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Anxiety is a normal part of life – we all experience it at some point.

It’s common to become anxious when we have to face a stressful situation like taking a test, going for a job interview or speaking in front of a group. Our bodies react to that anxiety and show some distinct signs: clammy hands, faster heart beat and sometimes dizziness or light-headedness.

For some, anxiety causes these feelings to become more intense and occur more frequently which can be a sign of an anxiety disorder – the most common mental health problem in youth.

One in six Canadians is affected by an anxiety disorder, which includes panic disorders, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Without treatment, anxiety disorders can pose a great risk to physical, mental and emotional health and can also lead to alcohol or drug abuse, family problems, depression and, in some severe cases, suicide. With treatment and support, people can and do recover from anxiety.

Recovering from Anxiety

We’ve made a lot of progress in understanding and treating anxiety disorders.

Treatment is tailored to the severity of the disorder (for more mild anxiety disorder talk therapy would likely be recommended, while medication may be used for more severe disorders).

The most effective forms of treatment are based on cognitive (thought) and behavioural (action) counselling approaches, as well as meditation and other calming exercises.

Medication can be prescribed and monitored by a doctor to treat anxiety.

Above all, remember anxiety is very treatable and recovery is expected. With help from a mental health professional, and support from family and friends, problems with anxiety are treatable, and recovery is possible.

You can think of recovery as part of a personal journey to feel a degree of control over your life, and to have meaningful relationships with people you trust – whether they are family members, friends, or people at school or work.

Recovery also means different things to each person. For some, recovery means that symptoms will not persist, while for others, recovery means learning to live a full life despite any ongoing symptoms.

Signs of Anxiety

Anxious thoughts and feeling and anxious behaviour are outlined below. These might not be present all the time, and this list should not be used to diagnose yourself or someone else. If you think you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder see your Doctor.

Anxious thoughts and feelings

  • Worrying about everyday situations and activities
  • Feeling exhausted and drained from constant worrying
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen to you or someone else you care about
  • Feeling tense or on edge a lot
  • Worrying about doing something in public that will be embarrassing or humiliating
  • Experiencing intense fear that occurs without any warning and for no cause
  • Unwanted thoughts that cannot be stopped
  • Finding it really hard to concentrate on what you’re doing.
  • Getting irritated easily
  • Experiencing intense flashbacks and reliving bad experiences
  • Feeling depressed and hopeless
  • A very strong fear of something such as heights, spiders, bridges and it gets in the way of what you want to do

Anxious behaviour:

  • Getting easily tired and overwhelmed
  • Having nightmares
  • Having problems sleeping – either falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Feeling restless and unable to sit still for long
  • Being tense much of the time or easily startled
  • Experience trembling, sweating or dizziness, heart pounding, shortness of breath and light-headedness for no apparent reason
  • Avoiding social activities such as parties or school events

Do you experience any of these signs and symptoms on a regular basis? Take the Anxiety self check and find out more.

Getting Help

Seek help right away if you are experiencing the following:

  • Have suicidal thoughts or behaviours or thoughts of harming others – seek emergency help immediately
  • Have trouble with alcohol or drug use, or have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
  • Think your anxiety could be linked to a physical health problem
  • Are experiencing prolonged trouble sleeping
  • Normal stresses of life do not explain the symptoms

Handling Anxiety

Tell a trusted family member or friend about your anxiety. They can listen and support you, which can help you feel better.

Continue doing activities you enjoy like sports, clubs, or other healthy activities. Taking your mind off anxious thoughts helps you to enjoy life more.

Use positive self-talk. Have a conversation with yourself about your worries. You can do this inside your head or out loud in a private space. Notice your feelings, try to accept them and be positive towards yourself.

Talk to your school guidance counsellor, doctor, staff at a Teen Clinic, social worker, nurse or other trusted person.

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