Hormones, body changes, peer pressure, and a desperate need for independence are just a few of the reasons why the teenage years can be turbulent. So as Disney and Pixar release the new Inside Out 2 film (Friday 14 June), which introduces new character ‘Anxiety’ as Riley becomes a teenager, our therapists share how you can help your teen navigate this new life stage.

Why do teens feel anxious?

“The teenage brain is in a state of flux with a great many changes occurring. The hormones involved in puberty can result in mood changes that are more frequent, random and rapid than experienced before,” explains accredited therapist, Heidi Soholt.  

“This is a lot for the average teen to navigate and can leave them feeling more sensitive and anxious. If you add in typical concerns such as spots and periods, not to mention exam pressures and worries about the future, then it’s easy to understand why adolescence can be an anxious time.”

Finding their identity

But Heidi explains that one of the fundamental drivers of adolescent anxiety is the search for identity and belonging – which can make young people more self-conscious and sensitive to feedback from others.

“Teenagers need time to work out where they fit into their social groups, and to experiment with their identity. The challenges associated with balancing a need for self-expression and identity with conformity to peers and wider society can be tricky for young people who have not yet developed a stable sense of self,” says Heidi.

Heidi also acknowledges that first romances can be intense learning experiences for teens and peer pressure can provoke feelings of anxiety - such as conflicts between personal values and beliefs, and the drive to conform. It’s also a time when young people begin to peel away from parents/carers as they crave independence, despite boundaries still being needed.

Social media

Modern media is also a major factor in teen anxiety, with studies linking social media use with negative health outcomes such as poor body image, disordered eating, poor sleep, depression and anxiety. Climate anxiety and war also have an impact on teens mental health, illustrated by a recent worldwide survey1 finding that almost 60% of young people said they were worried about climate change, with three quarters reporting they found the future frightening.

“For some, anxiety can feel overwhelming and impact the ability of the child to function normally,” explains accredited member and school counsellor, Rachel Vora.

So, if you are worried about your teen’s anxiety, here are our expert’s tips:

1.Normalise anxiety

It’s important to help your teen understands that everyone experiences anxiety, and that they are not alone.  

As Heidi explains: “Let your teenager know it is okay to feel anxious, and that these feelings are not permanent. Speak to them about times when you have felt anxious and remind them that anxiety is a healthy reaction. Anxiety can also be a necessary motivator that can help us perform effectively in situations like exams.”

Rachel agrees and says it’s important to teach your child about anxiety: “Normalising anxiety can help your child feel less frustrated and embarrassed about it.”

2. Listen to and accept their feelings

Rachel says that your teenager will benefit from you taking their feelings seriously too.

“It’s easy to "brush off" anxiety as irrational or a fear your child will grow out of,” shares Rachel. “Having these fears dismissed is not helpful and will not support your teen in overcoming them.”

Heidi suggests that actively listening to your teen and resisting the temptation to fix the problem is key:

“Communicate a positive message about their own ability to manage problems – show that you have confidence in them. Point out times when they’ve managed in the past and provide advice if they ask for it. Remember that you are helping them to reduce anxiety simply by offering them a safe space to talk about it.”

3. Be curious

Being proactive and asking your child questions about their feelings can often help you understand some of the fears beneath their behaviours too.

As Rachel explains: “Show empathy for these thoughts and feelings to encourage your child to open up further.” 

4. Introduce a growth mindset

Introducing the concept of being able to develop new skills and talents can offer a frame of mind that can help your teen overcome their anxiety.

Rachel adds that a great place to start is to focus on progress rather than perfection:

“Anxiety often stems from the fear of making a mistake. Helping your child see that they can learn from mistakes can help them challenge the avoidance caused by anxiety symptoms.”

5. Create mantras together

Helping your child challenge anxiety by developing the ability to "argue" with their anxious thoughts is also a useful technique. Rachel suggests that some effective mantras include: "Progress is the goal," or "It is okay to make mistakes. That is how I learn." She suggests working with your child to come up with some together.

6. Allow the time to worry

One of the key skills to helping your child manage their anxiety is giving your child permission to worry.

As Rachel explains: “Telling them not to have those feelings is not realistic. Instead, teach them how to manage those thoughts in their everyday life. For example, to write down all their worries at the end of the day or first thing in the morning. Have them set aside a time limit to this "worry time," and then they need to move on with their day.” 

Heidi acknowledges that sometimes teenagers can struggle to open up about worries and says this is linked to their need for independence:

“It can be hard for parents when their child is anxious but try to avoid putting them on the spot. Ensure they understand that you are there to support them unconditionally, whenever they want or feel ready to talk.”

7. Find coping skills

Help your child find good distraction or calming techniques. These might be breathing techniques or journaling - encourage them to try several techniques to see what works for them.

“The goal is to get out of their thoughts and into the present moment,” shares Rachel.

8. Make a plan

If your teen has a specific anxiety, such as a test, explore with them what their options are. Take action, rather than avoid it.

“Encourage them come up with a plan,” says Rachel. “Decide when to do it e.g. can it be done now or does it need scheduling for later? A plan can help your teen let the worry go.”

9. Get back to basics

The importance of a good night’s sleep, time away from phones, and regular exercise should never be underestimated when it comes to managing anxiety – for teens and adults.

“They are also useful ways of teaching a young person how to manage their feelings,” says Heidi.

To find a BACP registered therapist visit here



1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-58549373#:~:text=A%20new%20global%20survey%20illustrates,climate%20affected%20their%20daily%20lives.