Myth: Kids and teens do not experience as much stress as adults.
Fact: According to the American Psychological Association, “Teens reported that their stress levels during the school year far exceeded what they believe to be healthy (5.8 vs. 3.9 on a 10-point scale) and topped adults’ average reported stress levels (5.8 for teens vs. 5.1 for adults).”
The number of stressed teens shows an increasing trend in the United States, and it does not appear to be slowing down. Without the appropriate support and managing stress, teenagers may be at a greater risk for short- and long-term mental health issues, academic struggles, and health problems.
The Six Cues of a Stressed Teen
By looking for both obvious and subtle cues, you can help identify a stressed teen. Acknowledging the stress is the first step in addressing the issue and finding its underlying causes. Look for these six telltale signs that your teen is experiencing an excessive amount of strain in their life.
- Chronic Health Issues – Stress can manifest through physical issues like stomach aches, headaches, body aches, and more. Increased acne and other skin issues can indicate their hormone levels are raised, possibly due to increased stress.
- Sleep Issues – This can be a vicious cycle, whether sleep issues are related to stress or not. Teens may sleep too little, too much, or having trouble falling asleep. They may also use sleep as a way to escape everyday pressures.
- Difficulty in School – Sometimes stress-related problems stem from school-related issues. At other times, academic problems result because a teen is stressed out. If your teen’s grades have declined or if your teen’s attendance is poor, consider whether the change may be stress-related.
- Increased Irritability and Negativity – While teenagers often experience mood swings and changes that come with puberty, excessive or consistent irritability and negativity can be a sign of stress. Stress can also manifest through phrase choices like “Nothing goes my way” or “Things will never get better.”
- Changes in Socialization – Social isolation or changes in their social group can be a strong indication of stress. If they begin losing touch with those they are closest to, keep an eye on them to identify other signs of intense stress.
- Negative Changes in Behavior – Behavior problems can be a direct result of stress. Problems can include skipping school, defiance with authority figures, and no motivation to complete everyday tasks.
When to Seek Professional Help
For the average person, it can be difficult to admit stress and then identify the underlying causes to create a treatment plan. For a teen, it may be that much harder to open up and make the necessary changes. Ask your teenager if they are feeling an undue amount of pressure and help them find methods to help.
If symptoms occur for longer than two weeks and begin to greatly affect all aspects of their life – school, home, social life – it may be time to seek professional help. This can be a sign of a deeper underlying problem such as anxiety or depression.