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Most researchers believe that a predisposition towards timidity and nervousness is inborn. If one parent is naturally anxious, there's a good chance that their child will also have anxious tendencies. At the same time, a parent's own uneasiness is often communicated to the child, compounding the child's natural sensitivity. A cycle of increasing uneasiness may then be established. By the time this child reaches adolescence, his characteristic way of experiencing and relating to his world is tinged with anxiety. Some research suggests that children who are easily agitated or upset never learned to soothe themselves earlier in life.

In many cases, adolescent anxiety disorders may have begun earlier as separation anxiety, the tendency to become flooded with fearfulness whenever separated from home or from those to whom the child is attached, usually a parent. Adolescents can also have separation disorders. These teens may deny anxiety about separation, yet it may be reflected in their reluctance to leave home and resistance to being drawn into independent activity. Separation anxiety is often behind a teen's refusal to attend or remain at school.

School avoidance can follow a significant change at school, such as the transition into middle school or junior high. It may also be triggered by something unrelated to school, such as a divorce, illness, or a death in the family. Some youngsters become fearful about gang activities or the lack of safety in school.

A worried teenager performs less well in school, sports, and social interactions. Too much worry can also result in a teenager's failing to achieve to his potential. A teen who experiences a great deal of anxiety may be overly conforming, perfectionistic, and unsure of himself. In attempting to gain approval or avoid disapproval, he may redo tasks or procrastinate. The anxious youngster often seeks excessive reassurance about his identity and whether be is good enough.

Some teenagers with anxiety disorders can also develop mood disorders or eating disorders. Some teenagers who experience persistent anxiety may also develop suicidal feelings or engage in self-destructive behaviors; these situations require immediate attention and treatment. Anxious teens may also use alcohol and drugs to self-medicate or self-sootheor develop rituals in an effort to reduce or prevent anxiety.

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