Anxiety – young people

How to manage your anxiety as a young person

Key points about anxiety in young people

  • Anxiety is really common when you're young.
  • There are a lot of life challenges through your teenage and early adult years.
  • Here you can find information, resources and services to support you to manage your anxiety.
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  • Experiencing some anxiety is normal, but if it is so strong that it interferes with you being able to carry out your normal day-to-day life, it is considered to be an anxiety disorder(external link).
  • Anxiety disorders range from generalised anxiety disorder through to panic disorder(external link), agoraphobia(external link), specific phobias(external link) and social anxiety disorder(external link)
  • Anxiety disorders are very common. Approximately 1 in 4 New Zealanders will be affected by an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives. At any one time, 15% of the population will be affected.
  • Although it may sometimes feel like anxiety controls you, there are things you can do to manage and even overcome an anxiety disorder.
  • The key things you can do are to take good care of yourself through a healthy lifestyle, get help and support, and learn about anxiety and techniques for managing it.

There are lots of things that can help you to manage your anxiety. There is a range of treatments available, including talking therapy, self-care, learning anxiety management techniques and medication. The first step is to talk with your GP who will discuss these with you and together you can decide which is best for you. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist for talking therapy. 


Depending on how severe your anxiety is, your doctor may prescribe medication for anxiety. Medication is best used together with other therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Medication helps to alleviate symptoms but addressing the underlying issue (either through self-help or therapy) is usually needed to produce long-lasting change.

Antidepressants, mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to be effective in managing panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. Examples of SSRIs include citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, paroxetine, sertraline. In some people, venlafaxine may be used for panic disorder. 

When starting these medications, your doctor will start you on a low dose and, if needed, will increase your dose slowly. This allows your body to get used to the medicine and reduces side effects. You must keep taking your medication every day – not just when you feel anxious. 

It may take 4–6 weeks to notice the full benefits of the medication. These medications may initially make your symptoms appear worse before you notice an improvement. Other side effects include nausea (feeling sick), headache, sleep problems and sexual problems. Read more about SSRIs and venlafaxine.

Other antidepressants such as tricyclic antidepressants, may be used if SSRIs or venlafaxine are unsuitable or have not been successful. Read more about antidepressants.

Techniques for managing anxiety

You can learn some new skills that make a big difference in how well you manage your anxiety. Instead of the anxiety controlling you and what you do, you can take charge. Things you can do to break out of the cycle of anxiety include:

  • understanding anxiety
  • accepting and tolerating normal anxiety (and knowing when yours isn't)
  • taking small steps towards doing the things you are worried about coping with, instead of avoiding them
  • learning mindfulness
  • taking good care of your self each day
  • dealing with issues that need addressing 
  • getting personal and professional support.

See also our section on apps and e-learning below.

Video: In my mind: Teen anxiety

What exactly is anxiety, and why are today’s teenagers more anxious than previous generations? Neuro-educator Nathan Wallis reveals why the brain is more vulnerable to anxiety during adolescence. Teens and parents talk about ways to develop coping skills, build confidence and take back control. This video may take a few moments to load.

(Attitude Live, NZ)

To view more videos of the same series, visit Attitude Live: In my mind(external link)(external link) (Attitude Live, NZ)

Apps reviewed by Healthify

You may find it useful to look at some anxiety management apps, depression apps, mental health and wellbeing apps (for teenagers and young people), mental health and wellbeing - CBT apps, mental health and wellbeing - goal setting, problem solving and motivation apps and mental health and wellbeing - meditation and mindfulness apps.

The choices you make every day of how much you move, what you eat, how much sleep you get, whether you take time to relax and whether you smoke or drink are all important to reducing anxiety.


Regular exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or running, is an excellent antidote to stress and tension. Bodies are designed to move, not sit most of the day. Being active for 30 minutes a day or more is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental and physical health. Exercise encourages your brain to release the chemical serotonin, which can improve your mood and make you feel calmer.


Too much caffeine, sugar or fast food can upset the balance in your body and mind that helps you feel well. Caffeine and energy drinks can disrupt sleep, speed up your heartbeat and increase anxiety. Try eating regular meals, a healthy breakfast, more fruit and vegetables and less processed foods. Find out more about healthy eating basics.


While anxiety can affect your sleep, not getting enough sleep can also contribute to making you more anxious. Make sleep a priority. Follow our sleep tips to help with this.


Taking time each day to relax helps to reduce anxiety. Learn relaxation and breathing exercises or try yoga, Pilates or tai chi. Spend time outside in nature. Do things that you enjoy, make you feel comfortable or lift your mood. Learn more about looking after your mental health.

Smoking and alcohol

Smoking and alcohol have been shown to make feelings of anxiety worse. Aim to reduce your drinking to no more than 1 or 2 drinks per day or avoid it completely. If you smoke, stop! Talk with your doctor/nurse or ring QuitLine for advice, support and nicotine replacement therapy.


Build your support network – a few people you can go to when things are tough. There are also a range of support organisations. Some offer face-to-face meetings where you can talk about your difficulties and problems with other people. Many provide support and guidance over the phone or by email.

Ask your GP about local support groups for anxiety in your area or contact one of these support groups.

Calm your mind(external link)(external link) Small Steps, NZ
Anxiety(external link)(external link)
Anxiety NZ Trust(external link)(external link) 
Anxiety(external link)(external link) The Lowdown, NZ
Anxiety(external link)(external link) Mental Health Foundation, NZ
CALM website(external link)(external link) The University of Auckland, NZ
Find out how to tell if someone is struggling with their mental health(external link)(external link) BBC, UK
Anxiety self-help resources(external link)(external link) Centre for Clinical Interventions, Australia
Anxiety(external link)(external link) Health Translations Directory, Australia
What is anxiety and the effects on mental health(external link)(external link) Headspace, Australia
Generalised anxiety disorder in adults(external link)(external link) NHS, UK
How dogs can help with mental health – mind boosting benefits of dog ownership(external link)(external link) UK
The Big Feels Club(external link)(external link) Articles and podcasts about life + feelings
Mental Wealth(external link)(external link) NZ
Just a Thought(external link)(external link) NZ
Anxiety(external link)(external link) Fresh Mind, NZ
Togetherall(external link)(external link) UK
Ignite(external link)(external link) Online New Zealand support to strengthen wellbeing


Learn about anxiety disorders(external link) Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013
Anxiety handout [PDF, 210 KB] Te Pou, NZ, 2021
Anxiety – manawarū [PDF, 1.7 MB] Books on Prescription, NZ
Anxiety disorders – your guide(external link) The Royal New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, 2017
Physical activity Str8Up Health [PDF, 3.4 MB] Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022
Stress Str8Up Health [PDF, 913 KB] Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022

Apps and e-learning

Is there an app for that?

There are a variety of mobile phone apps for anxiety, stress, depression and general mental health. They can help you learn about your condition, figure out whether your medication is working, record details about your symptoms and, in some cases, provide tools to help you manage mental health problems. The Healthify team has reviewed some mental health and wellbeing apps that you may like to consider.

Online self-help programmes and courses

There are also online resources designed to help you manage depression and anxiety. Some are free, some have a cost and some require a prescription from your doctor. 


physical activity str8up health doc hn

Physical activity Str8Up Health

Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022

stress str8up health doc hn

Stress Str8Up Health

Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ, 2022

anxiety handout

Anxiety handout

Te Pou, NZ, 2021

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Mieke Garrett, Clinical Psychologist

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