Being a teenager certainly can be stressful.
Think about it.
Those years are filled with anxieties and worries related to things like making friends, preparing for tests, romance issues, focusing on graduation, trying to be popular, applying to college or moving straight to the workforce, and so much more.
Unfortunately, teenagers are sometimes overlooked when it comes to discussions focusing on stress and mental health treatment, which can result in these issues catching parents/caregivers off guard.
It goes without saying that as a parent/caregiver, you want the best for your children. Not only do you want them to succeed, but you also want them to learn how to deal with the curve balls and trials and tribulations life can present.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting/caregiving. Every situation is different, which is why learning how to address the unique stressors/mental health disorders your child may endure is crucial.
That said, there is help available. Neither you nor your child should have to address these issues alone.
What Causes Stress and Mental Health Disorders in Teenagers?
As mentioned earlier, teenage stress and mental health can sometimes be pushed to the wayside.
It’s widely known among professionals that around half of all mental health disorders will appear by age 14 with many of them going undetected and untreated.
While many consider genetics (inborn traits) as the main contributing factor of these disorders, other factors can hold a lot of weight as well, such as:
- Stressors like trying to fit in, wanting more independence, increased access to and use of technology, and exploring sexual identity
- Stigmas (negative and often unfair beliefs about something that may detract from a person’s reputation)
Specifically, stress is one factor that can be caused by a variety of factors. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, common sources of stress in teens include:
- Juggling responsibilities like school and work or sports
- Problems with friends
- Peer pressure
- Schoolwork or grades
- Changing schools or moving
- Financial problems in the family
- Having negative thoughts about themselves
- Living in an unsafe environment
- Body changes
Fortunately, there are ways you can address these stress-related problems.
Recognizing Teen Stress
It’s important for both parents/caregivers and teenagers to remember most things are temporary, and you can overcome the trials and tribulations that cause stress.
Here are a few key signs your child may be stressed:
- Removes themselves from people or activities
- Trouble sleeping
- Sleeping too much
- Eats too much or not enough
- Low energy levels
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Overly worried
More serious mental health disorders like depression or anxiety can also affect stress levels.
How Depression Affects Teens
Mental health disorders can affect people from all walks of life, teens included. The earlier these disorders are recognized, the better.
One of the most recognized mental health disorders affecting teens is depression.
An estimated 3.2 million children ages 12-17 had at least one major depressive episode in 2017.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.”
As noted above, not only can depression affect your mental health, but it can also affect your physical and emotional well-being.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- Frustration over even the smallest things
- Loss of interest in activities
- Slipping school grades
- Repeated feelings of sadness
- Lack of interest in family and friends
- Low self-esteem
- Sleeping too much
- Feelings of loneliness
- Suicidal thoughts
These indicators are signs you should seek treatment for your child. Depression can be serious and sometimes life-threatening.
What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Another common mental health disorder in teens is generalized anxiety disorder.
People with generalized anxiety disorder tend to feel extremely worried or nervous about things like money, health, family, and more, even if there is little or no reason to worry about them. They may also find it difficult to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily tasks.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are:
- Trouble sleeping
- Unable to stop or control worry
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unable to relax
- Unusually nervous
- Constant anxiety
- Worry about school or sports performance
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may get better or worse at different times, according to the NIH. They’re often worse during times of stress.
Other Conditions That Can Affect Teens, Their Stress Levels, and Mental Health
Social phobias are especially common for teenagers as they’re constantly being put into new situations with new people.
Teens with social phobias may feel extreme self-consciousness, anxiety, or insecurity in social settings.
Your child may have a social phobia if they:
- Think they will be viewed negatively by others
- Have a fear of being judged in public
- Interrupt daily routines to avoid social situations
- Avoid social situations to avoid potential embarrassment
Those with social phobias might also be fearful of meeting new people, speaking in public, or eating or drinking in public. This condition may cause intense sweating, nausea, trouble speaking, and trembling.
Eating disorders are another condition that can drastically alter stress levels in the wrong direction. These are serious mental health disorders, the U.S. National Library of Medicine says. Eating disorders involve severe problems with your thoughts about food and your eating habits. Those with an eating disorder may eat much less or much more than needed.
Eating disorders include binge eating (out of control eating), bulimia nervosa (periods of binge eating and then purging or over exercising), and anorexia nervosa (avoiding food or severely restricting food).
Symptoms can include:
- Skipping meals
- Constant mention of being “fat” or “overweight”
- Making excuses not to eat
- Eating large amounts of food
- Eating in secret
- Going to the bathroom right after eating
Eating disorders can also coincide with anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders.
How Do I Help My Teenager Manage Stress and Their Mental Health?
If you recognize any symptoms of stress or mental health disorders, seeking professional help can be beneficial.
Many of these stressors can be overwhelming and can also coincide with mental health disorders. Unfortunately, these are often left untreated. The first step you should take is consulting with a medical professional. By doing this, your child can be properly diagnosed and get the help they need.
In addition to seeking professional help, you can spend more time together with your child, learn to listen, make sure they’re getting enough sleep, teach basic task management skills, do not demand perfection, and focus on maintaining a healthy diet.
What Kind Of Help Is Out There?
Here at SUN Behavioral Columbus, we believe in treating our patients with evidence-based practices that have been shown to be effective in treating mental health and mood disorders. This includes a combination of psychopharmacology (use of medication to manage symptoms) and cognitive behavioral therapy (helping patients recognize issues that can affect their mood and mental health).
We have trained psychiatrists and other trauma-informed specialists who are here for you and your teenager with the goal of meeting their individual needs.
If any mental health disorders or mood issues are recognized, our therapists are ready to help them manage their unique situation with our teen counseling treatment program.
Remember, neither you nor your child has to address stress or their mental health alone. SUN Columbus is available 24/7. We’re just a phone call away.
To learn more, call (614) 706-2786.
Help your teenager take that first step in learning to manage stress and mental health disorders today. It can be done.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main causes of teenage stress?
There are a variety of things that can contribute to teen stress, including juggling responsibilities like school and work or sports, problems with friends, bullying, peer pressure, schoolwork or grades, changing schools or moving, financial problems in the family, and more. Other contributors can be mental health or emotional disorders like depression and anxiety.
Can a 14-year-old have stress?
Stress can affect anyone regardless of age. Teenagers typically feel stress for many reasons, which are often overlooked. There are many stressors 14-year-olds may endure, including school, sports, making friends, and other things many face while growing up. Symptoms of stress can include anger, irritability, crying, removing themselves from people or activities, trouble sleeping, sleeping too much, or eating too much or not enough.
How do I help my teen with stress?
If your child is overwhelmed by stress or a mental health disorder, seeking professional help can be beneficial. Evidence-based practices like psychopharmacology (use of medication to manage symptoms) and cognitive behavioral therapy (helping patients recognize issues that can affect their mood and mental health) can help your child better manage stressors and their mental health. In addition to that, you can spend more time together with your child, learn to listen, make sure they’re getting enough sleep, teach basic task management skills, do not demand perfection, and focus on maintaining a healthy diet.
Why are high schoolers so stressed?
As previously mentioned, high school students can feel the stresses of grades, balancing school work and extra-curricular activities, making friends, preparing for life after high school, potential peer pressure, and potential bullying. No matter the reason, it’s important to pay attention to any signs of stress or mental health disorders that may arise. The earlier you can spot any of these issues, the better. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. No one should have to address these problems alone.