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10 Signs that your Teenager is Stressed

Sad teen

Like adults, teenagers also struggle with stress. If your child is struggling with stress, you’re not alone. Many commitments, bullying, family conflict, peer pressure, changes in their body, academic issues and problems with friends are some of the stressors that can cause teenagers to feel overwhelmed.

Teenagers should be happy about many things but even though they are the generation with the least responsibility, they experience one of the highest levels of stress.

There is the stressful nature of the teenage years.

For some teenagers, the normal developmental changes of these years, such as bodily changes, new patterns of thoughts and feelings, can be very unsettling and overwhelming.

Without giving them the appropriate support, stressed teenagers may be at a higher risk for mental health problems, health issues, and academic problems. Therefore, it's important, as parents, to be on the lookout for warning signs that your teen is feeling overly stressed so that you can intervene sooner, rather than later.

A healthy amount of stress is normal and, in fact, the right amount of stress can be helpful and motivating; however, it’s when that stress becomes too overwhelming, and starts to affect other areas of their lives, that it can become unhealthy and mental health problems may arise.

Here are 10 signs your teenager is stressed out:

1. Feeling more Irritable

Generally, teens in their nature can be moody but a teenager that is stressed is likely to be more irritable than they usually are. If you notice that your teen is becoming easily agitated, or moody over the smallest of things, or becoming increasingly frustrated at the slightest of inconveniences, they may be feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of life.

2. Cognitive Symptoms

Stress in teens can also impact their cognitive abilities such their memory. You might think that your teen is neglecting their chores or being careless, but for all you know, they may have been stressed and forgot about it. Other cognitive symptoms include being irrational, the inability to focus, negative perspective, and poor judgment.

Sometimes, you may not be able to identify if your teenager is stressed or is just being a ‘teenager’. In such cases, a teen stress test could be a good option. You could get them to take an online test or take one at school. Don’t force them to take such tests and don’t single them out. Instead, make it a fun activity that everyone in the family participates in.

Unlike what you may think, stress is good if it motivates you to perform better. It can also help you identify an underlying problem. Mental stress or tension that your teen is going through can be managed easily, only if you know what is causing it.

When teens have many things on their mind, it affects their ability to focus on their schoolwork.

This often translates into become easily distracted in the classroom, being disengaged in their work and feeling discouraged to study. They might also have a difficult time in concentrating or completing their homework, and rather they are distracted and procrastinate completing homework when they can.

3. Sleep Problems

Adolescence is a time of significant maturation physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Sleep fuels these very important processes. Good, plentiful sleep is crucial to teenagers' growth, development, and quality of life. Teens need to get about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Most teens simply do not get enough sleep with one study finding that only 15% reported sleeping 8.5 hours on school nights.

Teens with problems falling asleep or staying asleep can be a sign of stress. This can be a cycle that perpetuates itself. A teen that is overtired is less likely to be able to handle stress well.

Some stressed-out teens sleep too much. A teenager who always wants to go back to bed after school or one who tries to sleep all day on the weekends may be trying to escape her stress and use sleep as a coping mechanism.

4. Headaches, aches, pain and tense muscles

Stress is the body's reaction to harmful situations, whether they’re real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury to yourself. This reaction is known as the stress response or "fight-or-flight”. During this stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. Stress; therefore, often results in physical health being affected. Frequent headaches, stomach-ache’s, pains, tense muscles and other physical concerns may be a sign of stress.

5. Academic Issues

The pressure to perform better academically is one of the most common causes of high school stress for teens. Teens often worry about a great deal of things like completing schoolwork, projects, reports, studying for an exam, and about which universities or colleges they should apply for.

This kind of pressure is good when it encourages your teenager to get better grades at school but if it’s negatively affecting their cognitive abilities and taking a toll on their health, it’s a cause for concern.

If your teenager’s grades have recently been declining, or if your teenager’s attendance in class in poor, consider whether the change may be stress related.

5. Changes in Socialisation

Social life is very important for teenagers, and they could have a constant need to be accepted by their peers by being in the popular ‘groups’, attending parties and hanging out with their friends. They could give more importance to friends than family in their teen years.

Peer pressure is a social stressor, where teenagers have a need to be accepted by their peers and are motivated to try new things such as drinking, smoking, and doing drugs. They are under constant pressure to dress in a certain way, speak the teen lingo and be ‘cool’.

More often than not, all this implies is that teens must put aside their true selves and pretend to be someone they are not, which can be a stressful experience.

Stress is likely to change a teenager’s social habits. Social isolation can be a sign your teen is struggling. Spending more time in their room or a lack of interest in talking to friends could mean your teen is having difficulties.

6. Frequent Illness

Teenagers who are stressed are also more likely to get sick more often, especially with colds and other minor illnesses. They may often miss school or social events often due to illness.

7. Negative Changes in Behaviour

Behaviour problems often become evident when a teenager is stressed. As a parent you may see increased behavioural problems ranging from skipping school to talking back and disrespecting you, especially when it is not your teen’s usual behaviour. However, don’t excuse negative behaviour just because it’s stress related.

8. Negative Talk

You’ll often hear stressed teens use more negative talk. For example, a teen may say things like, “Nobody likes me,” or “Nothing ever seems to go right.” Although it’s the norm for teenagers to make these comments sometimes, if you’re hearing them too often, it’s likely a sign of stress.

9. Physical Development Stress

Physical changes can also be a cause of stress among teenagers. Adolescents go through some physical and emotional changes which can leave them stressed and confused. Not knowing what is happening to their own body and why they feel a certain way during puberty can be a cause of such tension, especially if they compare their own physical development to those of their peers. In addition, excessive strain on a teen’s body can leave them feeling tired and mentally stressed-out.

10. General Sense of Worry

Stressed teenagers often worry about anything and everything. They may worry about all the possible bad things that could happen or they may worry about how others will perceive them. If your teenager has been expressing more worry than usual, it could be due to stress.

When to Seek Professional Help

Many teenagers can’t say, “I’m stressed, and this is the reason why” as they usually struggle to express their emotions. Therefore, their behaviours often signal how they’re feeling.

If you suspect your teenager is struggling with stress, then start a conversation about it. You may also want to teach your teenager some simple stress management techniques.

If your teen’s stress seems to be interfering with school, family, household responsibilities, or friends, it may be time to seek professional help. Symptoms that continue past two weeks could be a sign that your teenager may have an underlying mental health problem, like depression or anxiety.

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