What to Do If Your Teen Has Anxiety
Concerned that your teen is anxious? Here’s expert tips for what you should do next.
By Deb Lonzer, MD
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
About 25 percent of 13- to 18-year-old children have generalized anxiety — that’s one in four kids. An even more alarming statistic: Generalized anxiety can start as early as preschool. And the problem seems to be on the rise nationally.
We’re not talking about nervous-before-a-test anxiety, but anxiety that affects all aspects of life — a true diagnosis.
If you’re concerned that your child may have generalized anxiety, ask yourself these questions:
If the answer is yes to either question, your child may have this complex condition with no concrete cause.
Mounting expectations for children, parenting styles and societal factors could all play a role in the rising incidence of generalized anxiety. There is also some data on exposure to violence in the media. It certainly can affect children’s short-term fears as well as attention span problems and aggressive behaviors (but that’s a whole other blog). However, nothing I’ve seen suggests that it affects true anxiety.
More clues that your kid may have generalized anxiety:
If you’re seeing any of the above alerts, let your pediatrician know. It could be that your child would benefit from seeing a specialist.
Talk therapy can be very helpful in the long term, and some kids may need medication — at least to get through the really rough stages. That’s definitely something that should be recommended by your pediatrician with input from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
In the meantime, here are steps that you can take to ease your child’s anxiety:
I’ve been asked whether children are likely to simply outgrow this condition or if they’re destined to becoming anxious adults. There isn’t a pat answer, however. It varies greatly and depends on the age at diagnosis and the make-up of the child. We hope that kids can grow out of anxiety, but that’s not always the case.
On the bright side, with the right treatment, a child will likely learn over time how to keep a cool head and cope with unnecessary anxiety.