Four Myths about Teen Anxiety

A recent article in the Huffington Post pointed some common misconceptions about having anxiety. Although many adolescents and adults suffer from anxiety disorders, there are some ideas about this mental illness that aren’t true. Plus, as professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University, Joseph Bienvenu, pointed out, the fallacies people have about anxiety can make managing it more difficult.


1. Having Anxiety Isn’t a Big Deal


Everyone has anxiety, at least a form of it. In fact, it’s practically the norm. Who doesn’t have stress, work,  or worry? There’s work, children, family, friends, finances, meals, and more to tend to each day. That’s what the workweek is all about! As a learned psychological norm, the same could be true for adolescents. His or her mind might keep thinking, worrying, analyzing, and planning. And since being stressed and anxious is the norm, then teen anxiety must not be a big deal.

But it is.

In fact, because some adolescents think that it is normal to have to manage a large amount of stress and anxiety, they often do not say anything. Along these lines, psychiatrist Allison Baker from Columbia University said that, “Anxious kids… most often just internalize an anxious experience. They don’t raise flags or cause anyone grief, so they kind of get neglected in the process.”

Furthermore, anxiety in adolescence can very easily lead to substance use, depression, and other mental illnesses.


2. Teen Anxiety is Not Uncommon


In fact, the opposite is true. Anxiety disorders are the most common type of psychological illness. According to Moretza and Karen Khaleghi, authors of the book Anatomy of Addiction, 19.1 million adults suffer from anxiety, which translates to about 13.3 percent of the U.S. population, or about one in every seven adults. Also, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America reports that one in eight children are affected by anxiety disorders.


3. Anxiety is the Result of Unresolved Childhood Issues


Although this might be true in some cases, it isn’t always. A challenging childhood can lead to anxiety but it can also lead to a whole host of other psychological issues. Also, those adolescents who have had a wonderful childhood could still experience anxiety. Additionally, adolescence in and of itself is a challenging time in life. It is a stage of immense change physically, emotionally, psychologically, and neurologically. Considering these changes, it might be reasonable to assume that teens might suffer from anxiety, regardless of their childhood experiences.


4. Anxiety Will Resolve On Its Own


Actually, it won’t. It’s particularly important to have adolescents assessed for anxiety. If it goes untreated, anxiety can lead to an increased risk of depression and suicide. “Many people believe that anxiety isn’t something worth assessing,” says psychiatrist Allison Baker. “But it’s important to treat anxiety, especially in children and teens. If untreated, it can be associated with an increased risk with depression.”

There are various forms of mental illnesses that are anxiety-related. However, a common one is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a diagnosis given to those teens who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters. What’s interesting about this disorder is that those who suffer from it will have difficulty putting their finger on the source of anxiety, fear, or worry. Yet, their experience of anxiety is persistent and chronic.

Teens might experience this and other anxiety disorders. When anxiety in a teen is causing symptoms that last for more than 3 weeks and that is affecting his or her functioning at school, then it is time to have him or her assessed by a mental health professional and teen anxiety treatment may be necessary.




Holmes, Lindsay. “10 Things People Get Wrong About Anxiety.” The Huffington Post., 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2014.