Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Certain events, situations, or even people result in a twinge of fear or discomfort about what is to come—job interviews, big tests, first dates, new schools, etc.

Psychology Principles to Improve Your Unspecified Anxiety Disorder

May 14, 2021

Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. Certain events, situations, or even people result in a twinge of fear or discomfort about what is to come—job interviews, big tests, first dates, new schools, etc. The list of potential anxiety-producing circumstances is long. For most people, the feelings of anxiety that result from day-to-day events subside soon after they occur. 

This is not the case for teens with anxiety disorders. Teens who struggle with anxiety often experience intense, excessive, and persistent worry or fear about everyday situations and experiences.

In some cases, feelings of intense anxiety or terror become so overwhelming they result in panic attacks. For these teens, anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities. They are often difficult (if not impossible to control) and out of proportion to the actual danger. You may find your teen going out of their way to avoid places, people, or situations in an active effort to avoid these feelings. 

Anxiety Disorders Explained

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including specified and unspecified disorders. Specified anxiety disorders include diagnoses many are familiar with, including agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, separation anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias. Anxiety disorders related to substance use and abuse and anxiety disorder due to a medical condition also fall into the specific anxiety category. 

The term unspecified anxiety disorder describes anxiety or phobia symptoms that do not meet the exact diagnostic criteria for any other anxiety disorder; however, they are significant enough to distress and disrupt your teen’s daily functioning. Although your teen may not experience all of the specific symptoms related to a specific anxiety disorder, it does not meet their symptoms are not significant. Treatment at a teen-focused treatment center such as Hillcrest could help them better understand and manage intense and overwhelming anxiety symptoms. 

Is My Teen at Risk for Anxiety?

There are several factors that contribute to or increase your teen’s risk of developing anxiety. Understanding these risk factors and the ways anxiety can complicate pre-existing mental and physical health conditions can better help you know when it is time to seek help at Hillcrest for your teen’s anxiety symptoms. 


Adolescents or teens who experience abuse or a traumatic event (either as part of the event, a witness to the event, or the event occurring to a loved one) are at a higher risk for developing anxiety disorders at some point in their lives. 


Stress that occurs due to chronic illness, sudden severe illness, or from the buildup of smaller stressful events can trigger excessive anxiety in teens. A teen who struggles with illness (either theirs or a loved one) will often worry about how the illness will impact the future. Events such as academic stress, peer and relationship challenges, or the death of a loved one also increase stress in teens. 

Preexisting Mental Health Conditions

Teens with other mental health conditions such as depression often experience symptoms related to anxiety. This is known as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Although one condition does not necessarily cause the other, they often share a similar root cause and benefit from specialized dual-diagnosis treatment. Teens who have an immediate family member who struggles with anxiety are at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder. 

If your teen is struggling with anxiety symptoms, it is more than just excessive worry. Anxiety disorders can lead to new or worsening symptoms of many pre-existing mental and physical health conditions. Common examples include sleeping difficulties, chronic pain conditions, gastric upset, substance use and abuse and depression, and other mental health disorders. Teens with an anxiety disorder also experience challenges at school and within social circles. In some cases, anxiety symptoms can be so overwhelming they lead to an increased risk of self-harm and suicide attempts. 

Helping Your Teen Manage Their Unspecified Anxiety Disorder

According to data provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 32% of adolescents had an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders were more likely to impact females, but the prevalence of anxiety disorders remains relatively consistent across age groups. 

Unfortunately, anxiety and related mental health concerns among adolescents and teens continue to be a growing concern. Although many teens do seek and receive help for their symptoms, a large number do not. Even after treatment, it is essential to utilize proven coping skills to help manage triggers and anxiety symptoms upon returning to day-to-day tasks.


