Is it Common for my Teen or Young Adult to Have Anxiety?
Yes, anxiety is normal during these times of growth and development. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the US. Simply defined, mild anxiety is apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated bad event or situation. It’s a typical part of life to experience anxiety and it’s often considered a positive expression of emotion, rather than negative. Small amounts of it can help motivate achievement, avoid getting in trouble, or encourage problem-solving. Our brain is wired to have an innate fear response to avoid painful or harmful situations, otherwise we’d be in danger frequently. When someone begins to feel disproportionate amounts of anxiety to specific and/or general situations, especially if it’s persistent, then it’s become dysfunctional in our everyday activities.
My Teen or Young Adult Might Have a Problem with Anxiety. What are Some Basic Facts to Know?
Overall, 19.1% of the U.S. adult population (or 40 million people) struggles with anxiety and symptoms are oftentimes present prior to 21 years of age. Anxiety symptoms may develop in childhood, adolescence, or as an adult and occur on a scale from mild to severe. Depending upon what life throws at us, their severity level can vary along that scale at different ages. Data for children in the US indicates 7.1% of those aged 3 – 17 years (approximately 4.4 million) were diagnosed with anxiety and the rate of anxiety has risen significantly from 2007 – 2012. Additionally, diagnosis rates of anxiety increased with age. Rates for 18 – 29 years of age, the next age-group, are at 22.3%. Recent research shows a further rate increase since 2012 across the two groups, with spikes occurring during the school year from elementary school through college. Data shows that anxiety rates are typically higher for females than males across all age groups. Females are more likely to report symptoms than males. Our teens and young adults are stressed in many ways, such as dealing with COVID-19 pandemic, social challenges, academics, physical changes and development, social media and its influence, wanting to fit in and be accepted, and the 24-hour news cycle focused on negative headlines.
Common Developmentally Appropriate Fears & Anxiety by Age Groups
Let’s look at some common fears and anxieties are to avoid becoming overly worried about our teens and young adult’s development. Please see age-group information in the table below.
Please keep in mind this list is not meant to be exhaustive but a quick snapshot of what’s typical from 13 to 21 years old.
When Should I be Concerned About Anxiety in my Teen or Young Adult?
Now that we’ve talked about what’s common, let’s look at when we should be concerned as parents. In looking at behaviors, be aware of what is typical for your teen or Young Adult; some have a higher baseline anxiety level than others. Especially note things that seem out of the ordinary and/or are causing avoidance or extreme distress for your teen or Young Adult. Let’s break down what’s significant in the table below.
The information presented here is intended to help gauge where you feel your teen or young adult is at; you know them better than anyone. If you feel something is wrong, get more information on how to best support them.
For more information on Small Town Counseling services for children and teens, what to expect, and/or scheduling an appointment check out our Child and Teen Counseling Services or call 209-968-1707. FAQs and resources for anxiety are available in our Good Reads! For additional parenting resources visit Parenting Resources.
Common Types of Child Anxiety: What to Do and What Not to Doto Help! I Think My Teen or Young Adult Has Anxiety. What do I Need to Know? is written by David Cayton, M.A, M.S.. David has experience as a mental health professional working with children, teens, and professionals, an academic advisor, education-based research assistant, and student affairs Assistant Director at colleges and universities. At the time of this publishing, David Cayton is Trainer and Research Associate at Small Town Counseling® a group mental health practice located in California that helps individuals, groups, and organizations in promoting mental wellness and education on trauma and anxiety through mental health services and training.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health – https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary – Anxiety – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anxiety
National Alliance on Mental Illness – Anxiety Disorders – https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders
National Institute of Mental Health – Any Anxiety Disorder – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder
Youaremom – Common Fears That Arise During Adolescence – Common Fears That Arise During Adolescence – You are Mom