Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder and affects 18% of Americans during their lifetimes.
- National Institute of Mental Health



Know the facts.

DEFINITION: Everybody experiences anxiety and/or stress sometime. A person with an anxiety disorder experiences disabling, intense and irrational fears and worries that get in the way of daily life. An anxiety disorder differs from everyday stress in the following ways:

  1. it is more severe,
  2. it is long-lasting, and
  3. it interferes with a person’s life. 

Some Common Anxiety Disorders Include:

  • General anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia)
  • Panic Disorder

Symptoms of anxiety disorders:

A person with a 
general anxiety disorder might...

  • worry excessively, more days than they don’t, about everyday problems and things out of their control for at least six months.
  • not be able to relax, have trouble sleeping and concentrating and might be easily startled.
  • have physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or feeling out of breath.

A person with phobias might...

  • have an intense, irrational fear of something harmless like butterflies.
  • do almost anything to avoid the object of their fear (a specific place, an event or object), and this may limit their life experiences in many ways.

A person with social anxiety disorder might...

  • experience intense nervousness in social situations, performances or being in public.
  • feel afraid that they are being closely watched, judged or criticized by other people.

A person with panic disorder might...

  • experience recurring panic attacks, and is persistently worried about future panic attacks.
    • a panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear or terror, even though the person is safe.
  • experience sudden feelings of severe fright for no apparent reason.
  • stay away from certain activities or places to try to avoid having panic attacks.
  • Note: A panic attack can feel like a heart attack and can include physical symptoms such as an upset stomach, sweating, pounding heart or shortness of breath.

For managing day-to-day anxiety, a good diet, exercise, sleep, and self-calming techniques can help.

Reducing screen time and increasing outdoor activities can be beneficial.

Having supportive family and friendship networks also promote feelings of well being and can help someone get through difficult times.

Working with a mental health professional in talk therapy or taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist are possible forms of treatment.


  • Practice with the person to help them breathe slowly.
  • Breathing can help the body calm and think clearly.
  • Help the person think about something positive (e.g., sunset, beach, forest, puppies) for 12 seconds. These thoughts can replace stress or fear.  
  • Sit the person down, if possible.
  • Ask the person what has helped in the past.
  • Remember that it is not helpful to try to convince someone with an anxiety disorder that there is nothing for them to worry about.


  • Educate yourself about the disorder.
  • Listen to your friend when they want to talk.
  • Keep checking in with your friend.
  • Use 1st person language. Say,
    “My friend has anxiety.” not “My friend is anxious.”
  • Reassure your friend of your support and understanding.


  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “It’s the illness that causes these thoughts and feelings.”
  • “This must be really difficult for you.”


  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Get over yourself, you have no reason to feel that way.”
  • “Shouldn’t you be better by now?”


  • ...tell a friend to “Snap out of it!”
  • ...diagnose.
  • ...gossip.
  • ...take your friend’s withdrawal personally.

Find additional information on our Mental Health Disorders page and other suggestions on our Understanding Stigma page >>

Can you answer these questions?

  1. What is the difference between anxiety or stress-related disorders and everyday stress (such as too much homework, a job interview, a championship game, or a big test)?
  2. How common are anxiety disorders?
  3. What are the signs and symptoms of each of the anxiety disorders?
  4. What treatments are available for people experiencing the symptoms of these disorders?
  5. What can you do to support someone with an anxiety disorder?
  6. How do you think stigma might affect a person with an anxiety disorder?

*Hint: Read the ANXIETY facts at the top of this page to find the answers for 1-5. And view our Understanding Stigma page for question #6.



Anxiety: 11 Things We Want You To Understand

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Social Anxiety Disorder

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Dylan's Panic Disorder

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Know the facts.

Fact: Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults per year, which is about 18 percent of the country's population.  

According to Alison Baker, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the director of the adolescent program for Columbia University Medical Center, anxiety disorders are also one of the most prevalent pediatric psychological conditions.

- Adapted from Huffington Post   

Fact: Telling someone who is experiencing anxiety to "just relax," would be like telling someone with a broken leg to just get it together and run a race.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Research has shown these treatment options to be successful in most cases. Although relaxation might be a part of the treatment plan, it needs to happen in line with other self-help strategies and treatment options advised by a mental health professional. 

- Adapted from (Australia)

Fact: If you have an anxiety disorder, it is important to be aware of what may trigger your anxiety.

However, avoiding risks all together can trigger and reinforce anxiety.

- Adapted from Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Fact: Eating nutritious foods, exercising, avoiding caffeine and following a healthy lifestyle are good for mental wellness for us all.

However, this is not a "cure" for an anxiety disorder.

These healthy habits won't make anxiety go away. Anxiety disorders are sensitive to stress, but stress does not cause them.

- Adapted from Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Fact: According to Greg Hajcak, PhD, an associate of psychology at Stony Brook University, too many people with an anxiety disorder wait about 10 years to seek anxiety treatment.

Those who are still able to work and function well enough often delay getting help, hoping the anxiety will get better on its own.

The reality is that this rarely happens. Therefore, it is important for people who have the symptoms of an anxiety disorder to get the help they need and deserve.

- Adapted from Everyday Health



It's OK to ask for help.
Talk to a trusted adult.

Visit and access the all new YouthWell Community Resources Directory. You will find youth behavioral health and wellness resources in this resource directory.

If you or someone you know has harmed themselves or is in immediate risk of harm CALL 911 immediately.

SAFTY ~ Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth 

  • 888-334-2777 - SAFTY is a mobile crisis response service available daily 8am-8pm, providing crisis intervention, phone, and in-home support, and linkage to mental health services. Available to all SB County youth, age 0-20, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. 

Crisis Text Line

  • Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.
    Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via text. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly.

Suicide, Substance Abusee or Mental Health Lifeline

  • Text 988 - Connects callers to a trained counselor at a crisis center closest to them

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • Call 1-800-273-8255 - 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ support, and youth in crisis - provides 24/7 crisis support services to LGBTQ young people

  • Call 866-488-7386 or Text START to 678678

Learning about mental health is the first step to wellness. The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) can help families find medical and professional care, as well as teach important skills on how to manage your mental health. Many families in our community have teenagers who are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health issues. It can be overwhelming as a parent to find support for your teenager and difficult to talk about these issues. The MWC is focused on providing a safe and confidential space for families to connect with others, access community resources and get the support your family needs.