10 Signs Your Teen is Stressed Out

These Behavioral Changes Can be Red Flags

Teenage girl with laptop doing homework
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Although teens don’t have to worry about bills, a career, or holding down a household, they experience different sources of stress. They deal with issues like bullying, peer pressure, and academic issues which can be very stressful. Making major decisions about their future is also a major source of stress for many teens.

Some of the signs of stress can be similar to stress in an adult. Look for signs that your teen is having difficulty handling stress.

If the problem is minor, you can intervene and teach skills to help your child manage stress. If it’s severe, your child may need professional help.

1. Headaches and Stomachaches

Stress often leads to physical health complaints. Frequent complaints of headaches and stomachaches may be a sign of stress. 

2. Sleep Issues

Difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep can be a sign of stress. And it can be a vicious cycle. An overtired teen is less likely to be able to tolerate stress. Be on the lookout for complaints of not being able to sleep or being overtired during the day.

How Much Sleep Does Your Teen Need?

3. Educational Problems

Sometimes stress-related problems are due to issues at school. 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 in poor, examine whether or not it could be stress-related.

4. Increased Irritability

Although teens can be moody by nature, a stressed out teen is likely to more irritable than usual.

A teen who becomes irritable over small inconveniences frequently may be feeling overwhelmed by stress.

5. Changes in Socialization

Stress is likely to change a teen’s social habits. Teens who isolate themselves may be stressed out. If your teen is spending less time with friends and more time alone, it could signal a problem.

6. Frequent Illness

Teens who are stressed out are also more likely to get colds and to complain of not feeling well. They may miss school or social events often due to illness.

7. Negative Changes in Behavior

Behavior problems often result when a teen is stressed out. You may see increased behavior problems ranging from skipping school to talking back.  Don’t excuse negative behavior just because it’s stress-related, however.

8. Difficulty Concentrating

When teens have a lot on their mind, it’s hard for them to concentrate on their work. They may become easily distracted in class and might have increased difficulty staying on task while completing their homework.

9. Negative Talk

You’ll often hear stressed out teens use a lot of negative talk. For example, a teen may say things like, “No one likes me,” or “Nothing ever seems to go right.”  Although it’s normal for teens to make these comments sometimes, if you’re hearing them too often, it’s likely a sign of stress.

10. General Sense of Worry

Stressed teens 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 teen has been expressing more worry than usual, it could be due to stress.

When to Seek Professional Help

Many teens aren’t able to say, “I’m stressed and this is the reason why.” Therefore, their behaviors often signal how they’re feeling.

If you suspect your teen is struggling with stress, start a conversation about it. Your teen may be able to benefit from learning 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 lasting more than two weeks could be a sign that your teen needs help managing stress.  These symptoms can also signal underlying depression or anxiety disorders.

Talk to your teen’s pediatrician if you have concerns about stress. It’s important to rule out any physical health issues and to discuss treatment options. A physician may refer your child to counseling.

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