepressants that can help reduce anxiety with minimal side effects.

Teenagers can also help control their anxiety by focusing on their general physical health and wellness. Regular exercise and a consistent sleep schedule can help reduce anxiety. So can eating a better quality diet with nutrient-rich foods. Teens can try several different relaxation techniques, including yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. Merely setting aside a short 20-minute period each day to wind down and rest can be helpful.

Even teens who remain glued to their smartphones can sample a myriad of different mindfulness apps. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America vetted many of them.[7] These offer short meditations and other techniques that may help teenagers mollify their stress and anxiety.

Anxiety isn’t abnormal, per se. We all deal with it in some form or fashion but leaving signs of anxiety unanswered can lead to more severe issues. Talk to your teens and tweens about their feelings. One of the best ways to gain insight into how your teens and tweens are managing their own anxiety is to ask them. This is another benefit to working with a company like Pride Surveys.

We have years of experience working with community coalitions and local leaders — in schools, churches, and other organizations — to get a better understanding of the challenges and stresses our teens and tweens face in today’s world. Please browse our selection of surveys to learn more about what we offer and why it’s important to gain these insights directly from our teens and tweens.

[1] “The Rising Epidemic of Anxiety in Children and Teens” Retrieved 12 June 2019 at

[2] “Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in U.S. Adolescents: Results from The National Comorbidity Student-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)} Retrieved 11 June 2019 at

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors Annual Survey” Retrieved 12 June 2019 at

[5] “Treatment gap for anxiety disorders is global: Results of the World Mental Health Surveys in 21 Countries.” Retrieved 12 June 2019 at

[6] Ibid.

[7] “ADAA Reviewed Mental Health Apps.” Retrieved 13 June 2019 at