A Simple Guide to Understanding Anxiety in Teens

A girl meditates in front of the grand canyon as a way of illustrating how to combat Anxiety in Teens | Aspiro Wilderness Therapy Program for Teens

Is your teenager always worried? Are they struggling to do “the basics” despite everything you do or say to help? Do you feel like your anxious child is slipping away and becoming someone you don’t recognize? In this article we’ll discuss anxiety in teens and what parents can do to help.

Parenting an anxious teenager has many challenges that can overwhelm any parent or guardian. You are not alone in this struggle. Many parents are finding themselves in this stressful situation. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. The number of anxious teenagers is also on the rise. It is a sad fact, but you should know that you are not alone. Many others are parenting anxious teens. They, too, are struggling to help their child overcome a disorder that is taking over their lives. 

First, let’s learn about what you and your family are up against. We will then go over the symptoms of an anxiety disorder (some may surprise you) and learn about co-occurring conditions like depression. Most importantly, we will go over ways to help your child, so they can start living their best life.

Parents often struggle understanding anxious teens' struggles in social situations.

How Does Anxiety Affect Teens?

  • Recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worries about everyday life events
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Excessive concern about being harmed
  • Worrying about loved ones
  • Avoidance of independent activities
  • Fear of unfamiliar people
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Experiencing excessive fears and worries

An anxiety disorder can affect every aspect of a teen’s life, including:

  • School Attendance
  • Grades
  • Sleep
  • Hobbies
  • Commitments to sports or clubs
  • Friendships
  • Dating
  • Relationships with family
  • Self-worth
  • Physical health
  • Co-occurring conditions

Anxiety presents in many different ways and can affect each person differently. Because anxiety can cause gradual changes in your teen’s life it can be difficult for parents to understand exactly what is going on. For instance, it is hard for parents to know whether their anxious teen is not hanging out with their friends because of social anxiety or just because some friends can drift apart. Similarly, parents can struggle to understand the reasons why they can’t sleep. Are they drinking too much caffeine, or are they up all night rehearsing conversations in their head because they are scared to say the wrong thing.

It can also be challenging for a young person to understand how anyone can help them with their anxiety. Teens might not understand how to communicate their feelings. They might not even think that they are normal. After all, many teens are struggling with anxiety.

anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

How Common is Anxiety in Teens?

Many parents wonder, “Is it normal for my teenager to have anxiety?”

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder for teens and children. Many different studies have taken a closer look at anxiety in teens. Depending on which study you read, they estimate 15-30 percent of young people will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder before 18. Unfortunately, many more go undiagnosed but experience the adverse effects nonetheless.

As parents, one of the best ways to help your child is to bring awareness to the issue of anxiety in young people. In addition, the earlier your child is diagnosed, the sooner they will benefit from the many available treatments. But how do you know if your child has an anxiety disorder? First, let’s look at the many different symptoms from the many various anxiety disorders.

Feeling anxious sometimes is normal, like when you are nervous about passing a test. That nervousness or stress can even help people stay motivated when studying. It is built into our biology and allows us to react to threats or danger (think the fight, flight, or freeze response). Good anxiety is proportional, though. It does not last long and is an appropriate response for the situation.

When someone develops an anxiety disorder, the anxious feeling is no longer acting as a tool to help get through stressful situations. Instead, the anxiety leads to excessive worry or fear. This can negatively impact everyday activities and even how someone interacts with the world for an extended time.

Teenage Anxiety Statistics

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.
  • Anxiety is more common among women and caregivers.
  • 80% of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not getting treatment, and anxiety disorders are highly treatable!
  • Studies have found a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication for 12 weeks yields a positive response in 80% of children with anxiety disorders.
  • About 50 percent of adults and up to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.

What Causes Anxiety in Teens?

Teenagers are under much pressure today. They are trying to balance more than previous generations. Excess amounts of screen time have been normalized. Depending on what research study you read, screens are now occupying 4-6 hours each day of a teen’s life. Social media use alone has been linked to increased anxiety and depression in teens.

