Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents
Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

Anxiety disorders are a common struggle in adolescents, affecting 5.8 million US children under 17 years old from 2016 to 2019. If not addressed early, these disorders can affect young people in later stages of life. Anxiety disorders have the potential to impact daily functioning and relationships. 

However, adolescent anxiety disorders can be managed through different treatment methods and therapy. At Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness, adolescents can get specialized anxiety treatment and face life more confidently.

Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

What are Anxiety Disorders?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) is a tool used to diagnose mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders. According to the DSM-V, there are seven types of anxiety disorders that each have a unique set of symptoms. However, all anxiety disorders consist of persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD is one of the most common mental health disorders among adolescents. Across the world during the pandemic, elevated anxiety levels have been seen among youth. One in five adolescents is experiencing generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the persistent and excessive worry about non-threatening situations that affect daily functioning. 

Symptoms of GAD can include:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing irritability
  • Difficulty controlling worry
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Experiencing headaches, muscle aches, stomachs, or unexplained pain
Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents
Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

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Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents


Agoraphobia has an increased risk of development during late adolescence or early adulthood. Agoraphobia’s average age of onset is 17 years old. Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that stems from the fear of a place or situation where escape may be challenging. 

Avoiding situations that may cause feelings of being trapped, helpless, panicked, embarrassed, or scared is common with this disorder. Cars, elevators, airplanes, or crowded public spaces often cause increased agitation and anxiety. 

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent and unexpected panic attacks along with constant fear of having another panic attack. Panic attacks are abrupt surges of intense fear or discomfort with no apparent triggering event. A panic attack can occur without having a panic disorder. Multiple panic attacks and constant fear of impending panic attacks comprise panic disorders. 

Panic attack symptoms can include:

  • Pounding or racing heart
  • Sweating or chills
  • Trembling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain or nausea

Panic disorder often involves fear of when the next panic attack will occur. This disorder can cause avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred and feeling intense doom during a panic attack. Panic disorder can cause severe impairments in daily functioning and health problems later in life. Treatment for the panic disorder during adolescence can help reduce symptoms and the risk of developing health difficulties in adulthood. 

Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents
Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is common in children and adolescents. Separation anxiety disorder refers to excessive anxiety about dreading an actual or anticipated separation from a significant attachment figure. 

Worry or anxiety about events that could cause separation from significant attachment figures can also occur with this disorder. A small amount of fear about losing attachment figures is normal in children. An inappropriate intensity of attachment is what makes this disorder different. 

Selective Mutism

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder characterized by the inability to speak occurs in specific social situations. Speaking comfortably and communicating in other settings can appear. Although selective mutism can be confused with the personality trait of shyness, selective mutism interferes with daily functioning, unlike shyness.

Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents
Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

Specific Phobia

A specific phobia is an intense and irrational fear of something that poses little to no real danger. Anxiety occurs when thinking about the object or situation despite the awareness that the fear is irrational. Going to great lengths to avoid situations where the object or event may occur is common with specific phobias. 

Specific phobias can include:

  • Animals like dogs, snakes, or spiders
  • Natural environments like heights, storms, or water
  • Injuries like seeing blood, receiving a blood test or shot
  • Situations like airplanes, elevators, driving, or enclosed places

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intense fear or anxiety about social situations, such as meeting new people, speaking in public, or participating in group activities. Socially anxious teens excessively fear being judged, embarrassed, or scrutinized, often avoiding social situations or enduring them with discomfort. This can negatively impact their ability to form friendships, perform well in school, and participate in extracurricular activities.

Teens with social anxiety may also experience physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, nausea, and rapid heartbeat. Social anxiety can be challenging to diagnose since many teens may feel shy or self-conscious in social situations, but if it interferes with their daily life, seeking professional help is crucial. 

In some cases, social anxiety can become so severe that teenagers decline to attend school. Discover more about school refusal interventions that can assist your teenager in feeling more at ease with the idea of going to school.

High school girl holding books in a classroom alone and feeling lonely due to social anxiety
Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful situations, but when anxiety begins to affect daily life, treatment may be necessary. Various signs may indicate emotional distress and may eventually lead to anxiety. Anxiety in adolescents may appear differently than in adults.  

Adolescent anxiety often appears with these signs:

A decline in school performance.

Young people who have anxiety disorders may register a reduction in their school performance. They tend to fear involving tasks or tasks that may attract attention, affecting their general performance.

However, sometimes only a trained medical provider can help the adolescent begin a physical exercise program. Parents and guardians should appreciate the desire of teenagers to make independent decisions and avoid pressuring them. Taking the adolescent to a treatment center helps instill a coping mechanism with minimal resistance.

Avoidance behavior.

If an adolescent appears to be avoiding situations or people, they may be suffering from anxiety disorders. They may need the attention of a qualified mental health professional. Such adolescents may also avoid social situations for fear of rejection or embarrassment.

Excessive fear and intense worry.

Ideally, adolescents who suffer from anxiety disorders may exhibit extreme fear when assigned some tasks. They may also exhibit abnormal concerns when required to handle some tasks. This worry may interfere with their daily activities, making their relationships with other people more complicated.

Trembling and shaking.

If you have an adolescent who constantly complains of persistent trembling and shaking, you may need to consult a professional. This behavior may be a sign of panic attacks.

Difficulty managing feelings of worry and fear.

If an adolescent suffers from anxiety, they may not easily manage their fears. In addition, they may also tend to be easily irritable.

Difficulty in concentrating.

Adolescent who suffers from anxiety may not concentrate fully, either on their schoolwork or any job assigned to them. As a result, their performance may be affected, and they even record poor grades.

Sleep problems.

In addition to lack of concentration, individuals who suffer from anxiety disorders may have difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Anxiety Treatment for Adolescents

Treatment for Anxiety in Adolescents

Anxiety treatment for adolescents can help reduce anxiety symptoms and provide tools to increase daily functioning into adulthood. Therapy and medication can be used to help adolescents with anxiety. Depending on the specific anxiety disorder diagnosed, an individualized treatment plan can be developed.


Psychotherapy, often referred to as talk therapy, can be utilized as a treatment for anxiety in adolescents. Talking to a mental health specialist can help reduce excessive fear surrounding most anxiety issues. A psychotherapist can help adolescents overcome anxiety through comprehensive cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT is an evidence-based therapy that can help many mental health disorders, including anxiety. CBT is based on the theory that emotions, thinking, and behaviors are all connected. By changing one of these, all can change.


While medication may not cure any type of anxiety, it is an effective way of relieving the symptoms. Through appropriate medication, an adolescent can relax their mind and handle situations with ease.

Anxiety Treatment Centers - Near Boston, Massachusetts

Anxiety is a common mental health disorder that often develops during adolescence. Depending on the type of anxiety diagnosed, a customized treatment plan can be developed to help with long-term recovery. With treatment, anxiety symptoms can be reduced and tools for coping with anxiety can be learned. 

If an adolescent you love is struggling with symptoms of anxiety, reach out to Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of what we treat and our outpatient services.

Clinically Reviewed by:

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Dr. Melanie Carbonneau PhD, LMHC, MT-BC

Melanie Carbonneau is the Clinical Director at Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness and is a licensed counselor and certified music therapist with a Ph.D. from Lesley University. She leads MCAW with a focus on holistic care, emphasizing the importance of family and community involvement in the healing process.