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Feeling anxious or worried

A girl chewing her nail.Everyone feels anxious or worried at some point. Anxiety can be a very normal reaction to a tough situation. Sometimes, anxiety can help you rise to a challenge. For example, feeling worried about a test can make you study for it.

An anxiety disorder is different from normal anxiety. A person with an anxiety disorder has very strong feelings of worry or dread for months. These feelings come often, and they get in the way of the person's everyday life. If you think you have an anxiety disorder, talk to a trusted adult. You can feel better. Keep reading to learn more.

What are some types of anxiety disorders? arrow. top

There are a number of anxiety disorders that young people can have. Some of them are listed below.

Social phobia is a strong fear of being judged by others and of being embarrassed. This fear can be so strong that it gets in the way of everyday things like going to school or eating in front of others. Of course, most of us may worry a bit about certain social situations, but people with social phobia might worry about an event for weeks. They also may have physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, or shaking in a social situation.

Most people who have social phobia know that they don't need to be so afraid, but they can't stop worrying. Sometimes, they avoid places where they might have to do something they fear will be uncomfortable. It can be hard for a person with social phobia to make and keep friends.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is when a person worries a lot about many things, even though there is little or nothing to worry about. The person may worry about a wide range of things, including school, relationships, money, and health. Sometimes, just the thought of getting through the day makes the person anxious. A person with GAD may have trouble concentrating, headaches, irritability, sleep problems, muscle tension, and other uncomfortable feelings.

Panic disorder means a person has panic attacks, which are sudden, strong feelings of fear that come for no clear reason. An attack can bring a rush of physical feelings like heart-pounding, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. A person having a panic attack may feel like she is going to die.

Because panic attacks can be so scary, someone who has them may worry a lot about when the next one might come.

One girl's story

Rachel's anxiety made her drop soccer, her boyfriend, and a lot of the fun parts of her life. But she got help. Now, she says, "I am a better, stronger, and more confident person for everything I have gone through." Read Rachel's story.

Agoraphobia is a fear of places that make you feel unsafe. This might be places that seem hard to get out of or where you fear you might not be able to get help if you need it. Examples include a bus, a bridge, a crowd, or someplace far from home.

Specific phobias are very strong fears of particular things or situations. Examples include being very afraid of dogs, flying in a plane, taking an elevator, or driving through a tunnel. A person can't control the fear even if she knows there is no need to be afraid.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) causes frequent and upsetting thoughts, which are called obsessions. A person with these thoughts feels a strong urge to do certain behaviors to try to stop the thoughts. These behaviors, which are called compulsions, may be things like repeated counting, cleaning, or hand-washing.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes from having a terrifying experience, like surviving a hurricane or witnessing an attack. Symptoms of PTSD include having nightmares or feeling like you are reliving the experience. 

Separation anxiety involves a very strong fear any time you are being separated from someone important to you, like a parent.

Dealing with anxiety arrow. top

Are you thinking about doing something you find scary? One helpful tool is to ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that can happen?" You may realize that the worst thing that can happen actually is a lot less scary than you thought. And you might also consider the best that can happen — like everything will go fabulously well and you'll have a great time.

Here are some more ways to handle anxiety:

  • Go someplace peaceful. You might take a walk in nature or lie down someplace quiet in your house.
  • Connect with others. It can feel great to have support. Friends can get your mind off your worries and onto something fun.
  • Do something soothing. Try yoga or deep breathing.
  • Find healthy ways to deal with pressure. Stress-busting tips can help calm you down.
  • Think positive. Think about the great things in your life — and in yourself! Imagine really good times heading your way.
  • Avoid things that can make your worry worse. Caffeine and certain drugs can make you feel more on edge, for example. If you're looking for energy, healthy foods and good sleep are much better bets.

If your anxiety is getting in the way of your life or it goes on for too long, you may need treatment. Treatment for anxiety disorders may include medicines or therapy. Treatment can work very well, and you can feel better. Anxiety disorders that aren't treated can get worse, though. You can find out about treatment by talking with your parents or another trusted adult.

If your anxiety is so bad that you are thinking about suicide, get help right away. Contact the Lifeline hotline by chat, or call 800-273-TALK (8255).


Content last reviewed January 07, 2015
Page last updated February 19, 2015