Additionally, environmental factors can be responsible for increased anxiety in teens. Unfortunately, many teenagers have not developed sound coping skills for the stressors that can greatly impact their mental health.

Many of these factors can cascade onto each other. One can lead to another, and before your teenager knows it, they are stuck in their anxiety. The cycle can continue as teens try to escape the anxious feelings, and co-occurring conditions can arise. Feeling anxiety about being anxious is a typical feedback loop.

  • Death of a loved one
  • Trauma
  • Bullying
  • Divorce

Other Factors

  • Family history of anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Conflict
  • Health issues
  • Financial hardship
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased caffeine intake

Symptoms of Anxiety in Teens

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Frequent headaches and migraines
  • Upset stomach & Indigestion 
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle tension
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Not feeling well with no apparent medical cause
  • Changes in social behavior
  • Withdrawal from social activity
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Avoiding extracurricular activities
  • Spending increased time alone
  • Avoidance of new situations
  • Unstable social relations
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained outbursts
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Repeated reassurance-seeking
  • Substance use
  • Extreme self-consciousness
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Not feeling rested after sleeping
  • Poor school performance
  • Overwhelmed by the workload
  • Frequently missed assignments
  • Missing school
  • Drop in grades or school refusal
  • Avoidance and fear of school-related events
  • Difficulties with family functioning
  • Avoidance and distress of a feared object
  • Tachycardia (fast heartbeat)
  • Syncope
  • Throat tightness
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Issues with breathing
  • Feeling like they’re dying
  • Feeling like they’re “going crazy.”
  • Numbness or tingling in arms and legs
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Intense fears
  • Lightheaded
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shaking
  • Sense of unreality
  • Fear of dying, or losing their mind
  • Tinnitus
  • Excessive yawning 
  • Tremors 
  • Tics 
  • Derealization
  • Cold Extremities
  • Globus Hystericus -(lump in the throat feeling)

The Different Types of Anxiety Disorders in Teens and How to Recognize Them

It is easy to think of teenagers as “immature adults,” but the truth is that they are not. Your teenager will most likely not show the same symptoms as an adult who has severe anxiety. Symptoms also depend on the type of anxiety disorder a teen has. There isn’t just one kind. To further understand the different types of anxiety disorders, let’s examine each one.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Characterized by people suffering from excessive worry about everyday events. Their fears are often exaggerated or for no apparent reason. They often can’t stop worrying about relationships, school, work, money, future events, or health. Their worry is out of proportion to the situation. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders can show up as early as six years old.

  • Anticipating the worst
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Recurring fears and worries about parts of everyday life
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Extreme self-consciousness or sensitivity to criticism
  • Withdrawal from social activity
  • Avoidance of complicated or new situations
  • Chronic complaints about stomach aches or headaches
  • Drop-in grades or school refusal
  • Repeated reassurance-seeking
  • Sleep problems
  • Substance use

Panic Disorder

 A panic disorder is a mental health problem that causes a sudden spike in anxiety or extreme fear when there isn’t an imminent danger. Those of you who have experienced a panic attack knows that it is a terrifying experience, especially for a teenager. They might not understand what is going on. They could think they are dying or having a heart attack.

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Feeling hot or a cold chill
  • Numbness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling or shaking


Phobias are commonly understood. They are irrational or extreme fear of something or a particular situation. Why people develop phobias can vary. They can sometimes be a result of a trauma, or other times even genetic factors. One of the most common phobias is a fear of public speaking. The most common phobias affecting teens involve public humiliation, snakes, needles, flying, and failing grades.

  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushed face
  • Disturbing thoughts

How can you Recognize Social Anxiety in Teenagers?

Social Anxiety Disorder is a mental health condition where irrational anxiety is caused by social interactions or events. Adverse experiences like bullying can cause teen anxiety. Teenagers who have social anxiety disorder can excessively worry or have a social phobia. They worry about things like being embarrassed or judged. This often leads people with social anxiety to try to avoid many social situations. They may show physical signs like excessive sweating, fast heart rate, and nausea when experiencing anxious feelings.

