Stress is a growing problem among teens nationally that may be a factor in teen substance use and other mental health problems.
In Union County,
- 34% of 11th grade;
- 27% of 9th grade students; and
- 26% of 7th grade students in Union County report having “high” levels of stress in the past month. (Union County YRBS 2014)
While worry or fear is normal in all children, on-going stress and anxiety can be crippling to some teens. Long-term stress response can weaken the immune system and cause physical problems.
Signs of Adolescent Stress:
- Headaches, stomach aches, muscle pain and tirednes
- Avoiding people or activities
- Irritability or crying more often
- On-going anxiety or nervousness
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Difficulty concentrating
Hormones, grades, relationships and pressure to perform in school or activities can increase stress can also lead to anxiety and depression. Sometimes, parents can unwittingly increase feelings of stress by constant hovering, pressuring about academics or overscheduling. To deal with expectations, some teens secretly begin to use alcohol or drugs. Because alcohol is a natural depressant, teen drinking can further complicate feelings and circumstances. Learning how to handle stress in a healthy way comes with practice and parental assistance.
Here’s How to Help:
- Listen carefully and respectfully to their concerns
- Model healthy ways to relieve stress (sleep, healthy eating, exercise, good support system, etc.)
- Plan times as a family away from activities, work and electronics
- Lower unrealistic expectations and ask your teen to try to do the same
- Ask about their stress level and how you might help
If feelings of anxiety or depression continue for several weeks, seek the assistance of a mental health professional.