Anxiety isn’t a condition we think of kids and teens struggling with. The symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder can look a lot like the symptoms of puberty or “teen angst”, so sometimes it is overlooked.  

The teen years can be filled with stress and uncertainty. For teens with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) there is even more going on in their minds and bodies that they’re struggling with.  

So how can you tell the difference between teen stress and something more? Here we talk about signs and symptoms you can look for. If you’re still not sure, have an honest chat with your teen and their doctor.  

Common Signs of Anxiety Disorders in Kids & Teens: 

  • Sleep problems 
  • Trouble focusing 
  • Moodiness 
  • Irritable
  • Very self-conscious 
  • Grade drops or avoiding school 
  • Complaining a lot about head or stomach aches 
  • Frequently asking for reassurance 
  • Being withdrawn
  • Sensitive to criticism 

As a parent, teacher, or caregiver it can be hard to tell the difference between Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and ‘regular’ teen anxiety. As a parent, patience and communication are some of your best tools. You and your kids are in this journey together, even if sometimes you feel like enemies on opposite sides of a slammed door.  

Here are some tips for helping your teen cope with anxiety at any level: 

1. Talk with your Doctor

If you’re worried about Generalized Anxiety Disorder, talk to your kid’s doctor. They’re the expert, and they’re your best resource for finding out how to help your teen.

2. Keep an Open Mind, and Open Dialogue

Communication can be harder in the teen years. Emotions and hormones are running wild. Make sure your teen knows they can come to you with problems. Be honest with each other and try not to let your frustration or emotions show. Better yet, find ways to deal with those stressors and emotions together!

If your teen is struggling to talk to you, consider texting with them. Some teens open up more when they aren’t in the room with you, and they may be able to express themselves better through texting than talking.

3. Practice Coping Techniques Together 

There are lots of strategies for dealing with anxiety. Everyone is different, so work with your teen to find what works for them. Exercise, deep breathing, and meditation are some common strategies that work well. Try doing these with your teen to show your support.

4. Consider Counseling

Counseling and therapy are great tools for anyone struggling with anxiety. It can be very helpful to talk through stresses. Counselors and therapists can also help develop coping strategies, identify triggers, and help find the root causes of anxiety. 

5. Journaling

Keeping a journal is a great strategy for relieving stress and anxiety. It can also be a helpful way to see trends or notice if certain events are causing more stress and anxiety than others.

Journaling can also provide a safe place for teens to express their feelings and fears, without feeling judged or exposed.