Young women


Sometimes you might feel like you just want to run away because you really don’t like how your body feels when you are anxious. Surely other people don’t sweat as much when they are nervous, or go bright red when someone speaks to them? The good thing to know is YES they usually do. To feel some anxiety in your body is normal.   

“My legs shake so much if I ever have to give a talk. I forget what I am saying and I just want the ground to swallow me up.” Sally, 21

“I am going to fail. I hate that feeling so much I would rather not even hand my work in.” Sophie, 13

Is this you?

LEARN Consider the different stories and pictures below, listen to a podcast or check out the video. 

THINK Then, to understand more about what causes anxiety you can explore the different social, psychological and physical things that can increase anxiety. In this section you will find questions to ask yourself about each cause to see if it affects you.

DO Once you have explored the causes of anxiety then it is time to do something. Go to the ‘Toolkit’ to find a range of different tools to help yourself try and reduce anxiety.

View the causes of Anxiety for Young women

Do you relate to these?

It’s always hanging over my head in a gruesome font.

My anxieties always revolve around how much I care. I care too much about the future and not enough about actually sitting down and doing the homework and studying to get there. I care too much about what people who don’t matter think and not enough about what the people who do matter think. I care too much about saying the wrong things that I end up saying nothing at all.

"Don’t feel stupid if you don’t like what everyone else pretends to love."
Emma Watson

Come at me one by one
When I’m anxious about something, can’t it be that the worries come in one by one? Do they really have to come at me all at the same time? I can’t understand why I have to think of all of it at once. And solve all of them at once. - It would be great if you would schedule your social events around my mood swings.

The magnitude of silence
Rather than tell people how I feel, I stay up late at night with my unresolved emotions. When I keep everything to myself, it becomes so much easier to stay sad and anxious.

All the stress and pressure and anxiety just bubbling up. But I’m never able to let it out. You know, I just keep it inside.

Can I trade in my anxiety for laser vision or something?

"My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivalled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne.”
Tina Fey

Causes of anxiety for Young women

What happens

Some personalities are more prone to anxiety - you might be a perfectionist and so become anxious when things aren’t done to a high standard, or you might be the kind of person who analyses your every thought.

Questions to ask yourself

Is it in my make up to be anxious?

How much do I like things to be perfect?

How much do I over think things?

How much do I analyse my thoughts?

Do I worry more than other people my age?

What happens

Frightening or anxious thoughts can cause anxious feelings.  It can be a thought that you don’t even notice, but it sets off a cycle of fear.  You might have an unhelpful thought such as thinking something bad is about to happen, or you blame yourself when something goes wrong and say “I’m hopeless”. These thoughts are faulty and inaccurate but are difficult to challenge - you start to experience physical symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart and fast breathing and all you want to do is run away. 

Questions to ask yourself

When I feel anxious what are the kinds of thoughts that I can remember having?

Are these thoughts unhelpful or faulty?

For example, do I:

  • have only negative thoughts
  • jump to the wrong conclusions
  • use words like “should” or “cant”
  • think something really bad is about to happen

What is the evidence to support my thoughts?

What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is this?

What happens

Sometimes you focus on all the things you can’t do and this can make you anxious. You may feel people are judging you - your looks, what you say, what you do.

Questions to ask yourself

What do I think others think about me?

How do other people feel about me?

How do I feel when I do something well?

What happens

Having roles that give you meaning are important to your mental and emotional health. You might be a best friend, a daughter, a student, in a new career, a netball player, a dancer… there are many roles you may have. Sometimes these roles are given to you and other times you choose the roles you have. If you feel good about your roles and feel a sense of purpose you are less likely to feel anxious. 

Questions to ask yourself

What roles do I have?

Do any of my roles cause me to have anxious thoughts and feelings?

How anxious do I feel about any of my roles?

What happens

Acne, body shape changes and oily hair can change your appearance. How you feel about these changes and how you picture your body changing can make you anxious.

Questions to ask yourself

How anxious am I about how my body looks?

How anxious am I about my weight?

What are the changes to my body that cause me anxiety?

What happens

If you have experienced maltreatment growing up, or violence in your close relationships this can cause you to be vulnerable to anxiety. Any kind of abuse such as emotional, mental or physical can cause you to be anxious about dangerous or risky situations in different ways than others who have not had these experiences. You may react more strongly to criticism, be anxious that others do not like or value you and that your thoughts or feelings are not important. 

Questions to ask yourself

Have I been exposed to violence:

  • while growing up?
  • from people close to me?

Have I felt:

  • neglected
  • threatened
  • that I might be harmed

at any time during my life?

Has maltreatment or violence caused me to be more anxious?

Social causes →
What happens

Problems with your family can include lots of things. It might be that your parents are separated or divorced, or you have lost a parent, perhaps your parents are overprotective, or one parent lets you do whatever you want and the other parent is stricter. Perhaps you have just moved out of home and this is a time of adjustment for everyone! All of these things can put you on edge making you anxious. 

