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.
Teenage wahine Māori woman sits on swing

  • 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.

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.

(Attitude Live, NZ)

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

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.

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. 


Just a Thought (NZ)

  • Developed by the Wise Group. 

  • A self-guided internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression.

  • Modified for a New Zealand audience.

  • Users can either enrol themselves (self-care method) or have the course prescribed by their healthcare professional (eg, their GP, psychologist or nurse).

  • Healthcare professionals can follow their patient's progress through a clinician dashboard. 

  • Free website.

Aunty Dee (NZ)

  • Developed by Le Va, NZ.

  • A New Zealand-based wellbeing tool to help people cope with stressful life experiences through support with problem solving.

  • Has been co-designed and tested with young Pasifika from across New Zealand.

  • It is aimed at Pacific and Māori young people aged 14–25 years, although anyone can use the tool. 

  • Can email a copy of solutions and plan to nominated persons.

  • Free website. 

Staying on Track (NZ)

  • Developed by the Wise Group. 

  • Has a range of resources to provide practical strategies to help people in times of distress especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • The course can be done with the support of a health professional or you can do it on your own (self-guided).

  • It is available to anyone residing in New Zealand or the Pacific Island nations who may need some extra support with their mental wellbeing due to the impacts of COVID-19. 

  • Free online course. 


  • Developed by the University of Auckland.

  • A New Zealand-based online programme for young people with depression, anxiety and stress.

  • It is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

  • Engaging/fun interface with games alongside educational content.

  • Culturally appropriate for a New Zealand audience.

  • Free website. 

Small Steps (NZ)(external link)

  • Small Steps are digital tools, developed by Te Hiringa Hauora in partnership with Clearhead.

  • The Small Steps website is a place where people of Aotearoa (and further abroad!) can take small steps on your journey to improve wellbeing.

  • Whether you want to maintain wellness, find relief or get help for yourself, friends or whānau, Small Steps is with you and for you – he waka eke noa.

  • Free website.

  • Start your Small Steps journey(external link)

Beating the Blues (UK)(external link)

  • Developed by the Institute for Psychiatry, Kings College, London.

  • 8 weekly online sessions (50 minutes each).

  • Based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

  • 7 out of 10 people who have used Beating the Blues have been able to overcome their depression.

  • Free for New Zealanders – ask your GP or health centre for a free activation code.

This Way Up (Australia)(external link)

  • Developed by the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression, St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales, Australia.

  • There are a range of self-assessment tests and courses such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, OCD, health anxiety, PTSD.

  • Based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), most courses consist of 6 multimedia, interactive lessons.

  • Courses are available online or through a mobile app.

  • Online courses can be clinician supervised or unsupervised and anonymous. 

  • Most courses cost NZ$65 for 3 months' access, but there are a few free short courses too (for mindfulness(external link), coping with stress(external link) and managing insomnia(external link))

Computer-assisted learning for the mind CALM (NZ)(external link) 

  • Developed by Dr Antonio Fernando at the University of Auckland.

  • Website includes a range of sections such as mental resilience, managing stress and health relationships.

  • Some sections include audio files with exercises and information you can download, as well as links to relevant websites.

  • Free website.

Moodgym (Australia)(external link)

  • Developed by Professor Kathy Griffiths and the Australian National University.

  • Based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

  • 5 interactive modules to learn and practise skills for preventing and managing depression and anxiety.

  • A 1-year subscription to the programme costs about NZ $43.

eCouch (Australia)(external link)

  • Developed by Professor Helen Christensen and Professor Kathy Griffiths and the Australian National University.

  • Based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

  • Interactive programme with modules for depression, generalised anxiety and worry, social anxiety, relationship breakdown, loss and grief.

  • Provides information about emotional problems, exercises and strategies for improving them.

  • Free.

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, NZ, 2022
Stress Str8Up Health [PDF, 913 KB] Healthify, NZ, 2022


physical activity str8up health doc hn

Physical activity Str8Up Health

Healthify, NZ, 2022

stress str8up health doc hn

Stress Str8Up Health

Healthify, 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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