For tweens and teens, life can be a giant emotional roller coaster, with mood swings, unpredictable behavior, and endless drama. You can chalk some of it up to hormones. But kids this age also face a lot of pressure — especially kids who learn and think differently.
School and their social lives are getting more complicated. Plus, they’re supposed to start thinking about their future.
This stress can build and lead to anxiety.
Here are signs of anxiety to look out for, according to John Piacentini, PhD, and Lindsey Bergman, PhD, experts from the UCLA Child Anxiety Resilience Education and Support (CARES) Center.
Physical signs of anxiety
Often complains of headaches or stomachaches, with no medical reason
Refuses to eat in the school cafeteria or other public places
Changes eating habits suddenly
Won’t use restrooms away from home
Gets restless, fidgety, hyperactive, or distracted (but doesn’t necessarily have ADHD)
Starts to shake or sweat in intimidating situations
Constantly tenses muscles
Has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
Emotional signs of anxiety
Becomes cranky or angry for no clear reason
Is afraid of making even minor mistakes
Has extreme test anxiety
Doubts their skills and abilities, even when there’s no reason to
Can’t handle any criticism, no matter how constructive
Has panic attacks (or is afraid of having panic attacks)
Has pressing fears or phobias
Worries about things way off in the future
Often has nightmares about losing a parent or loved one
Has obsessive thoughts or worries about bad things happening or upsetting topics
Behavioral signs of anxiety
Avoids participating in class activities
Stays silent or preoccupied when expected to work with others