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  • Writer's pictureLiz Morrison, LCSW

Is It Normal for a 15-Year-Old to Have Anxiety? How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help With Therapy for Teens

Most people will experience at least some anxiety in their lifetime. Anxiety is a normal emotional response to life stressors and is meant to be a short-term tool to help people navigate and overcome the obstacles in their lives. Teens face a lot of challenging stressors that can lead to anxiety: ever-changing hormones, developing brains, and academic and family pressures, to name a few.

However, if symptoms of anxiety persist even when the stressors are gone, your teen may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are serious mental health issues that have far-reaching impacts on teens, affecting their self-confidence, home life, school life, and their relationships with themselves and others. Understanding what causes anxiety in teenagers and how to recognize teenage anxiety symptoms can equip you with the knowledge you need to step in and help when your teen is struggling, or find support with therapy for teens.

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What Causes Anxiety in Teens?

Anxiety in teens is usually the result of a combination of genetic makeup and life experiences. Up to 40% of the factors leading to anxiety are passed on through families. Other factors include:

Hormonal changes: Teen brains are still developing and hormones are in flux. Such changes can make it tougher to cope with everyday stressors. 

Academic pressures: School is challenging for a lot of teens. Teens believe they need to pick a career path as soon as possible, and intense pressure to succeed causes them to constantly compare themselves with their peers. Additionally, forming and maintaining friendships, being involved in too many extracurriculars, bullying, and worries about school violence can all tip a teen toward chronic anxiety. 

Unaddressed trauma: Trauma is defined as any event or situation that significantly impairs someone’s sense of safety in the world. It can include a wide range of events, such as abuse, neglect, lack of attunement from a caregiver, bullying or ostracization from peers, an accident, the death of a loved one, illness, and more. 

Social media: A growing amount of research shows that teens who use social media frequently are more likely to be more anxious, less happy, and more likely to compare themselves negatively to others. Plus social media use can impact a teen’s ability to be present and engage in healthy daily experiences, like time spent with friends or family. 

Teenage Anxiety Symptoms

Studies show that teen mental health has worsened in recent decades: in 2003, only around 5% of young people had ever been diagnosed with anxiety or depression. Now, however, anxiety impacts 32% of teens, including disorders like generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobias, and panic disorder. 

As a parent, it can be tough to tell when typical adolescent stress crosses over to something more serious. If you notice the following teenage anxiety symptoms, your child likely needs professional mental health support at Liz Morrison Therapy from a teen therapist:

  • Excessive fear, worries, or distress

  • Physical signs like jumpiness, fidgeting, or restlessness

  • Emotional signs like increased moodiness, irritability, or edginess

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Avoidance or lack of interest in social activities or hobbies they used to enjoy

  • Changes in eating or exercise habits

  • Difficulty in school, including trouble with memory and focus

  • Negative self-talk or focusing on negative outcomes

  • Substance use or abuse

  • Panic attacks

The above symptoms are red flags that may indicate an anxiety disorder or other mental health issues. Anxiety disorders have far-reaching impacts on teens. Affecting their self-confidence, home life, school life, and their relationships with themselves and others.

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How to Help a Teen With An Anxiety Disorder

If your teen is struggling with anxiety, don’t wait to intervene. Here are some tips you can start right away to help your teen with anxiety or an anxiety disorder:

  • Show you care about what your child is experiencing. Don’t judge, belittle, or brush off their concerns. This will only make your child shut you out. Even if their worries don’t make sense to you, they’re a big deal and should be taken seriously.

  • Talk to your teen. Instead of telling your teen what to do or how to behave, get curious and ask them questions about their inner experiences, like: “Tell me more about that worry. What does it feel like for you?” and “I’d love to know how to help when you feel this way. What kinds of things feel good for me to say or do when you’re anxious?” 

  • Practice active listening by refraining from interrupting, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting back what they’re telling you.

  • Teach your teen useful stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, going for a walk, or doing something creative like doodling or writing. Best of all, you can do these activities together. 

  • Try to be compassionate and understanding, especially when your teen is activated and anxious. Staying calm during periods of high tension is easier said than done, of course, and you’ll never be perfect at it. If (when!) you find yourself losing your temper at them, go back when you’re calmer, apologize, and work to understand their perspective. Showing humility as a parent goes a long way in building authentic connections and trust with your teen. 

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Help Your Teen Break Free From Their Anxiety in Manhattan, New York City, Brooklyn, and Anywhere Else in New York

Anxiety disorders aren’t a phase, and they don’t go away on their own. On the contrary, when left untreated, teenage anxiety often leads to co-occurring disorders like substance abuse, eating disorders, and depression. Teens with anxiety are more likely to become adults with anxiety and have fewer healthy coping resources at their disposal. That’s why getting your child help for their teenage anxiety symptoms is crucial for their safety and well-being.  

Empower your teen to get help with anxiety with therapy for teens. Our specialized therapy program at Liz Morrison Therapy offers tailored support for teens struggling with symptoms of anxiety disorders, addresses underlying trauma, and provides resources and skills your teens can use throughout their lives. Take the first step toward a brighter future for your teen by reaching out for guidance and support. Follow these three simple steps to get started:

1. Contact us to schedule an appointment for therapy for teens

2. Begin meeting with a skilled teen therapist

3. Start on the path toward anxiety reduction

Other Services Offered at Liz Morrison Therapy

At Liz Morrison Therapy, we offer services for the whole family. So in addition to supporting your teen with their anxiety in therapy for teens, our services also include parenting support for those looking to create healthy relationships with their children to help them live their best lives, young adult therapy for individuals looking for support, guidance, and real-world strategies to help them deal with their struggles, and anxiety therapy for those wanting to cope with their anxiety in healthy ways. For more about us check out our blogs and FAQs


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