More teens these days report higher anxiety levels, which is not just an uncomfortable feeling – it can impact their physical health and lead to depression. How can we know if a young person may need help managing stress and anxiety? We asked Claudia Kouakou, a licensed professional clinical counselor who works with Colorado youth, to help us understand more about teen anxiety. Watch the video or keep reading for her explanation and advice. 

How Anxiety Affects Teens 

Most people will experience some level of stress. It’s a common human experience. But when we talk about anxiety, it’s just a symptom of stress. Often, stress is present in teens, and anxiety lingers. It’s a more persistent after-effect. 

How we consume news and media has become much more instantaneous in the digital era. Young people can easily access a live stream of information about what’s happening worldwide. An abundance of awareness might be fueling what seems to be an increase in teen anxiety levels.   

Not only are young people feeling the pressure of global issues, but they are also dealing with typical adolescent stress factors in their environments. Usually, for teens, these factors include academic stress, self-image, or even traumatic life experiences. 

How to Spot Anxiety in Teens 

There are many signs of anxiety in teens. Many of them have to do with avoiding social or new situations. People often miss physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, or dizziness. 

If you know your teenager, look for things that are not normal for them. If they’re usually energetic and then all of a sudden they have low energy, that may be a cause for concern.  

Another sign your teen may be dealing with anxiety is if they begin complaining about having headaches or stomachaches when they normally do not deal with those issues.   

A big sign is excessive worry that doesn’t seem to alleviate with time. Untreated anxiety is often diagnosed concurrently with depression, so prolonged anxiety symptoms that go untreated can lead to depression. 

How to Support a Teen Experiencing Anxiety 

1. Listen and Validate 

When teens are struggling with any issue, the problem is that they don’t feel validated in their experience. It’s important for parents to listen and validate their teenager’s experience.  

Often teens won’t come to you about those kinds of things. If a parent notices without the teen bringing it up, the parent should bring it up. 

2. Ask Them About It 

There are many ways you can ask beyond, “Do you have anxiety?” It’s good to enter the conversation from a more exploratory stance — asking teens the anxiety feels like for them and what it feels like in their body.  

3. Seek Professional Support 

Suppose you notice disruptive symptoms in your teen’s life. In that case, that is the time to seek professional help — whether it be disrupting their schoolwork or their social relationships or, if they’re employed, affecting their employment and how they show up. 

4. Share Your Own Challenges with Anxiety 

Many parents experience anxiety themselves. The best thing parents can do is address their own struggles with their child because it can be a bonding factor and teens often think they’re the only ones going through something. 

If teens can relate to a parent about something like anxiety and know that they’re not alone, that can lead to a beautiful conversation between parent and child about how to manage together. 

If you want more info and resources related to your young person’s mental health, check out our resources page. Also, if you have concerns, remember you can reach out any time to Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK.] 

Claudia Kouakou

Claudia Kouakou, M.A., LPPC, is a mental health therapist at the Struggle of Love Foundation in Denver.