Other Forms of Anxiety Disorders That Can Be Affecting Your Child’s Mental Health

This is where a person fears leaving home or separating from a caregiver. Separation anxiety is more common in children than adults. Not surprisingly, there is a correlation between young children with severe separation anxiety and those who develop agoraphobia during adolescence. Agoraphobia is an overwhelming fear when they feel like they can not get out of a situation.

People With Agoraphobia can be Fearful of:

  • Leaving their home
  • Open or enclosed spaces
  • Crowds of people
  • Public transportation

OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (known as obsessions) and paired with repetitive behaviors (compulsions). When people who have OCD perform these rituals lead to a temporary feeling of relief. If they are not able to complete the ritual, it leads to increased anxiety. Although OCD was thought of as rare, after further study, it was found to affect 1-3% of people, making it the fourth most common mental illness. While 1-3% might seem like a small number, it means that somewhere between 3 and 10 million people in the United States alone suffer from OCD.

The first signs of OCD often start during childhood or adolescence. Issues at school involving academic performance can be one of the first signs of OCD for teenagers. It can sometimes present as an obsession with getting the correct answers on a test or assignment. They might reread or rewrite things several times. Additionally, someone struggling with OCD might barrage other students and teachers with questions about assignments or tests. Finally, they may create rituals attempting to control the outcome of their grades. At first, it may have seemed like a good thing that they are trying so hard at school. They might even get positive feedback until the behavior starts to move into other areas of their life.

PTSD is a severe anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event. A traumatic event is any event that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm to an individual, resulting in the individual feeling threatened or frightened. When it comes to trauma, it is essential to keep in mind that it is dependent on that person’s perception. Trauma is unique for everyone. Your teenager might not even understand that what they experienced was traumatic. That is until PTSD symptoms arise. They may not know that there is help out there for what they are feeling. Also, keep in mind that teens might not know how to communicate about trauma. They also might be embarrassed to talk about the event because of the shame that so often accompanies trauma.

Sometimes it is hard for parents to imagine that their child could have been in a traumatic event that would trigger PTSD. The unpleasant truth is that it is more common than one might think. It is estimated that 5% of adolescents aged 13-18 experience PTSD. Additionally, The National Survey of Children’s Exposure reported that 18.7% of teenage girls had experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault in their lifetime.

anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy
20 Common Signs of PTSD in Teens
  1. Feeling tense or jumpy
  2. Hyper-vigilance
  3. Bad dreams or trouble sleeping
  4. Socially withdrawn from friends and family
  5. Overreacts about small things
  6. Depression
  7. Emotional numbness or feeling detached
  8. Poor academic performance
  9. Sudden change in behavior
  10. Loss of interest in hobbies
  11. Detached from daily routines and activities
  12. Difficulties with concentration and focusing
  13. Becomes rebellious
  14. Substance abuse
  15. Changes in eating habits
  16. Isolates him or herself
  17. Overly anxious
  18. Panic attacks
  19. Constant fear or worrying
  20. Nausea or frequent headache
anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

Common Co-Occurring Conditions

Being anxious is an uncomfortable feeling. In response, co-occurring conditions are often present. Let’s take a look at the most common co-occurring conditions for teens who have anxiety.

What is the Relationship Between Anxiety and Depression in Teens?

Why are anxiety and depression so often linked? Well, simply they have a lot in common, and one can lead to the other. The link is so strong that nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety and depression are both categorized as mood disorders. They are also both known as internalizing disorders. These two disorders have common signs and symptoms.

Teens can get stuck in an anxiety/depression cycle. When teens are depressed, they worry, and that worry leads to anxiety. For example, anxiety can prevent them from going to a movie with friends. Then they can feel depressed because they are lonely.

Like anxiety, depression is a normal emotion. Depression becomes an illness when it affects daily living activities like school, relationships, health, etc. Teens who are depressed often have a lack of energy. Their eating patterns can change, and they can experience frequent aches and pains without an identifiable cause.

