While all teens feel anxious from time to time, some feel it more than others.
Say your best friend tells you she's going to the airport with her dad to learn to skydive. She's totally excited. But just thinking of skydiving causes you tremendous anxiety. Your stomach churns, your heart races, and you feel a lump in your throat when you try to swallow. You can't believe your friend is actually doing this, and think about it all day long. When she calls that evening, she says she can't wait to skydive again -- "It was thrilling!" While you and your friend are both thinking about skydiving, you perceive the situation in very different ways.
In the six months after her parents' divorce, 13-year-old Caroline (not her real name) gained more than 20 pounds. Feeling sad and alone, she consoled herself with food -- and lots of it. Day after day, she was binge eating.
"I remember the night my dad left, I went into the kitchen and devoured a dozen glazed doughnuts and a quart of milk," Caroline said. "Still feeling hungry (but really sad), I took a bag of chips up to my room and ate them in the dark while sitting on my bed, crying."
For teens or anyone else, anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. Things like tests, meeting new people, speaking in public, going on a date, and competing in sports can make us feel apprehensive or uneasy. But some teens react much more strongly to stressful situations than others. Even thinking about the situations may cause them great distress.
Anxiety can be a good thing when it helps you deal with a tense situation. For example, when you're studying for a test, a little anxiety can make you want to study hard so you do well. But at other times, anxiety can be harmful, especially when it is excessive and irrational, and prevents you from being able to focus.
Sometimes the anxiety can come between you and your friends, especially when you avoid going out with them or calling them because you're too panicked or tense. This level of anxiety is harmful and that's when you need to do something to feel less anxious so you can fully enjoy your teenage life.
How Can Teens Cope with Anxiety?
Many teens find ways to cope with the high anxiety they feel. It's important to recognize your emotions, to know what you're feeling and why you're feeling that way. Recognizing the types of situations that cause your anxiety is helpful as well.
Sometimes just admitting that a situation is stressful and being prepared to deal with it can reduce your anxiety. If you try these simple measures and still have too much anxiety, getting treatment from a health care professional or therapist is the next step.