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Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Teens: Care Instructions


We all worry. It's an expected part of life. But when you have generalized anxiety disorder, you worry about lots of things. You have a hard time not worrying. This worry or anxiety interferes with your relationships, work or school, and other areas of your life.

You may worry most days about things like money, health, work, or friends. That may make you feel tired, tense, or cranky. It can make it hard to think. It may get in the way of healthy sleep.

Counselling and medicine can both work to treat anxiety. They are often used together with lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep.

Counselling involves meeting with a therapist like a social worker, psychologist, mental health therapist, or occupational therapist to work together to set and meet your goals. Some counselling can involve a team of therapists. An important part of counselling is the relationship between you and your therapist. Look for a therapist who is warm, who understands you, and who you trust. You may want to find support from someone who understands your cultural background.

There are different approaches that your therapist may use, including:

  • exposure therapy (like systematic desensitization)
  • acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
  • play therapy or art therapy
  • cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

Ask your therapist to explain the approach they use. You also might have counselling along with those closest to you so that they can help.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Get at least 2½ hours of exercise a week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports. Choose activities that you enjoy doing.
  • Learn and do relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, or spiritual activities.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night. Try for 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
  • Avoid alcohol, cannabis, and illegal drugs.
  • Find a therapist you connect with and with whom you can build a good relationship. Look for someone who is a good fit for you based on your goals, your culture, and the approach to counselling you are comfortable with.
  • Don't isolate yourself. Let those closest to you help you. Find someone you can trust and confide in. Talk to that person.
  • Know that help is available. In Alberta, you can call the Mental Health Help Line any time, day or night, at 1-877-303-2642. You can also call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. Kids Help Phone also has support via text and online chat.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Don’t stop taking them without talking to your healthcare provider. Call your doctor, pharmacist, or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. They may be able to offer suggestions to manage side effects, lower your dose, or change your medicine.
  • Practice healthy thinking. How you think can affect how you feel and act. Ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. If they are unhelpful, you can learn how to change them.
  • Recognize and accept you are experiencing anxiety. When you feel anxious, say to yourself, "This is not an emergency. I feel uncomfortable, but I am not in danger. I can keep going even if I feel anxious."

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you can't stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.

  • Call or text Canada's suicide and crisis hotline at 988.
  • Call Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (4 p.m. to midnight ET).
  • Kids or teens can call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.
  • Go to the Talk Suicide Canada website at or the Kids Help Phone website at for more information.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Call your doctor, counsellor, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new anxiety, or your anxiety gets worse.
  • You have been feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless or have lost interest in things that you usually enjoy.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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