Tips to support your teenager with anxiety disorder

profile picture of Danielle Panton
Clinical Case Manager - Mental Health, Bupa
22 March 2024
Next review due March 2027

Teenagers can face pressures at school and social situations. This may cause them to have extreme worry known as anxiety. Anxiety disorders are common in teenagers. If you are a parent of a teenager who is going through anxiety, you can be a key source of support for them. In this article, I talk about what anxiety disorders are and ways to support teenagers with anxiety.

Teenager browsing on a laptop

What is anxiety disorder?

We can all feel anxious at times. But when anxiety is excessive and intense, it can be hard to deal with. Anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health issues in adults and children.

Around 300,000 young people are affected by anxiety in the UK. But it may be more than this as some may not have had a diagnosis.

There are different types of anxiety disorders. These include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder.

What ages are anxiety the worst?

Anxiety can affect children at all ages. Anxiety can be more common between the ages of 15 and 19.

Teenagers may be facing more school and social pressures as well as changes to their body that may affect their mental health.

What can cause anxiety in teenagers?

As mentioned above, the normal changes that a teenager goes through may cause anxiety. Other reasons for anxiety can be:

  • family history of anxiety
  • physical illness or disability
  • family problems such as divorce, arguments or parental illness
  • school worries such as schoolwork or bullying

It is also possible that there is no specific cause for anxiety. But this doesn’t mean that the anxiety isn’t real.

What are symptoms of anxiety in teenagers?

Anxiety disorders can have different symptoms both physical and emotional depending on the type of anxiety disorder. Signs of anxiety in teenagers might include:

  • problems with concentration
  • eating or sleeping problems
  • negative thoughts
  • not wanting to see friends or go to school

Supporting teenagers with anxiety disorder

Here are some ways to support a teenager with anxiety to help them cope with what they’re going through.

Listen to them

Communication is really important. Teenagers with anxiety need someone they can trust to talk to about their worries.

To talk to a teenager about anxiety, find a place and time that suits you both. This can be somewhere quiet, or you could do an activity together.

Give them as much space as they need and try not to pressure them. If they do open up to you, try to really listen and avoid criticising them.

You may also need to try other ways of communication if doing it in person (face to face) might cause anxiety. Text messages or writing letters might be more helpful in the first instance.

Offer support

If there’s anything that you think you can do about a problem a teenager with anxiety is facing, offer help. This might be getting support from someone else such as a teacher or doctor. Let them make the choice if they want your help.

Check on their health

Anxiety can affect a teenager’s physical health. This includes not eating enough, or over-eating, and oversleeping. So, make sure they’re eating properly, have a good sleep routine and are aware of the benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Encourage them

Try to support them to help themselves, as this may improve their confidence. Mental health charities such as Young Minds have useful resources for both parents and children. For example, their website has information that can help you better understand what might be causing a teenager to feel anxious.

It might also help to encourage them to learn calming techniques, in times of severe anxiety or during panic attacks. These might be breathing exercises or practicing mindfulness.

Support yourself

It might be difficult if you are a parent to know if your child has anxiety or is feeling anxious. So, you might find it helpful to talk to other parents or someone you’re close with.

But remember, it’s important to look after yourself too and be kind to yourself.

When should I be concerned about my child’s anxiety?

If you child’s anxiety is stopping them from seeing their friends or doing things they enjoy, you might want to seek professional help. You can go with your child to see a GP who can help. They may suggest your child sees a counsellor. Or they may suggest referring your child to a specialist, such as a child psychiatrist.

Treatment for anxiety disorders include talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Drug treatment may be prescribed depending on severity of symptoms, but is mainly used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic attacks.

Anxiety is common in teenagers. But you can support them by listening to their worries and offer to help them with anything.

Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available to you and your loved ones when you need it.

profile picture of Danielle Panton
Danielle Panton
Clinical Case Manager - Mental Health, Bupa



Rasheda Begum, Health Content Editor at Bupa UK

    • Mental health of adolescents. World Health Organisation., published November 2021
    • Generalized anxiety disorder. Prevalence. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries., last revised September 2023
    • Anxiety in Children. Patient., March 2023
    • Cybulski L, Ashcroft DM, Carr MJ, et al. Management of anxiety disorders among children and adolescents in UK primary care: A cohort study. J Affect Disord. 2022;313:270-277
    • The Anxious Child. Mental Health Foundation., accessed February 2024
    • Talking to an 11-18 year old about their mental health. Mind., published August 2022

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