No matter how young or old you are, life can be difficult. When you are a teenager trying to find your place in the world without the wisdom of strategies and coping skills, that difficulty can gradually turn into serious depression. It’s normal, it’s common, but it’s not healthy.
Many parents attribute the stress of their child to “normal teenage rebellion,” but how do you know if your child is simply going through the rites of puberty and hormone changes, or they are seriously stressed? (See also: Stress in Children: How to Spot it and Help Kids Cope)
There are some signs you can watch for to determine if your teenager has passed the “normal teenage stress” stage and is in need for you to intervene.
10 Signs That Tell You Your Teen is Under Too Much Stress and Needs Help
Sometimes it is hard to tell what is normal and what is not. There can be both emotional and behavioral changes that trigger you, as a parent, to start paying more attention to your child’s daily behaviors, but sometimes there are things going on that are not visible.
If your teenager is exhibiting any of these signs, they may be under more stress than they can – and should be expected to – handle by themselves.
#1. Expressing sadness or crying for no apparent reason.
While hormones are tricky to navigate, random outbursts of crying can signal something more serious than simply teenage puberty. If your child acts sad on a regular basis or cries for what appears to you to be no reason for more than a short period of time, they may be dealing with stresses that they are not telling you about.
#2. Easily irritable or annoyed.
If you feel like you are walking on eggshells every time you have a conversation with your teenager because you don’t know when they may get angry or hysterical, they are most likely dealing with too much stress.
This is the time to take them by the hand and force them to get help, either through counseling to learn strategies to cope, or by taking them to a day treatment center where professionals can teach them how to handle the stresses that are overwhelming them.
#3. Loss of interest in day-to-day activities or things that once interested them.
While holing up in their room and watching television, playing video games, or talking on the phone is quite common for teenagers, if they aren’t even interested in doing these things, they may have more serious problems than teenage-hood. If you can’t get your child to do the things you know they love to do, you may have to intervene to get them help.
#4. Demonstrations of low self-esteem.
We all know how hard it is to be a teenager and just try to fit in. It can seem like we are never quite good enough. Feelings of low self-esteem occasionally are normal, but when those feelings rule your child’s day and keep them from being able to lead a healthy life, it is time to step in to help them learn how to improve their self-esteem and self-worth.
#5. Inability to handle rejection or failure.
Everyone is faced with both rejection and failure at some point in life. It is our job to guide our children to understand how to cope with these occurrences and use them as learning experiences.
If your child is extremely sensitive to failure or rejection or is constantly in need of reassurance from you and others, there is something at the core causing this sensitivity.
#6. Negative thoughts of the future.
Looking ahead into the future should be exciting when you have the world ahead of you, but it can also be scary. It’s normal to have concerns about whether or not they will be successful and happy, how they will do in school or college, and regular life thoughts like these.
What is not normal is if they are frequently talking about how their life, current, and future, is grim and hopeless. If they can’t see the future as full of possibilities, or they are frequently thinking about death in general, their death in particular, and are talking about suicide, you must intervene and get them professional help immediately.
#7. Behavioral changes in their sleep patterns.
Teenagers throughout time have been known to require extra sleep while their bodies grow and change. But if that sleep becomes excessive, or they are acting unusually tired for long periods of time and complaining about not having energy, they may be under stress.
This could be the opposite as well, where they are not able to sleep. If your child is sleeping too much or has insomnia, they may need help coping with their stresses.
#8. Engaging in harmful behaviors or acting out.
The occasional attitude from your teenager is quite common. They may even act out and rebel in little ways. However, if the attitude you are getting is infrequent angry outbursts or their rebellion is occurring in behaviors that are risky or disruptive, they may need more help than you can provide.
If you notice behaviors such as self-harm like cutting, burning, excessive piercing, and tattooing, you must get them immediate help.
Another red flag is if they are making a suicide plan, but you may not even know about this until they have attempted suicide. Don’t let it get to this point. Get your child help with the stresses that they are dealing with, even if you think those stresses are not that bad.
#9. Changes in their close friends and crowds.
It’s perfectly normal to outgrow friendships and make new ones, but sudden and big changes should be watched closely. If your normally social child suddenly prefers to be isolated, there is a reason and you should look into it.
Contrarily, if they seem to have overnight found a lot of friends that seem questionable, they may be hanging out with the wrong crowd.
Watch for signs of drug and alcohol abuse either way and get them help before it becomes a serious and dangerous problem.
#10. Lack of care about themselves and their future.
Warning signs can be subtle, or they can come in easy to read symptoms that you should not overlook. These can be things like neglecting their appearance – not caring about showering, brushing their hair, or taking care of their clothes.
It can also be apparent in their poor school performance or lack of concern about attending school. Don’t let the semester report card be your notice that your child has a problem. Stay involved in their education, meet with their teachers, and nip these issues in the bud before they become major problems.
Don’t Wait to Get Help
Your teenager’s stresses are not “normal” to them. They need strategies and plans to be able to cope with what we consider to be regular parts of life. Without those strategies and someone to help them through their problems, your teenager’s stress could become a severe depression.
Don’t wait until it is too late. If your child is exhibiting any of these warning signs, look for professional help.
About The Author:
Stacey Smith is a freelance health writer. She is passionate to write about women’s health, dental health, diabetes, endocrinology and nutrition and provides in-depth features on the latest in health news for medical clinics and health magazines.