Throughout the past year and a half, there have been many uncertainties and changes in everyone’s lives. With those changes, many teenagers are experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety.
Many people have had to become aware of their own anxieties and this has led to common questions about their teenagers. For example, how do I know if my teen is experiencing anxiety and what can I do to help?
Different ages can display symptoms of anxiety in very different ways. Before we can discuss how to help a teen experiencing anxiety, we have to understand some of the signs to be aware of.
In a young child, you will likely see physical symptoms due to the difficulty expressing their emotions. As the teen years approach, you will see emotional symptoms of anxiety develop in conjunction with the physical signs.
Signs of Anxiety Child & Teen Anxiety
Anxiety will manifest differently depending on the stage of life your children are in. For younger children, it will manifest differently than in your teenage children.
Younger children tend to exhibit signs of anxiety in more physical ways. They have yet to understand emotions and how to describe their inner experience with emotions.
Teenagers have a greater ability to comprehend and describe their inner, emotional experience. Though this can still be challenging at time for them to accurately convey what they are feeling and experiencing:
Below are signs of anxiety for both younger and teen children:
Signs of Anxiety in Younger Children
Tantrums and irritability
Withdrawing from from others
Loss of usual interests
Complaints of stomach aches or feeling sick
Feelings of sadness
Excessive clinginess or fear
Signs of Anxiety in Teens
Feeling tense or jumpy
Feeling nervous or restless/fidgety
Having trouble concentrating
Having difficulty controlling worry
Feelings of dread or apprehension
Pounding or racing heart
Gastrointestinal issues/ stomach problems
Feeling weak or tired
Shortness of breath or increased breathing rate
It is important to normalize your teen's feelings about what is making them feel anxious. Encourage them to talk about what they are feeling and share that they are not alone in feeling that way. When having a discussion with your teen, try to talk to them at their level
While teens have a higher capacity to talk about the emotional experience compared to smaller children, for many teens, this may be the first time they are experiencing the intensity of the emotions
Puberty puts into actions all sorts of mechanisms that affect a teen's brain (where anxiety originates). Hormones are one of these mechanisms that can amplify anxiety compared to when they were a smaller child.
3 Techniques to Help Teens With Anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most commonly experience emotional struggle in the United States today. Some anxiety in teenagers (and in all of us) is normal. Teen anxiety becomes problematic when it starts to interfere with a teens regular functioning and self-worth.
As teen anxiety is one of the more common emotional struggles people experience, this means that there are a myriad of approaches that have been found helpful for anxiety.
1. Belly Breathing
Belly breathing is an effective way to help lessen the intensity of anxiety symptoms. This form of breathing helps bring oxygen rich blood to the brain which can help calm an over anxious brain.
Belly breathing also helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is that part of our nervous system that helps calm an overactive brain and body.
How Does One "Belly Breathe"?
For belly breathing, you have the teen take a deep breath in and during that deep breath they push out their belly button as far as they can. Have your teen watch their belly as they breathe to see it go out.
You can have your teen place their hand on their belly. When they breathe in, they should breathe "into" their belly. If they are doing this correctly, the first and most prominent part of their body that will rise will be their hand that is on top of their belly.
Once they have breathed fully and their belly cannot expand any further, then take the rest of the breath into the lungs. Belly breathing helps expand the diaphragm of the lungs allowing for more oxygen to be taken into the lungs.
2. The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
Another technique that can is helpful is the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique. When utilizing this grounding technique, you focus on the small details that normally go unnoticed.
For this technique, you utilize all five senses. You identify and experience:
5 things that you can see
4 things you can feel (temperature, texture, weight, etc.)
3 things you can hear (sounds you would normally tune out)
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Another technique to help teens with anxiety is called progressive muscle relaxation. This technique allows you to focus on the bodily sensations and you tense and unclench different muscles in your body. This will also help bring calm and relaxation to tense muscles that tighten due to anxiety.
Take 5 long, deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through puckered lips.
Place both feet flat on the floor. Wiggle your toes. Curl and uncurl your toes several times. Spend a moment noticing the sensations in your feet.
Clench your hands into fists, and then release the tension. Repeat this 10 times.
Press your palms together. Press them harder and hold this pose for 15 seconds. Pay attention to the feeling of tension in your hands and arms.
Reach your hands over your head like you’re trying to reach the sky. Stretch like this for 5 seconds. Bring your arms down and let them relax at your sides.
Take 5 more deep breaths and notice the feeling of calm in your body.
Other Resources to Help With Anxiety in Teenagers
If you are interested in learning more about teen anxiety and particularly, increase in anxiety among teens during the pandemic, please see the below:
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Specializing in Teen Therapy in Katy, Texas & Houston
At the Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we specialize in providing counseling for teens who struggle with anxiety. We have 50+ years combined experience and utilize those approaches that have been supported by research.
If you are ready to start your healing journey with one of our teen therapists, you can follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC.
Take that first step in restoring hope, happiness, and connected family relationships.
Other Teen Therapy, Family Counseling, & Young Adult Therapy Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we also provide other counseling and therapeutic services. Marriage counseling and couples therapy are one of those services. Often, when parenting a struggling teen, this can have a direct impact on the parents relationship. Our marriage counselors and couples therapists can help.
We also provide other counseling and therapeutic services for teens, young adults, & families at our Katy, Tx location:
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Faye James is as Licensed Professional Counselor - Associate (LPC-A). Faye works with teens, young adults, families, and couples to help them overcome obstacles in their path leading to happiness.
Having lived experience herself, Faye brings to her approach to therapy a non-judgmental and confidential presence with her clients. Faye is warm, caring, and easy to engage with and as a talented therapist, has made it her life's mission to help others.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Faye, you can call or email us at: