6 Hidden Signs of Teen Anxiety

Dr. Abir Mazumder    01-02-2023 Consult

6 Hidden Signs of Teen Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but sometimes what may seem like usual teen struggles 
can actually be a sign of a more severe anxiety disorder.

All teens experience some amount of anxiety at times. Anxiety is actually a normal reaction 
to stress, and sometimes it helps teens deal with tense or overwhelming situations. For many teens, 
things like public speaking, final exams, important athletic competitions, or even going out on a 
date can cause feelings of apprehension and uneasiness. They may also experience an increase in 
heartbeat or excessive sweating. That’s how the brain responds to anxious feelings.

Given that teens experience a wide variety of physical and emotional changes as they grow, an anxiety 
disorder can be difficult to spot. Many red flags may seem like usual teens struggles or be chalked up 
to hormones. Watch for these hidden signs of anxiety in your teens:

#1. Emotional Changes to Watch Out For in Teens

While some anxious teens express feelings of pervasive worry, others experience subtle emotional changes such as:

- Feeling “keyed up”
- Feeling on edge
- Irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Restlessness
- Unexplained outbursts

#2. Social Changes
Anxiety can negatively affect friendships. If your once social teen suddenly avoids his favorite activities or stops 
making plans with friends, think twice. You might notice your child:

- Avoiding social interactions with usual friends
- Avoiding extracurricular activities
- Isolating from peer group
- Spending increased time alone

#3. Physical Changes
Many of the physical complaints that can occur with an anxiety disorder mimic average teen complaints, which tend to 
increase as they get older. Pay attention to patterns. A couple of headaches here and there shouldn’t be a cause for 
concern, for example, but frequent headaches are a red flag. Watch for these common psychosomatic complaints:

- Frequent headaches, including migraines
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Excessive fatigue
- Complaints of not feeling well with no obvious medical cause
- Changes in eating habits.

#4. Sleep Disturbances
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens aged 13 to 18 get 8 to 10 hours of sleep on a regular basis to 
promote optimal health. Pediatricians also recommend shutting down screens 30 minutes prior to bedtime, and removing all 
electronics from the bedroom.

It’s no big secret that homework demands, changing brain structure, extracurricular activities, and screen time can all 
cut into the sleep habits of teens. Therefore, it can be difficult to know whether fatigue is a product of anxiety or of 
a busy schedule. Watch for these red flags:

- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Frequent nightmares
- Not feeling refreshed after sleep

#5. Poor School Performance
Given that anxiety can affect everything from sleep habits to eating habits to missing school due to physical issues, it should 
come as no surprise that poor academic performance can also result from untreated anxiety. School avoidance, missed days due to 
anxiety-related illness, and persistent worry can make it difficult for anxious teens to keep up with their workload. Watch for 
these changes in your teen:

- Significant jump in grades (usually downward)