Anxiety in young people

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues seen in young people. This guide is to help you understand how anxiety starts in a young person, how it may present and how you can help them recover.

Below are written comments from feedback from recent young people who have been seen by her in her clinic:

Thank you, I am very grateful for your professional, committed and caring approach that underpins your clients’ healing of minds, developing self-confidence and sustainable growth as autonomous individuals in becoming. I hope you recognise you save lives and give hope with your calm faith that your clients will, and do get better.
As always Dr Hayley listens, is empathetic, encouraging and non-judgemental and gives sound professional advice. Thank you.
Without Doctor Hayley I am certain I would not be alive today and she has been a massive help to me and my family.
Thank you so much for a faultless service. I’ve recommended you already to friends!
I really thought I was going to lose my daughter. Lose her to her own despair and potentially her own life. I searched for what seems like too long to find her the support, acknowledgment and treatment she needed. Finding Dr H was not just a life line but a true life changer. The care, understanding and treatment my daughter has received is truly outstanding. With Dr H’s consultation and understanding, my daughter has been able to reconcile her feelings of despair and inadequacy. I now have a confident, happy, social daughter who is starting university in the autumn and is looking forward to life. I can not thank you enough Dr H. Honestly, thank you so very much.
Dr van Zwanenberg was very friendly and put my son at ease so he felt comfortable to talk openly. She was very reassuring and seemed to understand him straight away.
Dr H has made a lasting improvement on both my daughters’ states of mind and their approach and outlook to life. I can not rate her services highly enough.
Very friendly and helpful.
Very good doctor.
Dr Hayley she is a amazing person, very caring, patient and helpful
Hayley was amazing with my daughter and she felt very reassured that she would help her get back to her old self!
Dr van Zwanenburg put my 10 year old at ease immediately which helped her open up
Dr Hayley has made my child’s life happy again, and our families too. She has identified and helped him with his anxiety and adhd. Her practice is run with precision and care with excellent communication from Dr Hayley and her team. I can’t thank them enough.
Dr Hayley was wonderful with my son. She put him at ease very quickly and consequently he was very happy to open up to her and talk freely. Thank you so much.
Lovely Dr who was there to listen and help anyway possible. Full in detail and good natured with myself and my son. Got a lot from it and finally felt we were listened too. Lots of advice and next steps to follow.
Dr van Zwanenberg was fantastic, everything we’d hoped for.
Dr Hayley was incredibly thorough, supportive and engaged. My daughters confidence with the process soared and throughout the 2.5 hour process. I am profoundly grateful that expertise and care exists in professionals like Dr Hayley. She is life-changingly good.
Dr Hayley was very calming and listened carefully to my concerns
Van Zwanenberg was able to see us much more quickly than we had expected for which we were very grateful, and we were touched by the level of care and personal attention we and our son were afforded when we met. The speed, depth and quality of the written follow up was impressive, too.
Dr hayley is always so positive and encouraging. She listens well, is very professional and is very calming. Always a positive and helpful experience. My daughter won’t speak to any therapists however she is happy to open up to Dr Hayley. Thank you.
Hayley has always been very accessible and helpful if we’ve needed to contact her between appointments.
Dr Hayley probably saved my son’s life. A great Doctor.
I was highly recommended to yourselves by someone who had previously been to see you. I will also highly recommend you also. My husband and I Felt very at ease during the whole process.

Very happy with Dr Hayley. She She’s very kind and makes us feel at ease within the session. listens carefully to problem and tries to recommend a right solution. She’s very prompt in replying emails or in event of asking for prescription, which itself has made me feeling better in the stressful situations we have been experiencing. I am very happy with her and would recommend to others. Thank you Dr Hayley.🙏🏼🌸

Dr Hayley is always really professional but totally relatable and understanding. Would definitely recommend her to others.

