The Signs of School-Related Anxiety in Teens

School is a main source of anxiety and stress in a teen’s daily life. Homework, tests, and social demands can make teens feel anxious and at times, overwhelmed. Parents often overlook lesser-known signs of school related anxiety, either because they are looking for the more “well known” symptoms, or because a parent mistakenly attributes it to another problem that may be present. It’s important to recognize this kind of anxiety in order to help your teen cope with it. Below are some lesser-known symptoms of school-related anxiety in teenagers that you should be aware of:

Increased irritability and/or angry outbursts –
Irritability and anger frequently mask other deeply-rooted issues. Anxiety may be difficult or uncomfortable for a teenager to express; angry outbursts and irritability are typically “easier” feelings to access. If you notice your teen snapping at others more frequently, not coping as well with “the small stuff,” and/or lashing out verbally or physically, he or she may be trying to communicate that something else is going on below the surface.

Physical symptoms –
Although anxiety is predominantly a mental illness, it can manifest itself throughout the body in a number of physical symptoms. Some of the most common include: nausea, vomiting, headaches, and stomachaches. Additionally, teens may use these physical symptoms as a way of getting out of going to school, therefore avoiding their anxiety trigger entirely.

Over-eating and/or restricting –
These can be compensatory behaviors that a teen may use to self-soothe and cope with his or her anxiety. Stress can frequently trigger the urge to over-eat or binge, or your teen may be trying to “numb out” by mindlessly snacking. Restricting intake can be a side effect of physical symptoms (stomachache, nausea, vomiting) or a negative behavior used to cope with strong, difficult emotions.

Lying about homework or grades –
Anxiety typically “tells” a teenager to avoid whatever is triggering him or her; this may also carry over into avoidance of school-related triggers at home. Your teen may stop doing his or her homework, because it is a reminder of school—and when asked, will tell a lie to get you of his or her back. Poor grades are often a result of avoidant behaviors. Your teen may attempt to hide grades from you as well, to avoid actually facing the problem.

School is challenging for all teens, and it creates anxiety for some students. Anxiety does not always show itself through common symptoms. By being able to recognize the lesser-known signs of school-related anxiety, you can help your teen cope in healthier ways. Identifying the issue is the first step towards improved mental health and academic success!