Teen Anxiety: 5 Warning Signs To Know and How to Management It

Teenagers often experience some amount of anxiety sometimes. Anxiety being a normal reaction to stress, sometimes does help teens deal with tense or overwhelming situations.

Read on to learn more on the “5 Warning Signs of Teenage Anxiety and How to Management It”.

According to a study from the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25% of teens between the ages of 13 to 18-year-olds have an anxiety disorder, and just less than 6% have a severe anxiety disorder.

Sometimes, what may you feel may be a usual teen struggle can actually be a sign of a severe anxiety disorder.

What are the signs of Teenage Anxiety?

1. Emotional changes

Although some anxious teens express feelings of pervasive worry, others may experience subtle emotional changes such as:

  • Feeling “keyed up”
  • Feeling on edge
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Restlessness
  • Unexplained outbursts

2. Social changes

Anxiety can affect friendships and relationships with others negatively. If your teen(s) suddenly begins to avoid their favorite activities or stops communicating with friends, think twice.

You might notice your child:

  • Avoiding social interactions with usual friends
  • Avoiding extracurricular activities
  • Isolating from a peer group
  • Prefers spending time alone

3. Physical changes

Some of the physical complaints that can occur with an anxiety disorder include teen complaints and frequent headaches which are red flags.

Watch out for these psychosomatic complaints:

  • Frequent headaches and migraines
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Unexplained pains and aches
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Complaints of not feeling unwell without a cause
  • Changes in eating habits.

4. Sleep problems

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an average sleep hour between 8 to 10 hours of sleep on a regular basis for teens (13 to 18 years) to promote optimal health.

Other recommendations by Pediatricians are, shutting down screens 30 minutes prior to bedtime, and removing all electronics from the bedroom.

Homework demands, changes in the brain structure, extracurricular activities, and prolonged exposure to a screen can affect the sleep habits of teens.

This, therefore, makes it challenging to know whether fatigue is a product of anxiety or a busy schedule. Watch for these warning signs:

  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Still feeling tired after sleep

5. Poor performance at school

Anxiety can affect both the physical and mental well-being of a teen. Untreated anxiety can affect and result in poor academic performance. Frequent absence from school due to anxiety-related illness and persistent worry can make it difficult for anxious teens to keep up with their academic workload. Below are some warning signs to watch out for your teen:

  • A Significant drop in grades
  • Frequently missed assignments and homework
  • Frequent complaints or feeling overwhelmed by a school workload
  • Difficulty concentrating on homework or assignments more than usual

Teenage Anxiety Treatment and Risks

It is very important to discuss with your teen if he/she is on or considering taking treatment for anxiety.

If you are thinking of treatment for your teen you should take note of the following list of questions.

This will guide you on the question to ask your child’s doctor or mental health professional.

These questions include:

  • How long will the medication take to get the desired effects?
  • What side effects are most common?
  • Will the side effects subside after a period of time?
  • Are there any health risks associated with taking this medication?
  • Are there any negative side effects associated with discontinuing the medication?
  • Will this medication interact with any other medications your teen is taking?

Finding the right and most effective medication might take several attempts. These needs may change from time to time.

In fact, some drugs may take months to produce the desired effects needed. This will also assist the doctor in determining the effectiveness of the medications.

Always ask your teenager about their experience with the drugs or if any side effects.

Report side effects to your doctor or Pharmacist.

You should also talk to your doctor before you and your teen decide to stop any medication.

Getting the right medication for your teen anxiety may take more than a try to achieve.

Your child’s doctor may recommend a genetic test. This method helps to get a better accuracy of the type of drugs that may work best.

You must educate your teen on the risk of using alcohol and other drugs while taking anxiety drugs.

Alcohol intake can worsen the side effects of any anxiety drug. Take note that it is very dangerous to take Benzodiazepines with alcohol.

Your teen may have the risks of habit-forming potentials if on benzodiazepine.

Educate your teen not to misuse, share or sell their medications to their friends or to anyone.

Some of the anxiety medications have reported possible suicidal thoughts. Hence, inform your teen(s) about the possible side effects they might experience.

This will make your teen feel empowered to manage their anxiety and live a healthy life.  

Types of Anxiety Medications

1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are antidepressants often prescribed to treat anxiety.

They act by improving mood via blocking the reuptake of serotonin a  neurotransmitter.

SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed class of medication for teens with anxiety.

Some typical side effects include nausea, headaches, and sleep problems.

These effects can take days or weeks to resolve. Encourage your teen not to stop their medication abruptly without consultation with a doctor.

2. Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs work by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine. They also act by preventing brain cells from reabsorbing them.

Side effects SNRIs can be like SSRIs and can also take several weeks to achieve their full effects.

3. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants may be prescribed if SSRIs or SSNRIs are ineffective.

Some risks of serious side effects associated with TCAs include:

constipation, sedation, and cardiac abnormalities.

Hence, people who take TCAs may need regular EKGs to track their cardiac health.

4. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are not usually used as the first drug of treatment.

This is due to the high risk of the development of tolerance and addiction.

There are also cases of withdrawal symptoms that can occur when your teen stops using the drug.

Talk to your teen’s doctor about the benefits and potential risks of taking them.


An anxiety disorder can be difficult to spot, given that teens experience a wide variety of physical and emotional changes as they grow.  Many warning signs may seem like usual teens’ struggles or be chalked up to hormones. It is therefore important to watch for these hidden signs of anxiety in your teens.


The information is for educational purposes. Do not use it as a substitute for the advice of a qualified and licensed physician or health care provider.

This article may not include all possible side effects, drug interactions, or all FDA warnings or alerts.

Always discuss with your doctor or pharmacist for more information.



2. National Institute of Mental Health, “Any Anxiety Disorder among Children,” retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-children.shtml.

3. American Academy of Pediatrics, “American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines,” 6/13/2016, retrieved from .https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx.