Anxiety In Young Adults


Anxiety can cause everyday life to seem impossible. It can adversely affect your job, school work, and relationships.

Today more than ever, the rate of anxiety in young adults is growing. With almost 25% of children from ages 13-18 and 19% of young adults being affected. 

But what are the symptoms of young adult anxiety, and what are the causes? Today we’ll answer these questions and more.

What Are Anxiety Disorders?

Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorder in the US. However, it’s important to keep in mind, there is a difference in common everyday anxiety and an anxiety disorder.

For example, you may experience anxiety while going through significant life changes. The anxiety will soon pass once you get comfortable in your new situation though. Unless you have an anxiety disorder, which will have more adverse effects than just being nervous.  

In general, for someone to be diagnosed with anxiety they must meet a couple of parameters. For example, the fear or anxiety must be significantly out of proportion to the situation. It must also hinder the ability to function normally.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are a few different types of anxiety disorders that you can be diagnosed with. They each have different symptoms and can have different effects on everyday life.

In order to accurately assess if you are suffering from one of these disorders, you will need a diagnosis from a doctor. Then they will be able to help you come up with a treatment plan.

Diagnosing Anxiety Disorders

Because there are so many symptoms of anxiety disorders that are common with normal anxiety, it can be hard to diagnose. There are some tools that you can use to determine if you should ask your doctor about anxiety. Like the Zung self-rating tool, it asks a series of questions to help determine your level of anxiety. 

Once you take a self-rating test, if you’re concerned you might have an anxiety disorder, it’s time to involve your doctor. It’s important for a doctor to do a full physical examination. Your doctor will also need to know your complete medical history. 

Your doctor will use the information they gather to rule out all other possible causes of your symptoms including:

Symptoms of Anxiety

Oxford defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. However, when a patient is suffering from an anxiety disorder there can certainly be other symptoms, stemming from seemingly no reason at all.  

Some of these symptoms can include:

Sometimes these signs of anxiety can be overlooked in teens and young adults because they are considered somewhat normal for their age range. That’s why it’s especially important to talk to your children if you notice some of these symptoms to see if these fears go above a normal level of anxiety.

Co-Occuring Disorders

Anxiety can also be present with other mental disorders. Often described as co-Occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, these can also contribute to other symptoms you or your loved ones may be experiencing. 

Some of the most common co-occurring disorders include depression, ADHD, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, eating disorder, sleeep disorders and PTSD.

What Triggers Young Adult Anxiety?

There are several factors that can contribute to increased anxiety symptoms. This is especially true for young adults, as they are facing many important milestones in their life and experiencing numerous changes.

After finishing high school young adults are expected to transition into their new roles flawlessly. This in itself can put enormous pressure on them. On top of getting used to a new schedule and new expectations in their jobs or in college classes. 

They are also adjusting to their newfound freedom and all that it comes with. Particularly if they have moved out on their own. They are learning about paying their own bills and maintaining their own homes. 

While most young adults will experience these milestones with some degree of anxiety. They can quickly recover after getting used to their new situations and getting comfortable being on their own. This is not true for those suffering from anxiety disorders. 

Those with anxiety disorders may be more adversely affected and more likely to be stuck in a “failure to launch” into adulthood. Causing them to struggle with everyday life situations.

A big part of our mental health depends on our ability to care of ourselves and ensure our needs are met. When individuals with mental disorders are experiencing severe symptoms it can be hard to do things like:

  • Bathing
  • Eating 
  • Exercising
  • Household chores

However, when these needs aren’t met it can make anxiety and depression symptoms worse. Causing a vicious cycle of anxiety, depression, and self-neglect. 

Another big part of self-care is ensuring that you get enough sleep. A lack of sleep can cause anxiety symptoms to worsen along with potentially causing other health issues.

It’s no secret that social media can be seriously detrimental to your mental health. It can cause low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations, and worsened depression.

This is largely because we tend to compare ourselves to others on these platforms. We see our friend’s pictures and posts of vacations, weddings, promotions, and new babies. This can cause someone struggling with anxiety or other mental disorders to be critical of themselves if they can’t measure up.

