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Understanding and managing anxiety during adolescence

Understanding anxiety

In adolescence, it is normal to have concerns about topics such as friendship, the fear of being excluded from the group or experiencing failures. It is also normal to have fears about the future. Adolescence is a stressful period during which identity, a social network and integration into society develop. However, these fears can sometimes develop into anxiety.

Each person has their own personality. If you are someone who has a more withdrawn or introverted temperament, you may show more signs associated with anxiety, such as embarrassment, shyness, fear of anything new or a tendency to avoid social situations. In addition, if one of your parents or grandparents has an anxiety problem, you are more likely to develop one too.

Different family, school or social situations can lead to anxiety. For example:

  • separation of parents;
  • a move;
  • changing school or moving to a higher grade;
  • an important upcoming event, for example an exam or a sports competition;
  • an important news event you are dealing with;
  • the death of a loved one;
  • family conflicts;
  • certain parenting practices such as overprotection, control or repeated criticism.

You can also feel and react to your parents' anxiety or stress.

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of anxiety

There are some signs and symptoms that can help you identify anxiety. The most common ones are:

  • difficulty sleeping (difficulty falling asleep, interrupted or restless sleep);
  • the tendency to get tired easily;
  • changes in appetite;
  • loss of interest or avoiding certain situations, such as going to school, participating in social or sports activities, working;
  • difficulty making friends;
  • the tendency to isolate yourself;
  • difficulty speaking in front of others;
  • certain physical symptoms, for example, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, tremors, dizziness, clammy hands, stomach ache, vomiting, muscle tension or headaches;
  • anxious thoughts, for example, worries, doubts, persistent fears or obsessive thoughts;
  • panic attacks;
  • crying or angry outbursts;
  • agitation;
  • difficulty concentrating or memory difficulties;
  • increased alcohol, drug or screen use.

What to do to prevent or reduce anxiety

Here are some ways to help prevent or reduce your anxiety:

  • Reduce your intake of stimulants (for example, soft drinks or energy drinks, coffee, tea, etc.), as caffeine can cause anxiety.
  • Get enough sleep so that you can cope better with the challenges of the day.
  • Move or be physically active every day.
  • Learn to recognize your reactions to anxiety.
  • Identify the source of your emotions and when they occur.
  • Discuss your difficulties and emotions with one or more people you trust.
  • Find ways to change your focus and increase your well-being, identify things that make you feel good.
  • Learn and use breathing or relaxation techniques.
  • Establish and maintain a routine.
  • Focus on the present moment and what you can control.
  • Decrease or avoid alcohol or drug use.

Other tips for managing stress, anxiety and depression and maintaining good mental health are also available.

When to ask for help

Make sure that anxiety does not take up too much space and that it does not adversely affect your well-being or your health. In some cases, anxiety can develop into an anxiety disorder (performance anxiety, which is a form of social anxiety, or a specific phobia for example).

Do not wait until you are no longer able to do your usual activities to ask for help. If you experience signs or symptoms of anxiety, resources are available to support and help you. Visit the page Mental health help and support resources by need.

However, consult your family doctor or other health professionals (including a professional at the school or educational institution you attend) if you experience any of the following situations:

  • distress;
  • difficulty carrying out your daily activities;
  • learning difficulties related to anxiety;
  • difficulties in your social or family relationships.

A healthcare professional will be able to assess if you have an anxiety disorder or other health problem with similar symptoms and propose appropriate solutions.

Distress and suffering can be very severe for someone who is experiencing anxiety. If you are thinking about suicide, visit the page Recognizing signs of distress and preventing suicide. You will find more information about the help and resources available.

Help and resources

To find sources of information and support or to get care or services for anxiety or anxiety disorders, go to the page Finding mental health help and support resources.

Last update: November 24, 2023


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