The Peterson Practice

The Old Rectory Clinic,

High Street,

Iron Acton,

South Glos.  BS37 9UQ

T: 01454 300191


2019 Created by Axis Networks

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Teenagers and Young Adults

Anxiety in Teenagers and Young Adults

Anxiety can be challenging for anyone to deal with, but for teenagers and young adults it comes at the same time that they are experiencing  massive changes in personal identify and physical development.  When this happens the anxiety can become the over-riding emotion and cripples their ability to think or function properly.  Anxiety may always be lurking in the background and strike at the strangest times, suddenly appearing mysteriously and unpredictably and taking over.  If this is happening to someone you know then the good news is that there are ways to reduce the anxieties and to start to take control over any fears and anxieties. 

It would be a good start to understand something about anxiety and what the typical signs are that it is taking hold.  The reason that this is so useful is that when we understand anxiety it starts to lose its power and that gives us the chance to begin to push back and take control.

Teens and Young adults with Anxiety -  There are a few things that you should know !

Everyone gets anxiety at some point –

If we didn’t get anxious then we would probably not be human.  However sometimes the anxiety can become so intense then it is described as acute.   This is so common that about 1 in every 4 people are suffering from acute anxiety at any one time and in young adults the number is probably even higher.  Look around you at 4 people and if you cant spot who is anxious then they are probably just good at hiding it at the moment.

Anxiety has nothing to do with courage or strength or a measure of character. 

Some of the strongest, courageous and most liked people get anxiety.  Actually quite often the cleverest and most self aware people suffer from anxiety more than most.  Strength and courage don’t mean that you will never get scared because being brave is about carrying on even when you are scared as otherwise why would you need to be brave?  So being brave is all about pushing through the challenges and anxious people are having to do that all the time as well. 

Anxiety doesn’t work to a timetable

Anxiety is the result of your brain thinking that there is danger even when there is no real danger at all.  Sometimes its because our subconscious is looking for danger and generally when we look for something, guess what we find it.  Or really we interpret everything as a danger even when really we know that it isn’t.  This is the reason that anxiety and intrusive thoughts can just pop into our mind at any time.  Particularly if we aren’t engaged in an absorbing activity then bang Anxiety can strike.

Anxiety is a sign of a healthy brain that is just being a little overprotective.

Everyone’s brain is designed to create anxiety.  It is part of our natural response to help us to work out what is going to hurt us.  Your brain wants to look after you and keep you safe but sometimes it just misreads all of the information that we are throwing at it and interprets it as danger and so it tells us through anxiety.

So how do I know if I have Anxiety?

There isn’t a simple tick list but there are a whole range of indicators that suggest that anxiety can be the underlying problem in teenagers and young adults.  Of course even if you have some of these it doesn’t always mean that you are suffering from acute or chronic anxiety but the list is a way that can help you make sense of some of the things that you might be experiencing.

Worrying or Negative Thoughts

  • Negatively thinking about what might happen, perhaps worries about being judged or embarrassed.  Small worries that can at times becomes a sole focus and overshadow all fun or positive thoughts.

  • Exaggerated worrying about health and physical symptoms.  Perhaps a worry that a pain is cancer or muscular dystrophy or perhaps a worry that a stomach upset is something more sinister.

However bear in mind that thoughts are just little chemical and electrical reactions in our brains.  They are not predictions but just our survival instinct trying to guess the worst that can happen.  If you can let these thoughts just come and go then it is only the ones that you put energy into that will demand yoru attention.  So put your energy into Happy thoughts !

Overwhelming Emotions

When we are anxious our emotions can become HYPER.  Even the smallest thing can trigger an overwhelming emotion, particularly a negative one.  Perhaps some of these suggest anxiety

  • A feeling of dread as if something awful is about to happen.

  • Unexplained crying at the smallest thing or just feeling that you will burst into tears..

  • Feeling a bit detached or removed from yourself

  • Fearful, perhaps worried and overwhelmed.

Physical signs

Anxiety triggers our ‘Flight and Fight’ response so when we are anxious we start to respond physically as if we are in danger and need to run away or do something about it.  This is often called a panic attack but its just our body telling us that it thinks we are in danger and that we need to hide and run or fight.  Typical physical symptoms that you might experience are

  • Shaking of your hands

  • Racing heart rate

  • Shallow breathing

  • Churning stomach or butterflies

  • Tightening in our chest

  • Redness and blushing in the face

  • A rising anger

  • Tense muscles.

  • Tummy trouble (Irritable Bowel  IBS, Constipation or diarrhoea).


Of course all of these physical signs can be a bit frightening but they are actually all a normal response – they are just being triggered by your brain when it thinks that there is danger.

Behaviour and Habits

When you have anxiety then most people will look for any way to make that anxiety feel a bit smaller or under control just for a little while.  This may feel helpful at first but then often as the anxiety grows then the behaviours escalate and can themselves become a source of anxiety and round we go in a viscous circle.

Because behaviours of this sort are visible ( even if we try to hide them ) then they have often special names which is probably a shame as it often makes it feel that the behaviour is the problem where it is really the anxiety. When your anxiety reduces guess what?  You often find the worrying behaviours just fade away.

Some of the most common are

  • Cutting or self harm

  • Picking your skin (dermatillomania)

  • Nail biting (onychophagy)

  • Pulling out hair (trichotillomania)

  • Performing rituals for example switching a light on and off the same number of times each time you leave a room or staking items with even numbers together etc. 

  • Avoiding situations or people.  Of course there are always times when we want to be alone or avoid difficult situations but anxiety is about making every situation or a particular type of situation, difficult.

And Finally Sleeping

Sleep is a really good indicator that we are anxious.  It’s not actually a question of how much sleep we have but as much about quality.  Sleep is when we process the day in our mind and anxiety can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night or just stop us getting good productive sleep so that however long we are asleep for we still wake up feeling tired.  So if you experience some of these symptoms then sleep is probably one of the issues for you.

  • Difficulty getting to sleep as your mind is turning over events.

  • Waking in the middle of the night – wide awake and cant get back to sleep

  • Difficulty waking up and still feeling tired.


The Good News.

The best news of all is that these are normal human conditions, everyone experiences them at some time and that with some support and help then you can begin to control all of these feelings, mange the anxiety and begin to enjoy life!

I specialise in helping young people to over-come anxiety and make the most of your life. 

I offer a free 15 minute telephone consultation to discuss any of these issues with you and if you would like to contact me to arrange this then please send me a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can.  Contact me here