Unfortunately, many teens turn to technology as a means of relaxation. Sadly, tuning into Netflix or scrolling Facebook are not healthy forms of relaxation. The same is true about turning to food (or substances) as a way to unwind. Although the above may appear to relieve stress and anxiety, they only produce a temporary and false sense of calm. It is essential for your teen to find an unplugged way to relax and practice this technique each day. Consider activities such as yoga, hiking, meditation, or even tai chi. These activities have a healthy, physical effect on the mind that allows the body to relax and the mind to enter a state of calm. Also, many relaxation activities provide physical bonus benefits to the body, which can help improve self-esteem and reduce feelings of depression. 

Eat and Sleep

The mind and body cannot be calm when important things such as sleep and nutrition are lacking. As part of a comprehensive treatment program, nutritionists pay particular attention to ensuring your teen eats a healthy and balanced diet. This allows them to focus their attention on treatment and recovery instead of hunger and anxiety produced by the body demanding specific nutrients. Sleep is also essential to ward off stress and anxiety. When we are properly rested, the mind is able to manage better stress and other triggers that lead to anxiety. 

Find Ways to Reduce Perfection Pressure

Today more than ever, teens feel pressure to attain perfection. This often fuels stress and anxiety in teens as they struggle to “be better” or achieve specific academic targets and goals. If they cannot accomplish goals or meet targets, a teen may begin to feel as though they are not good enough, and this is emotionally damaging to many teens. Parents (and teachers) can provide support and reduce pressure on teens by shifting to more positive and supportive messages. For example, if your teen doesn’t make a sports team, it is helpful to provide a positive take on the situation, such as, “I know you might be disappointed. Disappointment is sometimes what helps us to strive harder next time. Remember, I love you no matter what happens.” 

Remember Fears About the Future are OK

Adolescence is a time of discovery and change. It is during these years that teens strive to carve out a place for themselves and define who they are. This process is part of significant changes in the brain’s structure and function. These changes and the discovery process that leads to them can be a source of anxiety for many teens as they begin to worry about how they “fit in” to social groups, peer groups, and society in general. Parents and therapy providers can help reduce anxiety by normalizing change—open doors to communication with your teen about their fears, worries, and concerns. Perhaps consider sharing your own fears to help your teen realize this season of life happens to everyone. Open and honest communication about adversity and struggle can help your teen become less anxious and more resilient to future challenges. 

Know When to Seek Help

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should seek help for your teen when their anxiety begins to disrupt their day-to-day life. Disruption can take many forms, including disrupted sleep, increasing frequency of anxiety symptoms, new or worsening compulsive behaviors, increased isolation, and worsening intensity of symptoms such as frequent panic attacks. If you suspect your teen is struggling with anxiety, reach out to the team at Hillcrest in Los Angeles today. A therapist skilled in helping teens and their families understand and navigate the difficulties of anxiety will work with your teen to better understand their symptoms and create a treatment plan that addresses your teen’s symptoms.

There are several therapies often used to help address anxiety disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is often considered the “gold standard” treatment. During therapy sessions, your teen will work to understand the negative thoughts and feelings that are contributing to their anxiety. They will also learn to question the validity of negative thoughts and begin replacing them with positive ones. Your teen’s therapist will help them practice and reinforce techniques that will empower them to face their worries and other triggering situations. 

Other therapy models, including acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), are often utilized in the treatment setting. Because mental health symptoms are often unique to the individual, the type, model, frequency, and duration of treatment that is best suited for your teen will vary based on their needs and comfort during treatment.

Anxiety disorders can be challenging to manage. In some cases, the symptoms your teen may experience due to anxiety can be overwhelming and impossible to manage without the help and support of therapy. At Hillcrest, our team of teen-focused providers can help your teen understand how anxiety symptoms impact their day-to-day functioning and future successes. If you are concerned anxiety is affecting your teen, reach out to the admissions team at Hillcrest today to learn more about our teen-focused treatment center in Los Angeles. Let our caring and compassionate staff help your teen and family begin the journey towards freedom from anxiety and the challenges of navigating its challenging symptoms.