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Young people and anxiety

Find out how to recognise anxiety in your mentee and what you can do to help.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear. While it's normal to feel worried sometimes, it can become a problem if a person's worries are out of control or interfering with their life. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems experienced by young people.

Anxiety comes in many different kinds. For example, some people experience social anxiety, finding it difficult to talk to people or worrying that they have annoyed or upset their friends or family. Other people feel excessively anxious in stressful situations, such as exams or job interviews, and might experience panic attacks.

Find out more about young people and anxiety.

Recognising anxiety

Anxiety can be very difficult to talk about. Those affected often think that other people won't understand or will think they are being silly. They may not understand what is happening themselves. For all these reasons, it's likely that your mentee won't talk to you directly if they are feeling anxious. However, recognising the signs can help you to make sure you are giving your mentor the best help you can.

  • Feeling worried out of proportion
  • Focussing on worst-case scenarios
  • Returning to the same worry again and again

Anxiety also has physical symptoms, especially at particularly stressful times. These include things like shortness of breath, sweating and dizziness. Your mentee might mention experiencing this during things like exams or job interviews.

How you can help

Remember, you're not a counsellor: if your mentee has a serious problem with anxiety, it's not your job to treat them. However, it will be useful for them to have someone to talk to who they trust, and who they feel understands them.

Reassure them that it's normal to worry. If they have mentioned physical symptoms, let them know that those are normal too: they can be very worrying and make the problem worse if they aren't properly understood.

Direct them to useful resources. Your mentee can find advice and assistance from places like Anxiety UK, or by talking to their GP.

Be careful about how you reassure your mentee: for example, if they are concerned about their exams, saying things like 'They're not as hard as you think' or 'I'm sure you'll do well' can do more harm than good, making your mentee feel like they are failing at something easy or letting you down.

Instead, try to help them keep the things they are worried about in proportion. For example, remind them that exams results aren't everything.

If you're affected

Anxiety can affect people at any age and in any situation. If you think you're affected by anxiety, you can contact Anxiety UK on 08444 775 774 for confidential help and advice, or email support@anxietyuk.org.uk. Lines are open from 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.