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How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Combat Anxiety in Adolescents and Children

When we hear the word anxiety, we often associate it with adult stress and uncertainties.  Anxiety is defined by a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, usually surrounded by an event that often yields an uncertain outcome.  Anxiety for adults can manifest as persistent worry, fear, panic, sleeping problems, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, the list goes on and on.  But what does anxiety look like in a child, and how does it present itself?

Unrecognized anxiety in children and adolescents is a common problem, not only in schools, but in the home setting as well.  One specific way that anxiety manifests in an adolescent or child is through disruptive or aggressive behavior.  In an adolescent this can result in getting into trouble at school, at home, or even with authorities.  In a child it could look like a temper tantrum, refusal to complete a request or task, or even completely emotionally or physically shutting down.  

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is created in the body based on a physiological response to a perceived threat within the environment.  Some individuals are innately born with and are more prone to struggle with problematic anxiety than others.  If you know of an adolescent or child that you think may be struggling with anxiety, there are many techniques that are quite helpful in quelling that emotion.  

Manifestation of Anxiety in Children

  • Not wanting to sleep in own bed
  • Not wanting to be separated from parents or caregivers
  • Perfectionism, giving up on tasks after first failed attempt
  • Hyper or hyper-vigilant behavior (a lot of times mimicking ADHD)
  • Tantrums or loss of temper over seemingly minor events
  • Avoiding certain situations, places, or people
  • Thumb sucking, biting, or chewing on fingers or other objects
  • Aggressive or physical behavior 

Manifestation of Anxiety in Adolescents

  • Discipline problems at home and school
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia 
  • Staying in room or isolating self for long periods of time
  • Losing temper, yelling, or physical violence
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Antisocial behavior such as stealing, lying, breaking the law
  • Substance use and abuse

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The good news is, there are many resources available to both parents, adolescents, and children to help combat and relieve many of the behaviors and symptoms associated with anxiety.  Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach used to treat anxiety by dividing it into its cognitive and behavioral components. The cognitive element helps identify and question the thinking patterns that cause or trigger the feelings of anxiety, while questioning the validity of these negative and usually automatic thoughts.  This goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving simply by identifying the emotion to then change the behaviors that are triggered.  


Adolescents and children frequently do not understand the underlying feelings such as sadness, fear, and depression that often accompany anxiety.  Finding a professional counselor that can assist a young person in identifying and thus reducing these isolating feelings can create hope and behavioral changes that can last a lifetime.  Hope is just around the corner, and there are many trained professionals that can assist you.  If you would like to meet with one of the counselors at Amy Wine Counseling, call 832.421.8714.

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