While teenage anxiety is often dismissed as simple growing pains, for the young person and their family it can be a truly traumatic experience. Teenagers may act up because of anxiety, suddenly changing their behaviour and ignoring their parents' rules or lashing out. They may conversely appear very well-behaved and achieve highly but be feeling enormous pressure that could lead to breakdowns or self harm. Anxiety is a serious condition in teens as well as adults, and it affects upwards of 20 percent of young people; fortunately, being there for your teenager and offering the option of counselling can help address the issue.
Causes for concern
Changes in behaviour are a normal part of growing up, but if shyness, belligerence or irritability get to a point where they significantly affect a teenager's life and relationships, there may be cause for concern.
Other potential issues include self-harm and eating disorders. Teenagers may try to hide evidence of these behaviours by refusing to eat in front of other people or, in the case of self-harm, wearing long-sleeved clothes even in hot weather. Confronting a teen with your worries can be an extremely delicate situation, and direct questioning may not work. Make yourself available to teenagers so they have the chance to bring it up themselves.
If you don't make progress getting your teenager to open up, you can be honest with them about your concerns, but don't expect this to prompt them to open up. Instead, respect that teenagers are going through a difficult phase where they lack much-craved independence, and suggest options for people to talk to. These could be family, friends or counselling services.
Opening up to a counsellor can help root anxieties
You might explain that while some worrying behaviours get better over time, you're truly concerned about the teenager's actions and there is a need to deal with the underlying anxieties which cause them. This can be terrifying for the teenager, but counsellors are trained to support people through this difficult step.
For many reasons, it's likely to take a teenager a while to open up about their anxiety. If they feel pressured to attend counselling, or feel as if it's a decision outside their control, they may clam up. It's important for teenagers to be offered options of how to talk about their anxiety and also to have the option to pick a counsellor they feel they can talk to.