Dr Hayley saved me from suicide and helped me turn my life around. She is the best!
She is so kind and supportive
We feel blessed that Dr van Zwanenberg was available when my daughter was referred. It was a relief for my daughter to be understood and feel that there was hope for getting better. Dr van Zwanenberg has been endlessly kind and provided the expertise needed so that we felt completely supported. Although we have not had to use it a lot she has been available for advice in between appointments, which again adds to our feeling of being well supported. We would wholeheartedly recommend her and know she would do the best for anyone who came to see her.
So happy my son is finally getting the help he needs to free himself of a life of anxiety. Thank you.
Thank you so much. Straight forward. Caring. & already actioning a plan. I’ve recommended you to two people already
Very approachable and friendly style, felt that she really listened and put our anxious daughter at ease. Explained very clearly what the problem was and how we were going to deal with it as a team. Highly recommend.

We have received a very positive experience using Dr van Zwanenberg. We have felt listened to and supported without any judgement getting our daughters autism diagnosis. We would highly recommend.

Dr Hayley is such a lovely and compassionate psychiatrist. She has transformed the life of my son. I am so grateful.
Brilliant Doctor, I gave up and Dr Hayley picked me back up and got be back to myself. I feel like she actually cares and respects what I say.
Empathetic, caring!

Dr Hayley is phenomenal – she has transformed our daughters life and we are grateful every day that we found Dr Hayley and got the help we so desperately needed.

As always Dr Hayley was fantastic. She is always one step ahead and any additional admin requests etc are never too much bother. We will be sorry to lose her, as my daughter moves on soon to an adult psychiatrist now that she’s 18. I will be surprised if we can get such attentive service from any other psychiatrist. Many thanks indeed for your amazing support over the past few years.
The doctor was really personable and helped to make my son feel comfortable, she asked great questions to elicit information to help the diagnosis and was very good at listening to our feedback
Dr Hayley took an impressive amount of care in advance of our initial assessment appointment, to evaluate our son’s situation from many angles. We felt listened to and reassaured by her suggestions of strategies to help manage his symptoms. My son commented after the appointment that “She was vey kind and understood me”. We have also appreciated her quick responses to our questions outside of the appointment itself
The level of care and communication from Hayley has been exceptional throughout and I have already strongly recommended her to several other parents.
Can’t recommend Dr van Zwanenberg enough for child ASD/ADHD assessment and follow up. She’s very empathetic & puts everyone in the family at ease.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg is a very good doctor
Dr Hayley has been very good for my daughter – she has been kind, caring and has explained her condition to us very well. My daughter was really poorly but is now well on the way to a good recovery thanks to Dr Hayley’s treatment and care.
Dr van Zwanenberg’s tone, manner & approach was perfect for our child, she listened to us all and helped set wheels in motion. Thank you
Dr Hayley is the only doctor that we trust to help us with our daughter’s mental health; more importantly, our daughter also trusts her. She genuinely cares. She talks to her, understands her and engages with her and us. She quickly identifies the problem and suggests realistic, pro active plans to tackle the particular issues at hand. She is always available for us to contact by phone and email (no matter how small the problem) and has telephoned us during the day and sometimes in the evening when the situation requires it. As parents, we have at times really struggled but she always manages to reassure us and we feel very lucky to have her as our doctor.
Very happy with the service Dr Hayley has provided.
An excellent doctor who is thorough and non-judgemental and takes a collaborative approach.
We love Dr Hayley. She is the only person my daughter will engage with. She has been incredibly helpful in all kinds of ways, not only with medication but with diagnosis, advice and referrals. My daughter has come along way since seeing Dr Hayley
Dr Hayley is very supportive and I would thoroughly recommend her through this organisation
When dealing with a person with mental illness it is essential that the patient feels that they are being believed by the Doctor who provides the treatment. Dr van Zwanenberg is able to build trust and rapport and is sympathetic, understanding and non judgmental in her approach.
Very early in our treatment but Dr Hayley has already made a huge improvement to our daughter and her health.
Dr Hayley and her colleagues provide outstanding accessible compassionate and effective care for young people with emotional and mental health difficulties including ADHD. We can not thank her and her colleagues enough for the extraordinary difference they have made to my son’s well- being and helping him approach his full academic potential.
She is very helpful
Thank you ever so much for a very thorough assessment.
Very kind and knowledgeable
Hayley was wonderful. She engaged with my son beautifully despite his almost constant hyperactivity and chattiness during the appointment! She has a lovely warm approach while remaining very professional and highly knowledgable. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her.

