Why is Youth Anxiety Different?


Dr. John Walkup, Program Co-Director of the Youth Anxiety Center explains that “Anxious young adults differ substantially from anxious younger children and also from anxious adults. The most striking differences lie in the potential impact of avoidant behaviors (a key coping strategy associated with anxiety) on academic, employment and social functioning during a critical developmental epoch – the transition to an independent adulthood. When early anxiety and avoidance behaviors (i.e., not going places, being with people or doing things due to fear or apprehension) are substantial and unaddressed, children and adolescents do not develop the robust coping and adaption skills necessary for young adult functioning. Hence, as anxious adolescents become young adults, they struggle to cope effectively with the demands of independent functioning. They may drop out of college/vocational training or fail to maintain employment. Anxiety and avoidance behavior also impact every day and intimate relationships and can result in young adults who are solitary, shy and socially less adept, and feel challenged by even routine social interactions. The hurdles these youth and their families’ face is compounded by educational and work environments that are unaware of the impact of anxiety on young adults’ functioning, and similarly unaware clinicians, who are ill-equipped to assess and treat comprehensively anxious youth and young adults.”


Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Clinical Site Director of the Youth Anxiety Center offers the following insight when asked about anxious youth: “When you listen carefully, you hear that youth with anxiety put themselves down, feel that they don't measure up to expectations, worry a lot about failure, and need much reassurance and extra encouragement to take on the tasks that their peers are completing. Parents often notice the things that their son or daughter aren't doing such as organizing friends to get together, taking on internships or tasks with enthusiasm, dating, laughing, pushing back against curfews and family rules that teens are outgrowing, and talking with enthusiasm about school or college. All too often, parents find that they are staying too involved and doing too much for their adolescent or young adult, as compared to other kids their age. The parents do these things so their kids won't miss out on something big but then wonder ‘When will s/he do this on their own?’ "