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Overview of anxiety in teens & young adults

Tirohanga whānui ki āwangawanga ki ngā taiohi me rangatahi

The phone numbers mentioned at the end of this video only work in Australia. See Supporting a young person with anxiety for phone numbers you can call for support in New Zealand.

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. But when anxiety takes over, it can get in the way of everyday life. Anxiety is common in young people. One in five people will have signs of an anxiety disorder by the age of 19.

Many changes happen in the teenage years. These can include:

Anxiety is usually an appropriate response to new or difficult situations, such as starting a new school or schoolwork and exams. For most young people, their anxieties go away or change as they get older and learn that the situations aren't as bad as they feared.

Excessive anxiety is more complicated and tends to cause more problems. Your rangatahi (young person) has excessive anxiety if they keep being anxious despite reassurance. Sometimes their behaviour might change, such as avoiding situations to reduce the intensity of their feelings.

Causes of anxiety in teens & young adults

Anxiety is more common in rangatahi who have experienced:

Other factors that can lead to excessive anxiety in a rangatahi include:

Symptoms of anxiety in teens & young adults

A rangatahi with anxiety can have a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms can look like physical health issues, personality changes or challenging behaviour.

Physical symptoms of anxiety can include:

A rangatahi with anxiety may also feel:

There may also be changes in behaviour, including:

Treatment for anxiety in teens & young adults

The treatment for anxiety in rangatahi depends on how severe the problem is. Many rangatahi have mild symptoms that do not affect their daily life very much. They just need consistency from their parents and teachers and help to learn the skills to manage their fears and worries.

Other rangatahi have more serious anxiety problems. They may need group courses, family therapy or one-to-one therapy. For more information, see Getting help with mental health in teens & young adults.

Occasionally, medications are used to treat anxiety in rangatahi. This is usually done in consultation with a specialist.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2023.


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