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Anxiety – What is it & how does it show up?

Let’s start with the basics. Anxiety is the discomfort or unease we feel when thinking about some kind of imminent (or potentially imminent) event or uncertain outcome. Contrary to popular belief, anxiety is not ALWAYS a bad thing.  In fact, healthy levels of anxiety are important and help motivate us to do things like study for an upcoming test, prepare for an interview, or avoid dangerous situations. Anxiety is only problematic when it becomes excessive, all-consuming and starts to interfere with our ability to function and actually follow through on those important things it intended to motivate.

Anxiety Symptoms:

Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge

Being easily fatigued

Having difficulty concentrating


Having headaches, muscle aches, stomachaches, or unexplained pains

Difficulty controlling feelings of worry

Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep

Excessive Anxiety makes life harder.

Anxiety symptoms and disorders can look different for each person. Sometimes, symptoms are obvious and pronounced. Other times, people might try to hide or deny symptoms. Regardless, anxiety can be debilitating and affects things like relationships, grades, jobs, overall feelings, and world-view.

It’s important to remember that what we see on the outside isn’t always how someone actually feels on the inside.  How many times have you told someone you’re “fine” when you were actually having a horrible day, month, or even a horrible year?

Anxiety may look like...

In Teens:

"Melting down" - sometimes for little or no reason.

Perfection running (ruining?) their life.

Irritability and grouchiness.

Not doing fun things with the people they love.

Constant worry about what others think of them

Difficulty getting up or off to school in the morning.

In Young Adults:

“Future Tripping”/Worrying about the rest of your life.

Trouble adjusting to independence.

An overwhelming drive to be the "perfect” adult.

Contemplating giving up on goals.

Wondering if the worry and stress will ever stop.

Laying awake at night despite exhaustion.

Anxiety Treatment

When it comes to treating anxiety disorders, research shows that therapy is usually the most effective option. That’s because anxiety therapy – as opposed to anxiety medication – treats more than just symptoms, it treats the problem.

Therapy can help you or your teen to uncover the underlying causes of worries and fears, learn how to relax, look at situations in a new, less frightening way, and develop better coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills.

Getting a handle on anxiety IS possible.