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Anxiety in Young Adults: Symptoms, Types, and Causes

anxiety in young adults

Anxiety is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses in the United States.

Symptoms of anxiety disorders often occur long before individuals seek anxiety treatment, so it’s important to understand what anxiety disorder is, including the most common symptoms, types, and causes.

In this article, you will learn more about anxiety in young adults, common symptoms, types, and causes.

Anxiety in Young Adults

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) participated in a survey about mental health and suicide in the United States that revealed nearly half of young adult respondents had been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a doctor or mental healthcare professional. As expected, anxiety disorders were the second most common diagnoses among the group of young adults.

Anxiety itself is a normal part of life – it’s a temporary feeling of worry we experience when we face a difficult or dangerous situation. You may experience this feeling before making an important decision, before taking a test, or while handling a difficult task at work.

So, when does anxiety become a problem?

An anxiety disorder occurs when this temporary feeling sticks around for long periods of time without reason. People with an anxiety disorder may find themselves worrying about something unreasonable, may experience anxiety out of the blue, and experience a much more intense feeling of worry.

Today, we understand anxiety disorder more than ever before, including the different types of anxiety disorders, common symptoms, and causes.

Let’s take a closer look at anxiety in young adults.


People with an anxiety disorder will experience intense worry and anxiety on a daily basis for at least 6 months. People may worry about a variety of different things, including work, social situations, and everyday circumstances.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Restless or on-edge
  • Easily fatigued
  • Irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

As mentioned, symptoms of anxiety will vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder you’re experiencing. For example, if you have a panic disorder, you may also experience heart rate, sweating, and trembling.

Understanding the symptoms of anxiety in young people will help you identify the signs of mental illness earlier than later.


We know more about anxiety and anxiety disorders than ever. Mental health professionals have conducted research, surveys, and studies for years, revealing some of the previously misunderstood aspects of anxiety.

Today, we understand anxiety disorders can often be categorized into specific types of disorders, complete with their own symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Here’s a closer look at some of the common types of anxiety disorders among young people.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common types of anxiety disorder diagnosed.

This type of anxiety disorder usually involves broad symptoms, such as consistent worry, and may occur for a variety of different reasons.

Phobia-related Disorders

Long ago, our ancestors developed an aversion to certain aspects of our environment.

Having a fear associated with deadly snakes, or with standing at the top of a high ledge, is what allowed our forebearers to live long enough to eventually produce the humans which are us. A phobia disorder isn’t so rational or life-preserving.

Those who suffer from this form of anxiety tend to fear things which are harmless or even those which are beneficial.

Panic Disorders

It is common for people to say that they have experienced a panic attack.

Realistically speaking, however, they are often describing no more than a period of feeling very anxious. A genuine experience of a panic attack is much more severe. A person with panic disorder will experience anxiety so acutely that he or she will literally feel as though death may occur.

Panic disorder sends sufferers to the emergency room.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Many people have a fear of public speaking, or of entering a new social situation as a guest. For some, however, being around others is so uncomfortable, that extreme measures may be taken to avoid it, entirely.

Social anxiety is rooted in worry about what others are thinking.


As with most mental health issues, it is difficult to tease out any one cause of an anxiety disorder.

Many mental health providers are of the perspective that multiple sources tend to contribute to a person’s experience of excessive anxiety. While psychiatric medications can take the edge off of the feelings of anxiety, it is beneficial to gain assistance from a doctor or therapist when seeking to eliminate the patterns of it.


Many psychologists ascribe to the idea that our deep-seated issues arise as a result of our childhood experiences.

As children, we are continually in the state of forming our perceptions about life, and continually developing strategies for how to approach various problems. This development takes place in the actual neural structure of our brains.

Pathways between neurons are established, making it easy for our brains to rely on habit when calling for a response. If childhood is experienced as a time of anxiety, it can be hard for the adult to retrain the mind toward considering challenges in a more calming light.


The most common cause of both functional – and irrational – anxiety is the particular setting which invokes it.

Ask any college student about the experience of studying for looming finals, and you are likely to get a very good description of this type of anxiety. While some situations are considered appropriate producers of anxiety, others can be taken to the extreme. Prior experiences of rejection or trauma can cause one to feel anxiety whenever encountering a situation similar to the contents of the painful memory and can result in the anxious person attempting to avoid certain scenarios, altogether.

Imagination can also play a role in situational anxiety, where cognitive distortions make a scenario appear much worse than it actually is.


A relative newcomer to the area of anxiety is something that is defined as the fear of missing out (FOMO.)

This type of anxiety has arisen as a result of the rise of the internet and social media. For many young people, the bulk of their social life is updated, shared, and documented online. Not being able to access the latest information about friends – or not being able to immediately share experiences of one’s own – can produce a very real sense of anxiousness.

If you find yourself obsessively needing to check your phone for updates, or if thoughts of snapping selfies dominate your vacations, you may be suffering from this source of anxiety.


Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy,” can help people with an anxiety disorder. For the best results, it’s best if the psychotherapy is tailored to your specific anxiety disorder, ensuring your individual needs are addressed. This is why Paradigm Treatment Centers take the time to assess your individual needs before providing anxiety treatment. In some cases, one person may benefit from social therapy while another may benefit from emotional therapy.

Medication does not cure anxiety disorders. In most cases, a doctor will prescribe medication to someone in an effort to relieve symptoms. The most common types of medications prescribed are anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, and beta-blockers. As mentioned, there are a variety of different types of anxiety disorders and symptoms so it’s important to understand the type of anxiety disorder you have before seeking medication, as doctors will sometimes prescribe medications commonly used to treat other health concerns, like high blood pressure.

In some cases, you may find it beneficial to seek treatment from a specialized provider. If you’re interested in receiving treatment tailored for people your age, consider contacting Paradigm to learn more about our anxiety treatment for young adults.


Anxiety disorders are the second most commonly diagnoses mental health condition in the United States among young adults.

The more you understand about anxiety disorders, including the different types, symptoms, and causes, the more confident you will feel seeking treatment. Seeking mental health treatment sooner than later is important, as ignoring the problem will not make it go away. In fact, it will likely become worse and more difficult to manage.

If you experience any of the symptoms or suspect something isn’t right, consider contacting a mental health professional and ask about the programs offered. He or she will help you identify what’s going on, let you know what your next steps are, and introduce you to the best young adults program for your needs.

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