The good news is that teen depression and anxiety have similar treatments, including medications that help with both simultaneously, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

How Can Anxiety in Teens Lead to Drug Use?

It is common knowledge that many teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. There are many reasons why teens are likely to experiment. Teenagers might try to fit in or could be bored. However, there is a big difference between experimentation and substance abuse disorder. Teenagers who have an anxiety disorder are more likely to seek drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Drugs and alcohol can relieve the discomfort.

About 20% of Americans with an anxiety disorder also have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. Many teens turn to cope with substances because they don’t know what else to do. Anxiety can be a powerful force that comes with complex feelings and emotions. It is difficult for anyone to express these feelings to friends, family, or even a therapist.

Are Teens Who Have Anxiety More Likely to Have ADHD?

Anxiety during the teenage year has also been linked to problems with focusing and learning that can cause problems with school. About 50 percent of adults and up to 30 percent of children with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. It can be challenging to treat both because ADHD medication (normally stimulants) can cause increased anxiety. The good news is that some treatments can positively affect both anxiety and ADHD, like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and medications.

As a parent, it is hard to know how to help your teenager. You can take many directions, but how do you know what the right one is, or if your child would be willing to give it a try. So, in the next section, let’s review some ways to help teens who have anxiety.

anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

How do You Help a Teenager With Anxiety?

As a parent, you want the very best for your child. However, it can be hard to help a teenager through struggles with anxiety. Teens might not understand how their anxiety is affecting themselves or others. Anxiety is known as one of many internalizing disorders and is fundamentally an internal battle. Your teenager might not remember what it is like to not live with anxiety, as symptoms can often appear at a young age. The first step in the right direction is identifying the problem or awareness that there is an issue.

Once identified, teens can start working on lifestyle changes to begin calming some of their anxious feelings. There are many treatment options available for teens. There are also many medication options. Overall, anxiety is treatable with individualized plans that fit your child’s needs.

What Lifestyle Changes Help Alleviate Anxiety in Teens?

Some of the best medicine is right in front of us! Overall, balance and wellness can help teens get back on track. Remember that lifestyle changes can make a big difference. On the other hand, they are not a replacement for treatment. The lifestyle changes below are great things to try alongside professional recommendations. Take a look at all the things you can encourage or role model your teen to help with their anxiety.


It is no big surprise that what people eat affects their mood. Quick carbs like doughnuts and chips are delicious and convenient. Unfortunately, they spike blood sugar and then crash. Eating a healthy diet can help regulate and increase overall mood.


Exercise releases endorphins and helps to reduce stress.

Reduce Caffeine Intake

Not many people can go without a warm cup of coffee in the morning, and there are some great health benefits linked to drinking it! However, when people do not drink caffeinated beverages in moderation, it can make anxiety worse. Caffeine disrupts sleep patterns and increases the consumption of empty calories. Teens or anyone who drinks caffeine in moderation will feel less anxious and more rested.


Mindfulness is a great way to combat anxiety. Many studies have been conducted and confirmed that mindfulness exercises like yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises reduce anxiety and stress.

Sleep Habits

People need sleep, and we need a lot of it. If your teenager is struggling to sleep, they can do several behavioral things to help them fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Stick to a routine
  • Limit caffeine and only drink caffeine in the morning.
  • Stop using electronics at least 30 mins before going to bed.
  • Get enough exercise
  • Try deep breathing or relaxation exercises.
  • Stop eating 1-3 hours before going to bed

How is Drug Therapy Used to Treat Anxiety in Teens?

There is no such thing as a happy pill, but medications for teens can help them with their anxiety. For best results, anxiety medication is used in conjunction with other therapeutic modalities.

Antidepressant medications are most commonly used in treating anxiety in teens. Before your child takes an antidepressant or any psychiatric medication, it is essential to have an in-depth discussion with your child’s doctor to fully understand what to expect.

Questions to Ask Your Child's Healthcare Provider

There are many reasons why a doctor would prescribe a particular medication. They factor in the child’s age, symptoms, and potential side effects.

Antidepressants often have side effects, especially at first. Ask your doctor about them and if there are any that you will need to be particularly aware of.

