Helping Teens Understand Their Own Anxiety

By Jennifer Shannon, LMFT

When I begin treatment with anxious teens, I have them take an in-session quiz with me to identify what types of anxiety they are experiencing. It is not at all uncommon for them to come in for general worry, but then we quickly discover that they are also experiencing significant anxiety related to social situations, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or panic.


There are a number of benefits of doing this assessment in session:

  • Reading the questions helps them recognize they are not alone in experiencing anxiety, and normalizes their experience.

  • It identifies anxiety that I might otherwise have missed.

  • It helps us prioritize what types of anxiety they want to work on first.

I developed a simple thirty-six-question quiz that identifies seven anxiety disorders: separation anxiety; panic; generalized anxiety; specific phobias; agoraphobia; OCD; and social anxiety. I have the teen answer the questions in the session, and I check off the disorders to which each question corresponds. At the end, we look at the sheet together to see what types of anxiety are most indicated in the quiz.


Download the quiz here.

Jennifer Shannon, LMFT, is author of The Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook for TeensThe Anxiety Survival Guide for Teens. She is cofounder of the Santa Rosa Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Santa Rosa, CA and a diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy.


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