Questions to ask yourself

Are there family problems which cause me to be stressed and anxious?

Have there been changes to our family which I am anxious about? If so, what are these changes?

What happens

Sometimes change is stressful. Even when you are young bad things can happen such as serious illness or the death of someone you love. Difficult experiences can make you realise your world can change quickly and this can make you more prone to anxious feelings and thoughts. 

Questions to ask yourself

Have I experienced any stressful or difficult events recently?

How much do the stressful experiences I have had contribute to my anxiety?

What happens

Your family may have recently moved or may be having financial problems. Perhaps one of your parents has lost their job. These things can make you feel anxious sometimes.

Questions to ask yourself

Have there been any changes to my family’s finances that I know of?

What happens

Friends can accept you for all that you are and sometimes they can make you feel you are not good enough. When things go wrong in friendships this can make you anxious.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I feel accepted by my friends?

Who accepts or does not accept me?

What happens

Having people to talk to when you need support is one of the most important ways to feel good about yourself.

Questions to ask yourself

Do I have good friends, family or people I trust who can be there for me?

Who do I have that I can talk to if I need to?

Community causes →
What happens

The community in which you live is important to your mental health. Feeling safe, that there are places to go, ways to get there and things to do can help you to feel connected to your community and that you belong somewhere. 

Questions to ask yourself

How do I feel about the community where I live?

How safe do I feel in my community?

How connected do I feel and that I belong in my community?

What happens

There may be good times at school and there will also be times which are stressful, confusing, lonely and frustrating. However, if you don’t feel your school supports you or that you belong there, it can make it difficult to feel confident or battle through the tough times. 

Questions to ask yourself

Does my school make me feel supported even when I am having a bad day or I am challenged? In what ways?

What things about school make me feel like I can achieve or not achieve there?

What happens

Work can provide a source of anxiety such as:

  • how much you feel you are in the right career or job
  • how safe and secure you feel in your job
  • how flexible your workplace is so you can meet other commitments
  • how demanding your job is of your time and energy
  • how much the politics and gossiping of a workplace affects you
Questions to ask yourself

Am I anxious about my work?

Do I like my work?

Do I feel secure in my job?

How supported do I feel by my boss and work place?

Do I feel exhausted by my job?

What things about work make me feel like I can achieve or not achieve there?

What happens

Bullying can happen anywhere. It can happen at school, at work, at home, or in your community. Bullying is having someone else tell you how you should think, feel and act in a way that leaves you no room to express yourself and gives you no respect. If you are being bullied, it can cause distress, anxious feelings and perhaps fear.

Questions to ask yourself

Are there people in my life who bully me?

How do I feel about having people tell me how I should think and feel?

Physical causes →
What happens

The hormonal changes that come with your development in your teenage years and as a young woman can make you more sensitive to anxiety – sometimes beyond your control!

Questions to ask yourself

When is my period due?

What changes can I recognise in how I think and feel at different times in my menstrual cycle?

How anxious do I get about my periods?

How anxious do I get about hormonal changes?

What happens

If you have had an illness then you have probably learnt you can’t take your health for granted and it can cause you to be anxious about you, your body and your health.

Questions to ask yourself

Have I had any illnesses which cause me to be more anxious about my body and my health?

How much does this impact on my worrying?

What happens

Binge drinking and taking drugs can contribute to risky behaviours which in turn can cause anxiety.

Questions to ask yourself

How much am I drinking?

Could drugs be making me more sensitive to anxiety?

How anxious am I about my behaviour around alcohol and drugs?

What happens

Lack of good quality sleep can make you tired and this can cause anxious thoughts and feelings to creep into your day. 

Questions to ask yourself

How much sleep do I get per night?

Is it hard to go to sleep or do I wake in the night and find it hard to go back to sleep?

What happens

A diet with lots of sugary or fatty foods and too little exercise can = more negative moods which can = more worry and anxiety.

Questions to ask yourself

What is my diet like?

Do I generally eat a range of healthy foods or do I rely on too much sugary or fatty food?

How active am I?

Do I exercise at least 3-4 times per week for more than 30 minutes?

Created on 19/08/2013 | Updated on 24/10/2017
References for this page

Not sure? Use our quick self assessment tool to check.

About Jean Hailes

Jean Hailes is Australia’s leading and most trusted women’s health organisation. We believe in physical and emotional health and wellbeing in all its dimensions for all women in Australia throughout their lives.

We offer a range of free resources and easy to understand information on women’s health and wellbeing. Appointments at our specialist women’s health clinics can be made in person (East Melbourne and Clayton, VIC) or across Australia via our Telehealth consultation service.

Stay in touch

Keep up to date about your health and sign up to our monthly emails.

Follow us