Everyone’s treatment goals are unique to each individual, and it is essential to have realistic expectations for treatment. Getting the proper medication can take time with some trial and error. It can be a frustrating process, but it is well worth the effort when your child can get the help they need to overcome anxiety and start living the life they deserve.

anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

Treatment Options For Teens With Anxiety

There are many treatment options available for teens who are struggling with anxiety. Best results for teenagers usually involve a combination of treatments. Most effective treatment plans are individualized. Anxiety might be common in teens but how teens overcome anxiety is an individual matter.

Three Main Focuses of Anxiety Treatment

  1. Managing crises that can accompany anxiety
  2. Managing symptoms
  3. Minimizing the effects on daily living

CBT is carried out by a licensed therapist and is designed to challenge negative thought patterns. In addition, a therapist using CBT can identify co-occurring conditions that may be exacerbating their anxiety symptoms.

A psychological treatment known as exposure therapy helps people face their fears. People often avoid things that frighten them in the short term, but avoidance can make fear worse in the long term. In situations such as these, a psychologist might recommend exposure therapy, which means creating a safe environment in which the person being treated can be exposed to the thing they fear and try to escape from. Gradual exposure to what you fear, in a safe environment, can decrease fear and avoidance.

Mental health care that is usually administered at a hospital or health care facility. Patients are typically admitted by a doctor. Programs of this kind usually last for a short period of time.

Outpatient therapy generally consists of visiting a therapist periodically while living at home. However, the structure of outpatient therapy varies widely, depending on the number of visits and the length of the program. Outpatient therapy usually lasts one to two hours a week (longer if needed), depending on the severity of symptoms.

Mental health facilities where patients will live and undergo treatment of different kinds. These residential programs are, by definition, inpatient programs. However, these programs are not confined to a hospital setting; rather, they are conducted in designated facilities and entail traditional talk therapy, group therapy, and living in a structured environment.

Prolonged progress can be seen with involvement from the whole family. This happens during family therapy, where each family member learns how their behavior impacts others. Out of this closeness, family members grow understanding and acceptance for one another.

Wilderness therapy is a type of mental health treatment that employs therapy as well as challenging situations to help teenagers with various mental health issues, such as anxiety and other issues that go hand in hand with it. This means clients can put aside distractions and focus on themselves. They are also granted skills in family therapy, which will make it easier for them to communicate. These programs are tailored to provide accurate assessments of a person’s mental state. In general, a more accurate assessment is carried out, which leads to more personalized treatment.

Choosing the right care for your child is a big decision. Combining treatments like those above may help your child and your family. Even so, one program in particular comes to mind when it comes to anxiety treatment for teenagers. Let’s talk about the advantages of Aspiro Adventure, the family program of services offered.


anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

How Wilderness Adventure Therapy Can Help

Kyra’s Story

Kyra was not your average 16-year-old girl; she had been struggling through life for the past couple of years. Her family had been as supportive as they could be. Kyra had a wonderful family, including her mom, dad, and little sister Addison, who is 14. They lived in Palo Alto, CA, which is a cute little suburb of San Jose. However, the past two years have been difficult for Kyra. Her mom described her anxiety symptoms as more severe, not the normal teenage anxiety. It had gotten to the point that Kyra often laid awake worrying about intruders or a school shooting at her middle school. When she did finally go to sleep, Kyra had nightmares. Her intense fear even extended to dwelling on tragic world events.

Kyra didn’t have many friends. She appeared to lack maturity and often looked anxious in social settings. While she had made a few friends, and they seemed to enjoy one another, but they did not stick around long term. Kyra often said that she felt like she had to “wear a mask” for people to like her. She began to assume that her friends would leave when the mask came off. Kyra had so many letdowns that she became depressed. Kyra had even been struggling to get out of bed some days and did not believe she had joy in her life. When she started to get ready for school, her heart would pound against her chest, like she was sprinting, her stomach would ache, and sometimes she even had panic attacks. This past school year, it has gotten so bad that she could not go to school most days.

