How to support a teenager who is experiencing anxiety

Teenagers growing up today face a unique set of concerns from climate change and social justice to high academic expectations and the effect of the pandemic on their studies. As a parent, it can be challenging to know how to talk to your teenager about anxiety and how to support them. In this article, we'll discuss what causes anxiety in teenagers and provide tips for talking to your teenager about it and supporting them. 

What is anxiety?  

Anxiety is a natural response to stress, but it can become a problem when it's excessive and persistent, interfering with daily activities. Anxiety can manifest in many ways, including physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and behavioural symptoms. 

Is anxiety on the rise in teens? 

It does seem that mental health issues like anxiety are on the rise: one in six children aged five to 16 were identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021 according to NHS Digital, a huge increase from one in nine in 2017. That’s five children in every classroom. We're also dealing with the aftermath effects of lockdown with 83% of young people with mental health needs agreeing that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse according to the charity, Young Minds

What are the symptoms to look out for in your teenager? 

In teenagers, anxiety can manifest in different ways depending on their age, personality, and circumstances. Some common signs of anxiety in teenagers may include: 

  • Withdrawing from social activities or friendships 

  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits 

  • Irritability or moodiness 

  • Difficulty concentrating in school or declining grades 

  • Complaining of physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach aches, with no medical cause 

  • Avoidance of certain situations or activities, such as going to school or social events 

  • Excessive worry or fear about everyday events or activities 

  • Panic attacks or extreme feelings of fear or dread 

What causes anxiety in teenagers? 

Anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, and it's often a combination of different things. Some of the common causes of anxiety in teenagers include: 


Traumatic events, such as abuse, neglect, or violence will impact , but it is also important to remember that many events and situations can be traumatic. 

Stressful life events

Major life changes, such as moving to a new school, the death of a loved one, or parents breaking up. 

Academic pressure

Academic expectations can be a significant source of stress for teenagers, particularly as they approach important exams or college applications. 

Pressure to succeed

Young people often feel pressure to succeed in all facets of life, 

Climate change

Climate anxiety is on the rise with 70% of children in the UK worried about the world they are inheriting (Save The Children, 2022). 

Concerns about the economy

We're all facing a cost-of-living crisis and this impacts teenagers too. As well as being directly impacted, perhaps by not being able to attend a school trip due to the cost, teens can also pick up on their parent's conversations and anxiety around finances. 


Healthy relationships are fundamental to teenagers' wellbeing. Friendship fall-outs, bullying and issues around dating and sex can all cause anxiety.  

How to talk to your teenager about anxiety and support them 

Talking to your teenager about their anxiety can be a sensitive topic. Here are some tips for approaching the conversation: 

Create a safe space

Make sure your teenager feels comfortable and safe before starting the conversation. Find a quiet and private place to talk, and let them know that you're there to listen and support them.

Validate their feelings

Let your teenager know that you understand their anxiety and that it's a real and valid feeling. Avoid minimizing their anxiety or telling them to "just relax." 

Encourage them to talk

Encourage your teenager to talk about what's causing their anxiety. Let them know that it's okay to feel anxious and that talking about it can be a helpful way to manage their feelings. 

Offer support

Let your teenager know that you're there to support them and that you're willing to help them find resources and coping strategies to manage their anxiety. 

Encourage healthy habits

Encourage your teenager to maintain healthy habits, such as getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. 

Help them develop coping strategies

Work with your teenager to develop coping strategies that work for them. This could include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or physical activity. 

Seek professional help

If your teenager's anxiety is severe or interfering with their daily life, it may be time to seek professional help. Relate offers counselling for children and young people

Be kind to yourself

Often the reasons for our children's anxiety are out of our control. It's important to be kind to yourself, focus on your own wellbeing and where you can make a difference. 

While anxiety can be a challenging issue for teenagers, with support from parents and caregivers and signposting to professional help where needed, it's possible for them to learn to manage their anxiety and live a fulfilling life.  

How we can help

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