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A-Z Teen Health Glossary

11 Hidden Signs of Teen Anxiety

Signs of Teen Anxiety - Paradigm Austin

Many adolescents suffer from anxiety, and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s hard why they’re behaving like they are. If your child is displaying any of these 11 signs, they may be suffering from teen anxiety.

Have you ever calmly given instructions to a teenager and have them blow up on you in response? Have you ever been leaving your house to run errands or go to work and then suddenly your teen begs you to stay home with them? Or, do you have the teenager that is constantly apologizing, even when they have done nothing wrong?

These are all examples of hidden signs of teen anxiety.

Even though all teens have some form of anxiety at one time or another, not all will exhibit the common signs of teen anxiety like having a meltdown, crying for no reason, or verbalizing that they feel nervous. They don’t all bite their nails, pace the floor, or have a drastic drop in grades.

They don’t want to upset you, they don’t want to be made fun of, and they don’t want to have a “problem”. Furthermore, many teens do not know anything about anxiety.

Signs of Teen Anxiety

If they can’t define why they feel the way they do, teens won’t be able to tell you either. They don’t know how to find the right words to describe their feelings. Maybe they haven’t even learned the words needed to communicate with you about their moods.

Instead of asking for help, many teens will suffer in silence.

But you can help by learning more about teen anxiety. Below are 11 hidden signs that may mean a teenager is struggling with anxiety.

1. Negative self-talk

You’ve probably heard your teen say critical statements about themselves. We have all had those moments where we feel defeated. Most times you give your teen a pep talk, and they start to feel better.

There are other times, however, when the pep talk doesn’t work, and teens consistently criticize themselves in front of you or out loud. They are likely criticizing themselves internally even more.

Negative statements can sound like this, “I can’t do it. I will never learn it. I’m a horrible person.” A teen’s thoughts can be convincing and before long, teens may start believing the criticisms they hear and say about themselves. This can cause great anxiety.

2. Irritability

Anxiety can make it hard for a teen to get good sleep. Even if they slept for more than seven hours, it was not good sleep. Meaning, they likely tossed and turned, had nightmares, or woke up several times throughout the night.

Lack of good sleep leads to feeling angry and becoming easily agitated throughout the day. It also leads to hurtful words or attitude directed towards anyone who bothers them. They may even become volatile at times.

3. Sleep Disturbances

Teens need between eight and nine hours of sleep each night. They need sleep that is uninterrupted by technological devices, siblings, or anything else that can keep them awake.

It’s during sleep that the body restores itself from the wears and tears of the day. Poor sleep can wreak havoc on a teen’s hormonal balance, immune systems, memory and concentration. All of these are needed for positive teen health.

4. Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviors

Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors are classified as a diagnosable anxiety disorder. In teens, you may notice they have an overwhelming need to repeat behaviors before they can move forward with their day.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) connects a teen’s thoughts to their behaviors. Their thoughts are typically negative, like something bad will happen if they don’t act a certain way, like washing their hands four times.

Teens do not have to show extreme OCD in order to be struggling. It’s important you recognize these types of behaviors, even if they are minor.

5. Clinginess

Other signs of teen anxiety include behavioral changes and increased dependency. Everything can seem fine but when you go to leave home for work, your teen begs you to stay at home with them.

This is like separation anxiety, when your child gets nervous or worried about what may happen when you are not there to protect them.

6. Isolation

While some teens may be clingy, others may want to be left alone. With anxiety, being left alone means they want to completely isolate themselves from the world. They feel comfortable and safe in their bedroom.

Socializing or participating in activities outside the home can create anxiousness and may even lead to panic attacks or social phobias.

7. Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are scary for teens. Anxiety leads them to have an overwhelming feeling of dread and fear, for no apparent reason. They can cause physical symptoms like:

  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tight chest
  • Light headedness
  • Tingling feelings throughout the body

Teens do not why their body is having this intense reaction and that can make them even more anxious. Teens may not know how to express their anxiety so it’s important you help them describe their symptoms.

8. Struggling Academically

There are many reasons a teen could be struggling academically, and anxiety is one of them. If your teen is suddenly finding it harder to complete assignments or study for exams, they could be dealing with anxiety.

Other academic signs of teen anxiety include a drop in grades, procrastination in completing projects, behavior reports, or skipping school altogether.

9. Physical Changes

Teens are growing and developing. Some of these changes are natural, some are due to anxiety, like changes in their eating habits that lead to either weight gain or weight loss. Some signs of teen anxiety include over-eating and weight gain, while others lack and appetite, skip meals, and lose weight.

Other physical changes due to anxiety can be digestive problems, headaches, unexplained aches and pains. Teens who take a lot of naps or feel tired all the time could be dealing with underlying anxiety.


It’s extremely important to seek the right kind of treatment for your teen if anxiety is an issue. Teen treatment centers or professionals who specialize in treating teen anxiety are the best option.  They will have the right tools to help your teen overcome their anxiety and get back to being a teenager.