In today’s society, Covid-19 is having a big effect on everyone’s mental health. Between quarantines, school closings, and overfilled hospitals there’s a lot to be anxious about. 

Humans are social creatures and need social interaction, and physical touch in order to feel happy. Social distancing makes this hard and can have a particularly rough effect on those with anxiety disorders. 

We are now two years into the Covid-19 pandemic. Even with vaccine rates increasing, and less severe symptoms of recent varients. Our futures moving forward are still largely unknown. It’s easy to see why anxiety rates have been skyrocketing lately.

Treatment For Anxiety

Anxiety is a highly treatable mental disorder. There are several steps that can be taken to help manage or even eliminate the effects of anxiety. 

You can make lifestyle changes that make it easier to deal with everyday situations. Your doctor might also suggest medications that can help eliminate the symptoms. You can also seek therapy with a psychologist or in some cases even residential treatment.

Our lifestyle choices can often directly tie into our mental health. If you find yourself dealing with excessive anxiety it may be best to take a look at your lifestyle and try to identify some of the possible causes. 

Some changes that may need to be made could include:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Drinking less caffeine 
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco 
  • Increasing exercise 
  • Digital detoxing 
  • Meditating daily 

It’s also important to take a look at your diet as well. Try including more nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables in your meals. Doctors also suggest eating well-balanced meals that include protein and
complex carbs.

If making these changes still doesn’t help lessen the effects of your anxiety. Your doctor may be able to give you further changes you can make and may suggest medication.

There are several different types of medication commonly used in treating anxiety. Such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs). These medications keep the nerve endings in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin. 

These medications may include: 

  • Prozac
  • Zoloft 
  • Lexapro
  • Paxil 
  • Celexa 

Patients usually take these medications for around 12 months and then begin reducing the dosage slowly. These medications are non-addictive and nonhabit forming. 

While SSRIs can very helpful to some they are not guaranteed to work for everyone. In that case, doctors may prescribe serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These include medications like

  • Cymbalta 
  • Effexor XR

It can take several weeks of taking these medications consistently for the effects to be seen.

There are many different types of therapy available to those who are dealing with anxiety disorders. Some examples include: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This includes analyzing your thoughts and behaviors to better understand them. Then replace them with positive and helpful behaviors. Your therapist will teach you skills to help keep your anxiety at bay. 
  •  Exposure Therapy: This is primarily used for those who face anxiety due to phobias. 
  • Dialectical Therapy: Used to treat those with borderline personality disorders. It’s learning to accept your anxiety while working to change it. 
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: Identifying your values in life and living in a way that matches those values
  • Art Therapy 
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy: you and your therapist examine your thoughts, fears, and desires to better understand how you view yourself and to reduce your anxiety.
  • Interpersonal Therapy: This type of therapy helps identify any interpersonal issues you may have, such as unresolved grief. You will then learn healthy ways to regulate and express your emotions. 

Sometimes in extreme cases, these therapies may not be enough to help you or your loved one. While this can be difficult when
caring for a loved one with a mental disorder, there are still options for them.

Residential treatment centers can help patients learn or re-learn personal skills like housekeeping, budgeting, hygiene, and more. They can also provide them with 24/7 support while they’re there. 

This can be an important step if the patient is experiencing levels of anxiety that inhibit them from caring for themselves. While in a residential treatment center a doctor will come up with a treatment plan using a mixture of lifestyle changes, medication, and different therapies. This allows the patient to find what works best for them all while having a support group behind them 100% of the time.

Find Mental Health Treatment in Orange County

These days young adult anxiety is more prevalent thanks to our current social situations like COVID-19, social distancing, and quarantine, not to mention the pressure of upcoming life milestones, but there are treatment options available. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, our staff here at First Light Recovery in San Juan Capistrano is here to help.


  1. Zung Anxiety Scale. Psychology Tools.
  2. Substance Use Disorders. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
  3. Failure To Launch: Treating It As A Process, Not A Failure. Children & Adults With ADHD.
  4. Anxiety-Fighting Foods. UnitedHealthcare.