13 Signs of Anxiety in Young Adults and Teenagers

13 Signs of Anxiety in Young Adults and Teenagers | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old and 19% of adults. If you don’t struggle with anxiety, someone you know does.  But anxiety in teens and young adults is a mental health issue that often goes undiagnosed or unnoticed. How do you know if feelings of anxiety come from normal everyday anxiety or an anxiety disorder? These signs of anxiety in young adults and teenagers will indicate if your child needs professional help.

The emotion of anxiety is a normal reaction to help deal with the stress of everyday life: e.g. anxiety can help a student focus on studying harder for a difficult exam or help an athlete play harder at a sporting event. When one’s feelings of anxiety become chronic, uncontrollable, or with no root cause or meaning, it can become a true problem, interfering with the quality of life.

While anxiety, like depression, is often thought of as an “adult” problem, teens and young adults may worry about everything from school, fitting in with peers, getting along with family members, or their own personal shortcomings. Individuals may experience anxiety symptoms in different ways; the following are potential signs of anxiety in teens and young adults.

  • Excessive fear or anxiety about things before they happen
  • Excessive worries about school, peers, or extracurricular activities
  • Constant concern and worry about safety for self or family members
  • Irritability
  • Displaying clingy behavior with parents and family members
  • Fear of staying the night away from one’s home
  • An inability to relax
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unexpected shortness of breath
  • Becoming easily alarmed or startled
  • Complaints of physical ailments (stomachaches, headaches, muscle aches, and tension)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Avoiding/refusing to go to school
  • Excessive lethargy or fatigue

Did you know, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 19% of the population every year?

Like the signs of depression, signs of anxiety in teens and young adults can often go overlooked, as some of these behaviors can be normal. However, if you have reviewed these signs of anxiety in teens and young adults and suspect that your son or daughter has intense anxiety that goes beyond normal worries and concerns, it is important to talk to him or her. If you are still concerned, consult a healthcare or mental health professional to get your son or daughter the help and treatment he or she needs.

These symptoms may indicate that your child is struggling with an anxiety disorder.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

The main categories of anxiety disorders include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – most days for at least 6 months, display excessive anxiety or worry about many areas of life, eg. school, work, friendships & relationships, health, etc.
  • Panic Disorder – recurrent unexpected panic attacks that can occur unexpectedly or can be brought on by a trigger.
  • Phobia Disorders – these include specific phobias(flying, heights, spiders, etc), social anxiety disorders (fear of social situations), agoraphobia, separation anxiety disorder, and selective mutism.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-compulsive Disorder (OCD) are both closely related to anxiety and frequently occur together with anxiety disorders.

Anxiety and Common Co-occurring Disorders

If your son or daughter is struggling with anxiety, it is likely they are also struggling with a co-occurring mental illness.  These are some of the common disorders that present with anxiety:

  • Depression  – Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)– Anxiety is one condition that is often seen in people with ADHD. About 50 percent of adults and up to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
  • Substance Abuse – The presence of an anxiety or substance use disorder is also a risk factor for the presence of the other disorder. About 20% of Americans with an anxiety disorder also have an alcohol or other substance use disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder – Bipolar disorder significantly co-occurs with anxiety disorders at rates that are higher than those in the general population. Studies have found that 21% of people with bipolar disorder had a social phobia, 20% of people with bipolar disorder had OCD, 40% of people with bipolar disorder also have PTSD.
  • Eating DisordersA 2004 study found that two-thirds of people with eating disorders suffer from an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and that around 42% had developed an anxiety disorder during childhood, well before the onset of their eating disorder.
  • Sleep Disorders – Anxiety causes sleeping problems, and new research suggests sleep deprivation can cause an anxiety disorder.

When looking for treatment options, it is important to address all of the struggles and the root cause of the problems, not just the anxiety.

Treatment for Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults

Treatment for anxiety disorders can vary, especially among teens, and young adults.  While every individual is different, your son or daughter’s treatment will depend on various factors, including:

  • His or her overall physical health and medical history
  • His or her diagnosis (whether he/she has anxiety, depression, or both)
  • Age (depending on his or her age, treatment approaches will vary)
  • The extent of the symptoms he or she is displaying
  • His or her reaction to different medications
  • His or her reaction to therapy
  • Your personal preference on what you think will be the best therapeutic “fit” for your child and family.

Treatment for anxiety can include:

  • medication
  • individual therapy
  • and sometimes family therapy as a positive family dynamic is key to helping your child through his or her anxiety.

Did you know that anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment?

Your child’s doctor should perform an extensive, comprehensive evaluation of your child and your family before prescribing treatment.

Why Wilderness Adventure Therapy is So Effective in Treating Anxiety

Over the past few decades, wilderness adventure therapy programs have become more prevalent, as the demand for effective alternatives in therapy has increased. The popularity of wilderness therapy is due to its ability to help teens and young adults in overcoming anxiety– among other cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues.  There are three main factors that make wilderness therapy so effective in treating anxiety:

  1. Exposure to the Therapeutic Wilderness Setting
  2. Therapeutic Group Living
  3. Adventure Activities

Conclusion

While anxiety is often overlooked in teens and young adults, research shows that recognizing the signs early, and getting your child treatment early on, are the best ways to help him or her.

While no parent wants to send their child away, sometimes doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing. In order to provide help for your child’s anxiety, it is important to select a treatment program that is reputable, credible, and effective in addressing teens’ and young adults’ individual issues.

About Aspiro Adventure

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Aspiro Adventure’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy program was uniquely crafted to assist students and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research-backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs. The professionals at Aspiro Adventure understand individuals don’t come with instructions, and every student is unique, capable, and amazing in their own right. Aspiro Adventure focuses on helping adolescents, young adults, and their families through difficulties that occur when various behavioral, cognitive, or developmental issues are present. Research shows that engaging individuals on a personal level with strategic and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way.

About the Author

  • Josh Watson, LCSW
    Josh Watson, LCSW
    CMO

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Josh Watson, LCSW
CMO

Also specializes in: crisis de-escalation / anxiety resolution / frustration tolerance / verbal de-escalation / CBT/DBT / interpersonal relationships/leadership development

Josh has been working with adolescents, young adults, and their families since 2001. As an original member of the Aspiro Leadership Team, Josh has fulfilled several roles at Aspiro including Clinical Wilderness Therapist, Clinical Supervision, Admissions Director, Strategic Development, and currently serves as the Chief Marketing Officer. He is passionate about carrying out the mission of Aspiro and creating the best possible experience for our clients. When Josh is not at work he enjoys traveling, cooking, outdoor adventure (of course!), golf, and spending time doing just about anything with his wife and two daughters.