At this point, Kyra’s parents knew they needed to get her help and ended up hiring a psychotherapist named Dr. Kelly. Dr. Kelly worked with Kyra for a few months, and they went to multiple sessions every week. Unfortunately, this was until Dr. Kelly recommended that Kyra needed a higher level of care. Her sessions with Kyra were not going to be enough.

Kyra’s mom agreed, and she knew deep down that Kyra needed more help than she was getting. She loved her little girl more than anything in the world and knew it was time to look into better options. Her mom felt that Kyra was an incredible young woman with so much potential. She just needed help to set her on the right path.

After searching the internet for options and calling many programs, Kyra’s parents thought it would be best to send her to Aspiro. Aspiro is a wilderness adventure therapy company specializing in helping teenagers who are struggling in the ways Kyra was.
At Aspiro, Kyra was going to be able to get the help that she needed. While there, she got the opportunity to experience challenging yet fun adventure activities like rock climbing and mountain biking.

From day one, their therapist Danielle Gagnon seemed to understand Kyra. Danielle worked directly with Kyra while in the program and spoke with her parents over the phone. Kyra’s parents learned how to best support her while Kyra was learning ways to calm her anxiety. Kyra was so successful that she made friends with some of the other girls in her group. She was able to work through her catastrophizing thoughts and became more rational. Aspiro’s adventure activities helped with this process by challenging Kyra’s “worst-case scenario thoughts.” After a few months of this extensive, full-immersion treatment, Kyra is feeling better. She doesn’t feel like she has to put on a mask for others. Instead, she feels like she can be herself.

Her anxiety has not gone away entirely, but she has been able to cope with those feelings when they come up and not let them drag her down. Krya’s family learned how they could best support their daughter. Krya is now home and still going to therapy twice a week. Her journey in overcoming anxiety is not over yet, but she is on the right track.

Where To Go For Support

Aspiro takes wilderness therapy a step further and adds adventure therapy. Students at Aspiro get the opportunity to fight off anxious feelings while rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, canyoneering, and backpacking. This treatment option is particularly well-tailored for teens struggling with anxiety. Adventure activities help them learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy anxiety. Asprio combines professional mental health counseling with natural challenges, novel experiences, and powerful adventures to fast-track the healing process.

Additionally, Aspiro is designed specifically for teens. They are around other teens allowing them to connect with, and learn from, other teens struggling with similar challenges.
Exposing teens to novel environments through adventure therapy activities is an effective way to challenge teens. In this setting, teens can learn and practice new coping strategies. Further, overcoming seemingly impossible challenges, like summiting a large mountain, has been shown to improve resilience, grit, and self-efficacy.

Overall, Aspiro has a long track record of positive outcomes for teens. Outcomes you can expect; stronger family relationships, improved self-efficacy, increased resilience, and a more positive outlook on life. Aspiro provides accurate mental health assessments, so you can be assured that your child gets the help they need. Wilderness adventure therapy’s unique environment provides customized treatment plans implemented by professionals. In addition, these therapeutic methods create an atmosphere of growth and learning that will help get your teenager back on track.

Aspiro is a licensed program that has also gone through voluntary credentialing processes through the Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council (OBH) and the Association of Experiential Education (AEE). These organizations provide credentialing for outdoor behavioral healthcare providers and experiential education programs, respectively. Aspiro is committed to providing safe and effective treatment to teenagers. Aspiro Adventure uses evidence-based practices that are proven to be effective treatments for teens with anxiety.

In all, Aspiro Adventure is an effective treatment option for teenagers who are struggling due to anxiety. So if you are worried about your teen’s anxiety, give Aspiro Adventures a call today to learn more about how Aspiro can help you and your family.

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.

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


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

Wilderness Therapy for Depression and Anxiety: Why Is It So Effective?

Wilderness Therapy for Depression and Anxiety | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy

Over the past few decades, wilderness 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 depression and anxiety– among other cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues.

Does Wilderness Therapy Work?