What is the basis of the symptoms of anxiety?

Our bodies have a built in protective mechanism that dates from over 50,000 years ago when we might have been living in the jungle. Let’s go back to those days. Imagine we are walking through the jungle and a Tiger jumps out in front of us. Our lives are in danger, we need to run. We tell our brains something really frightening is happening so it swiftly changes the amount of stress hormones being pumped around our body to get us ready to run. These hormones redistribute blood in our body. We stop digesting food, as we don’t need to right now; we might get butterflys in our stomach as a result, or feel slightly sick or even be sick. Our stress hormones move the blood to our heart and lungs, so our heart beats faster and our breathing changes to allow more oxygen to get to our muscles for us to run. We start to sweat due to all these changes. The blood supply is moved from the area of our brains required to think as we are not going to turn to the Tiger and say “Please Mr Tiger can we talk about this”; it moves to the area of the brain that helps us move and run.

This can save our lives when a tiger is chasing us in the jungle.

When people start have anxiety symptoms which include the physical symptoms such as sweating, butterflys in the stomach, feeling sick, palpitations and breathing faster, this is because they are seeing tigers where they do not exist. When this happens the young person wants to avoid the situation where they believe “The tiger” lives.

Why do children see tigers that do not exist?

  • Some young people may have relatives with anxiety disorders and they may have inherited a propensity to anxiety.
  • Children learn from those around them so if you as a parent are scared of spiders and show your child that you, or check that doors are locked repeatedly or the hob is turned off over and over, the children around you are likely to learn this as necessary behaviour to prevent a situation like a Tiger coming to the house.
  • Children can misinterpret how dangerous situations are by hearing information, (or part of information), that they magnify and make more scary. For example if a young person hears about a terrorist attack on the news but they are not given facts about how rare they are and how good our country is at preventing them they may start feeling they or the people they love are at risk when away from home
  • Anxiety can start secondary to other illnesses such as depression

What symptoms do children have when anxious?

  • The physical symptoms of anxiety that are described when a tiger is chasing occur. The young person then worries why they are having these and become scared which leads to more stress hormone pumping around the body and an increase in the physical symptoms
  • They may start trying to avoid doing things or going to certain places as they see “The tigers there” and feel unsafe.
  • They may lie awake at night worrying – thoughts come into their head about what they could have done differently that day and about frightening things that might happen the next day. They start to predict the future in a frightening way and they start to feel they do not have the skills to cope.
  • They may start wetting the bed or having bad dreams
  • They may become more irritable or tearful or clingy

What can you do to help?

  • Explain to your child why you know they will be fine in the situation they want to avoid. Feed them lots of examples of times they have shown they are competent to manage in the past eg the time they walked into pre-school knowing no one but let go of your hand and turned around and smiled and waved and go through the day fine. Give lots of evidence base against their worry. When anxious they cannot see this themselves they block this evidence out while piling up their worries so they need it fed to them.
  • When they hear something negative eg on social media or the news or from a neighbour challenge the information with evidence base to show them the other side of the story. People often focus on interesting gossip and bad news, balance this with good news. (Imagine a scale – they get weighed down on the negative side – swing the balance to the positive side).
  • Where possible do not let them avoid situations. If they avoid something they are anxious about they do not have an opportunity to see they can cope and add positive evidence to their scale. The negative evidence grows with avoidance.
  • Explain to them about their body being made to protect them against tigers but they are seeing tigers where they do not exist. Understanding this can help them calm when they feel the physical symptoms.

Are anxiety disorders treatable?

  • Anxiety disorders are very treatable. The earlier that you get treatment for your child the easier it is to treat. People often hope these will just go away but they tend to grow. Treatment will teach your child helpful skills for life. If they find worries popping up in the future (like whack-a-mole), they will have a tool box to help hit them down one at a time.