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Children, Youth and Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal and expected response to a threat. It’s what helps you notice danger and keeps you safe until a threat passes. Threats are not just about physical safety. Threats can include conflict at home, deadlines or expectations at school, or fitting in with social groups.
Some anxiety is necessary, even helpful. It’s what motivates people to take action or work hard to meet a goal. However, too much anxiety or anxiety that feels out of control can take a toll on health and well-being. Anxiety is the most common mental health problem in young people. About 3% of Canadian children or youth experience an anxiety disorder. Yet anxiety may be dismissed in young people because they are still learning about the world and are naturally a little more anxious than most adults. Even if the worries or fears seem small from an adult perspective, those feelings are very real for the young person.


Anxiety might be a problem when it is stronger than you’d expect, lasts much longer than you’d expect, or comes up often or feels out of control. It can cause problems with sleep or appetite, disrupt schoolwork or learning, and create other challenges. These anxiety problems show that someone might need help learning to cope with anxiety. Unhelpful anxiety can be harmful even when it doesn’t meet the criteria of an anxiety disorder, so any young person who experiences unhelpful anxiety may see the benefits of mental health help and support.


Anxiety disorders are a group of mental illnesses involving excessive anxiety. Anxiety disorders can be very difficult, yet they aren’t always taken seriously. Anxiety problems that start in childhood may get worse over time. Even when anxiety problems appear to clear up on their own, people who experienced anxiety problems in childhood are more likely to experience an anxiety disorder later in life. Early treatment and support not only help children and teens get back to their usual lives, they build resiliency and teach skills that can last a lifetime.
Here are anxiety disorders that young people may experience:


Some of these signs are not unique to anxiety disorders. If you notice these signs, it’s a good idea to seek help from your doctor or a mental health professional.

Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence in more than 330 communities across every province and one territory, CMHA provides advocacy and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive.  Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area. Visit the Find Your CMHA page here to find help near you.