YES! Recent research found that “it is more cost-effective to provide coverage for outdoor behavioral therapy than current forms of treatment (ie, residential treatment, outpatient therapy, etc). We already know that adolescents that go through wilderness programs show almost three times more improvement after one year. Now we can say that it is also two times less expensive.”

The following are aspects that make wilderness programs successful in helping teens and young adults with anxiety and depression.

1. Exposure to the Therapeutic Wilderness Setting

Living in the wilderness is a big change from the everyday environment that many teens and young adults are used to. The opportunity to become fully immersed in the beauty of the outdoors presents the opportunity for individuals to try new things and overcome obstacles. In addition, research has shown that mere exposure to the outdoors can improve mental health and significantly reduce many depression and anxiety symptoms, including:

  • Better executive functioning
  • Enhanced problem solving
  • Critical thinking and decision making
  • Reduction in the symptoms of ADD/ADHD (which can contribute to one’s depression and anxiety symptoms)
  • Improved clarity

2. Therapeutic Group Living

The therapeutic group living setting is one of the most effective aspects of wilderness therapy that helps with anxiety and depression. In fact, depression in adolescence often “stems from unresolved developmental conflicts, issues of separation/individuation, the search for identity and the development of the true self” (Norton, 2010). Wilderness therapy is used to address the intrapsychic, developmental, and relational factors contributing to depression. This is achieved through therapy, therapeutic group living, and therapeutic wilderness and adventure activities.

Research indicates that “a primary cause of emotional and behavioral disturbances in youth is the lack of significant relationship with the social and natural worlds’’ (Gass, 1993). Wilderness therapy is powerful in the treatment of adolescent depression as the therapy, therapeutic group living, therapeutic setting of the wilderness, and adventure activities address the struggles with social responsibility, learned helplessness, dependency, and feelings of worthlessness associated with depression (Kimball and Bacon, 1993).

3. Adventure Activities

Adding an adventure therapy component to traditional wilderness therapy programs leads to higher engagement in therapy for teens and young adults, due to the variety of appealing activities.

An adventure component also allows therapists to more effectively target an increase in self-efficacy, as opposed to just increasing self-confidence. Self-efficacy is the belief in oneself to overcome adversity/difficulties in life. This is vital, as research has shown that self-efficacy is one of the most influential predictors of behavioral change. (Wells, Widmer, & McCoy 2004)

Wilderness Adventure therapy utilizes overwhelming mastery experiences to increase self-efficacy and help teens and young adults in overcoming depression and anxiety. The more repetitive treatment programs can be with overwhelming mastery experiences, the better. Clients are more likely to generalize the belief that they can achieve difficult things, and can incorporate this belief into different domains of life: classroom, peers, sports, etc.

For example: If teens and young adults believe they can:

  • Navigate terrain on a mountain bike
  • Rappel a cliff
  • Go skiing down a mountain

They are much likelier to believe that they can:

  • Overcome depression and anxiety symptoms
  • Mend strained relationships
  • Perform well in school/at work

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To learn more about how to help your child with depression or anxiety, download our white paper, “Depression and Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults” below.

About Aspiro Adventure

Play Video

Aspiro Adventure’s Wilderness Adventure Therapy program is uniquely crafted to assist at-risk youth and their families in creating lasting, life-long emotional changes through compassionate, intentional, research-backed, and safe outdoor adventure therapy programs.

The mental health professionals at Aspiro Adventure understand individuals don’t come with instructions, and every student‘s personal growth 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, experiential, and intentional activities will aid in developing the tools and skills necessary to engage life in a healthy and positive way.

About the Author

How to Treat Depression and Anxiety: The Importance of Early Intervention

How to Treat Depression and Anxiety | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

Six months ago, 17-year-old *Katie became quieter at school, withdrawing from friends for fear of saying the wrong thing and stumbling over her words. These feelings developed into depression with feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, and have stunted her social development.

Twenty-year-old *Samuel was a straight-A college student until last fall when the stress of managing his studies, work, friends and family became intense and uncontrollable. Feelings of anxiety overwhelmed him frequently. Samuel found himself perpetually exhausted and struggling to concentrate until it became necessary for him to take a leave of absence from the University.

