Anxiety in Children and Tweens

Despite the negative connotation of the word, anxiety in children is relatively common, with diagnosed anxiety disorders affecting about 13% of tweens and teens. Even more children and tweens experience anxiety to a lesser degree.


How to Know If Anxiety in Children Is Normal

teen chewing nails
Lynn Koenig/Moment/Getty Images

When you observe possible anxiety symptoms in your child, it can be hard to know whether they’re a cause for concern. If the symptoms are causing distress or impairing your child's life, they may be considered problematic.

If not, it's possible that your child just has a more subdued, introspective nature. Follow up is important, however, since untreated anxiety issues may come along with other problems, such as mood issues and/or dysfunctional eating. Discuss your concerns with your child's doctor.


Panic Attacks Are One Form of Anxiety in Children

If your tween has experienced a brief episode of shaking, sweating, dizziness and a sense of impending doom, it may have been a panic attack. Panic attacks can be isolated or may be part of a larger anxiety issue such as panic disorder.


Anxious Children May Refuse to Go to School

One form of anxiety in children is school refusal. There are other possible reasons for school refusal that do not involve anxiety, however, such as adjusting to a new school year. Keep watch on how your tween's interactions with friends, teachers, and school events affect their behavior. If they become affected beyond the normal jitters of newness many kids feel in some situations, seek help from your tween's pediatrician.​


Early Puberty Can Cause Anxiety Problems

Tweens who experience puberty early are at higher risk for anxiety. It's unclear why precocious puberty has this effect, but there are ways to offset some of the issues. Puberty brings with it a host of changes that may contribute to feelings of anxiety, including bodily changes (such as growth in weight and/or height), body shape changes, and hormonal changes.

Couple those changes with the need for more privacy regarding menstrual cycles for girls and erections and/or "wet dreams" for boys. Add to this the increase of hair, voice changes, and sexual urges, and it may be more than your tween can take.


Bullying Can Cause Anxiety in Children

Another possible cause of anxiety in children is being bullied at school. Bullying can cause anxiety issues both immediately and in the long run. Notably, bullies themselves may also suffer from anxiety because of their acts.

By talking to your teen about how to deal with conflict, what constitutes a good relationship, both friendship and romantically, you set him or her up for proper resolutions when anxiety comes from normal life events.


Physical Activity May Decrease Anxiety in Children

Anxiety in children can be decreased in a number of ways. Mild anxiety may be decreased through regular exercise, which should be frequent and vigorous. For more severe cases of anxiety, therapy or medication may also be needed.

A Word From Verywell

Anxiety is a normal emotion. But when kids have too much anxiety, it can interfere with their normal, everyday functioning. Fortunately, anxiety disorders are treatable. If your child is struggling to manage anxiety, talk to your pediatrician. A referral to a therapist may be in order.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Mental Health. Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms.

  2. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Puberty and Precocious Puberty: Condition Information.

  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Bullying Exerts Psychiatric Effects Into Adulthood.

By Rebecca Fraser-Thill
Rebecca Fraser-Thill holds a Master's Degree in developmental psychology and writes about child development and tween parenting.