How to Spot Mental Health Red FlagsTeen Angst vs. Teen Anxiety: How to Spot Mental Health Red Flags

Worried about the emotional state of your teen or adolescent? As they begin to naturally separate from the family, it’s common for young people to seem moody or anxious. However, if you suspect that the real issue is a serious mental health disorder or substance abuse, you may have every right to be concerned. Today’s teens often engage in sex, drugs, or alcohol at an earlier age than generations in the past. Due to the intensity of the hormonal and physical changes that happen during puberty, at times, it may be difficult to tell the difference between typical teen behavior and the symptoms of an anxiety disorder or some other emotional difficulty. It helps to know the warning signs.

If “everyone else is doing it,” even if the “it” is something that you don’t particularly approve of, your child’s behavior could be matching the norm for his or her social group. If you are investigating signs and symptoms, it’s very important to keep in mind that no one sign necessarily means that there is a serious ongoing problem. It’s more critical to focus on the nature, intensity, severity, or duration of a problem, most experts stress.

The Warning Signs and How to Spot Mental Health Red Flags

According to Friends For Mental Health, a Canadian support network, these are some of the continuing general symptoms that often accompany an anxiety, depression, or behavior disorder:

  • Marked decrease in enjoyment and time spent with friends and family
  • Significant decrease in school performance
  • Strong resistance to attending school or absenteeism
  • Problems with memory, attention or concentration
  • Big changes in energy levels, eating or sleeping patterns
  • Physical symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, backaches)
  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, crying often
  • Frequent aggression, disobedience or lashing out verbally
  • Excessive neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
  • Substance abuse
  • Dangerous or illegal thrill-seeking behavior
  • Is overly suspicious of others
  • Sees or hears things that others do not

Know Your Teenager

Trust your instincts. While your teen is growing up and going through some major changes, as a parent, you are still the one that knows what your child’s personality would normally be like. You have also passed on your values, beliefs, and attitudes. If the behavior conflicts with these, or what’s typical for your son or daughter, you know that something could be wrong. If you notice that your teen is not engaging in favorite activities with friends, or seems chronically disconnected, anxious, angry, or sad, it could be an indication that what you are dealing with is abnormal and requires intervention.

Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

We all experience some anxiety from time to time. But anxiety disorders have one thing in common- the anxiety occurs too often, it’s too strong, and it’s out of proportion to the present situation. The intense level of the anxiety interferes with a person’s ability to manage daily life and experience happiness. The symptoms of an anxiety disorder can appear suddenly, or they can gradually build and continue to the point that someone begins to realize that something isn’t right.

Doom, Gloom and Anxiety

Sometimes anxiety creates a sense of doom and foreboding that seems to come out of nowhere. If talking with your teen doesn’t seem to help, remember that it’s common for teens with anxiety disorders to not know what’s causing the emotions, worries, and sensations they are experiencing. offers this basic guide to the most common anxiety disorders. The name of each disorder reflects the specific symptoms.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

With General Anxiety Disorder, a person worries excessively. Someone with GAD may worry excessively about school, their health, or safety of family members, and the future. They may frequently imagine the worst that could possibly happen. Along with worry and dread, people with generalized anxiety disorder usually have physical symptoms, such as chest pain, headaches, tiredness, tight muscles, stomachaches, or nausea.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

For a person with OCD, the anxiety takes the form of obsessions or unpleasant thoughts and compulsions. The compulsive behavior is, in a way, an effort to try to relieve anxiety.


Phobias are characterized by intense fears of specific situations or things that are not actually dangerous, such as heights, dogs, or flying in an airplane. Phobias usually cause people to avoid the things they are afraid of.

Social Phobia.

Social phobia, or social anxiety, is triggered by social situations like speaking in front of others. An extreme form called Selective Mutism causes some kids and teens to be too frightened to speak in certain situations.

Panic Attacks.

Panic episodes can occur for no apparent reason. During a panic attack, a person has sudden and intense physical symptoms like a heart attack. Symptoms can include a pounding heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, or a tingling sensation caused by overactivity in the body’s normal fear response.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

This type of anxiety disorder results from a traumatic or terrifying past experience. PTSD symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, or constant fear that continue long after the experience.

Recovery is Possible

The good news is that experienced specialists today understand anxiety disorders better than ever before and, with proper, effective treatment, your teen can feel better soon. If you think someone you love may be struggling with an anxiety disorder or mental health disorder, Discovery Mood can help. We’ve been guiding families to long-lasting recovery for nearly 20 years. Our personalized behavior modification programs are tailored to fit your needs.

Call Us Now at 800.760.3934

Discovery Mood provides integrated multi-faceted levels of care that range from residential treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, to partial hospitalization for adolescents and teens that suffer from anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, self-harm behaviors, gender identity, oppositional defiant disorder, and most mental health disorders. Call today and speak with one of our highly trained admission specialists. Or click on the link below for a free assessment or virtual tour. All calls are completely FREE and strictly confidential.




Kids Health: Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Childhood Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved November 16, 2016.

Friends for Mental Health: Normal teenage behavior vs. early warning signs of mental illness, by Jaimie Byrne. Retrieved November 16, 2016.