Updated: Dec 26, 2021
As a parent, there is so much to worry about as your teenager gets older. Lately, you’ve been noticing some changes in your teen and you are concerned it runs deeper than teenage angst and may need more help than you can give. You worry your teen isn’t telling you what is truly going on but you know something is happening.
You’ve noticed your teen is avoiding events, not wanting to see their friends or their grades are going down. You may notice them suddenly breathing hard for no reason, shaking, or wanting to stay home and voicing a lot of fears about going out in the community. You have no idea where this started or what to do, and you fear it is only going to get worse if you don’t find treatment.
1 out of 4 American teenagers suffers from a diagnosable anxiety condition. Many teenagers suffer alone, with only 20% of children and teens receiving treatment. Anxiety typically involves a situation that is stressful or feels threatening, such as an upcoming test or trying a new activity. The teenage years have many new events and life stress as teens start to navigate the world.
As a parent, you may be wondering what to look for? How do I know if my teenager is suffering from teenage anxiety attacks and what are the symptoms of an anxiety attack in a teenager?
Risk Factors For Teenage Anxiety and Teenage Anxiety Attacks
Having experienced trauma or witnessed traumatic events
Experiencing a stressful event, such as a divorce or a move
Having increased worry or stress, such as family conflict or financial stress in the family
Parents or close family members who have anxiety or are overprotective of the teenager
Always having been a bit more anxious than other peers
Having an ongoing health condition or lifelong illness
Using drugs or Alcohol
Does Your Teen Have An Anxiety Disorder?
Do You Notice Your Teen:
Having lower grades
Reporting difficulty sleeping
Spending less time spent with friends or at events
Seeming more irritable than usual
Displaying unhealthy eating habits
Complaining about physical symptoms that have no medical basis
Voicing constant worrying, catastrophizing, or what-if statements
What Is An Anxiety Attack? Symptoms Of Anxiety Attacks In Teenagers
An anxiety attack can also be known as a panic attack. Anxiety attacks are a feeling of intense panic or fear, where you may feel you are about to die or lose control. Your body prepares to fight or flee with shaking, a pounding heart rate, and possibly passing out or feeling you will. Sometimes an anxiety attack may have a known trigger, and sometimes it won’t.
No parent wants their teen to suffer from these intense feelings of fear and panic, however, your teen may be suffering alone unsure of what to do or what is going on in their body.
Below are some warning signs of teenage anxiety attacks to be on the lookout for so you can know to get your teenager the help they deserve to get back to their normal happy selves.
Complaining About Pain
In An Anxiety Attack, Your Teen May Complain About Feeling:
A rapid heartbeat
Their chest hurting
Their whole body feeling tense
You’ve had them checked out by a doctor and nothing was found but still, you notice these symptoms. These could be a sign of teenage anxiety which presents in the body as intense discomfort, a feeling of not being safe, or excessive worrying.
Voicing Excessive Worrying, Impending Doom Feeling
Your once smiley fearless child suddenly seems to fear everything, no matter what you say. Teenagers will present with anxiety attacks when they are voicing a feeling of impending doom and as much as you have tried to reassure them that their fears of things like a car accident are very slim, they still refuse to get in the car and may even start crying as their anxiety attack ramps up. They refuse to leave the house. Your teen reports feeling like they are “going crazy.”
Refusing To Leave The House Or Attend School
Your teen seems stuck in the house. At first, it was just the store they didn’t want to attend, then it became friends and finally school. When you bring it up, they change the subject or when it comes time to leave, they say they don’t feel well or make an excuse. These can be signs your teenager is having anxiety attacks at the idea of entering the world outside of your home. When you do bring these topics up or prepare to leave, you may notice the physical changes, excessive worrying, or even emotional changes in behavior.
Emotional Changes In Behavior
If your teenager’s body language doesn’t seem to match the situation and they seem on alert or on edge in calm times--they may be having an anxiety attack.
You notice that your teenager appears jumpy or keyed up for no apparent reason. Your teenager may be snapping at you more or annoyed at everything you do or say. Their concentration doesn’t exist. They have difficulty concentrating on the conversation and are jumping from topic to topic. Your teen may present as restless with a trembling leg, snapping fingers, or a body that doesn’t seem to slow down. There may also be unexplained outbursts.
These can be symptoms they are currently panicking and in the midst of an anxiety attack without you knowing and possibly without them even knowing why they are behaving as they are.
If you notice your teen struggling with sleep, that can be a sign they are in an anxiety attack. Perhaps you catch them up really late for no reason, or they say they are having bad nightmares. It could be a morning where you notice they are on edge and they report not having slept well the night before. Or it could be if your teen reports ongoing struggles to fall asleep. All signs point to teen anxiety attacks happening and causing your teen to struggle with sleep. These can be important times to check in on what’s really going on with sleep and if they are staying awake with excessive worrying or feeling keyed up.
How To Get Diagnosed With Teenage Anxiety
If you have noticed your teen struggling in any of these areas of school, friends, sleep, family relationships, or day to day activities, it is important to get help for them by meeting with a licensed mental health practitioner who can diagnose them with anxiety and begin to help your teenager regain control of their lives.
The Good News
Your teenager can still go on to live a normal and healthy life. Anxiety is treatable and your teenager can learn to manage their symptoms to where it doesn’t get in the way of their future or have them miss out on the joys of being a teenager. If you are looking for ways to help tell your teenager they may benefit from therapy, click here.
If you believe your teenager is suffering from teenage anxiety attacks, Mary Willoughby Romm is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Virginia who provides online therapy for Willow Tree Healing Center. She enjoys transforming the lives of women, college students, kids, tweens/teens, and families through providing communication strategies, coping skills that work, allowing a safe space to be heard, and actively working towards helping you with your challenges. She is certified in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (ages 2-7) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, counsels substance abuse in teens and adults, and practices Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.
Please send an email to email@example.com to explore working together.