While these individuals are now receiving needed help, they are just two of many cases in which early intervention may have provided a decrease in painful life experiences.

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy: Helping with Mood Disorders, Anxiety and Depression in Teenage Girls

DBT for depression and anxiety in teen girls | Aspiro Adventure Therapy 

Mood disorders, anxiety and depression can occur in anyone, any age, any gender at any time. There are, however, certain populations that are more at-risk. Previously, we discussed how teenage girls are far more at risk than teenage boys for anxiety and depression. According to the Child Mind Institute, “by mid-adolescence, girls are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder as boys, with the prevalence at adult levels, 14 to 20 percent.”

A highly effective method of treatment for mood disorders, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-injury, suicidal tendencies, anxiety and depression in teenage girls is dialectical behavior therapy. Dialectical behavior therapy addresses the interfering behaviors, and thought processes associated with these diagnoses. This article provides an overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, the advantages of this type of therapy in helping teen girls, and introduces Aspiro Clinical Therapist, Jason Capel, a Dialectical behavior therapy expert.

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Anxiety and Depression in Teens and Young Adults: Infographic

Wilderness Therapy Programs For Troubled Teens | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

Society tends to view depression and anxiety as “adult” problems. In fact, even experts once believed that only adults could have depression severe enough to require treatment. This can be a very dangerous misconception.

Because it is perfectly normal for teens and young adults to be sad or moody, sometimes even parents can overlook major symptoms of depression and anxiety in their child. It is all too common for these signs and symptoms to appear as “growing pains,” “being dramatic,” or “teenage problems,” in teens and young adults.

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Considering Treatment for Anxiety or Depression? What to Look for In Reputable Wilderness Therapy Programs

Considering Treatment for Anxiety or Depression? What to Look for In Reputable Wilderness Therapy Programs | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

anxiety in teens | Aspiro Wilderness Adventure Therapy If you have decided that residential treatment for anxiety or depression would be beneficial for your child in the healing process, wilderness therapy is an effective option to assist teens and young adults. Understanding where to begin and how to differentiate a credible, reputable program can be overwhelming.

There are several criteria that credible wilderness therapy programs should implement for your child to receive the best care. These aspects set the best wilderness therapy programs apart from other residential wilderness treatment programs. Look for the following when researching wilderness therapy programs to help with depression or anxiety in teens and young adults: 

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Supporting Your Child Through Their Treatment for Anxiety or Depression

Treatment for Anxiety and Depression | Aspiro Adventure Therapy 

As your son or daughter goes through the process of diagnosis and treatment for anxiety and/or depression, they may feel at times overwhelmed. Knowing you are there for them can help. As they feel your encouragement and faith in their ability to overcome this challenge and your trust in their treatment team, your child’s hope for a different life can be fortified.

Knowing how to support your loved one in a helpful way during their treatment for anxiety or depression can be difficult, as often those struggling with anxiety and/or depression feel a high level of shame (the feeling that they are not a good person, undeserving of support or unloveable). Here are ways to show your support and let your son or daughter know that he or she is loved, valued, and respected.

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Getting Help for Depression and Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults

Treating Depression and Anxiety in Teens and Young Adults | Aspiro Adventure Therapy 

While depression and anxiety in teens and young adults often go overlooked, recognizing key anxiety and depression symptoms in your child is the first step in getting help for depression and anxiety. Once you have noticed anxiety or depression symptoms in your son or daughter, it is time to have a loving, but serious talk with him or her to make sure they are receiving the help they need.. As we discussed in our previous post, getting help for depression or anxiety as the first signs of depression or anxiety symptoms is key.

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Can You Have Anxiety and Depression?

Can you have anxiety and depression? | Aspiro Adventure Therapy

Last week, we discussed anxiety and depression symptoms in teens and young adults. While anxiety and depression are two separate conditions, many people ask the question, “Can you have anxiety and depression?” This article provides answers to the question, “Can you have anxiety and depression,” in addition to addressing which young people are the most at-risk.

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