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Teens and Stress

Teenagers can face stress in their lives at school, among peers and at home. Whatever the cause, being a teenager has its own challenges.

One teenage girl comforting another.

For some teens, it’s stressful trying to balance a part-time job with homework. Others deal with bullying or peer pressure, have negative thoughts or feelings about themselves or experience financial pressures in their families.

These challenges got harder during the pandemic, creating ongoing stress, fear and uncertainty that weighed heavily on teens. With school closures and routines disrupted, many have had a tough time coping emotionally. Shortages of psychiatrists and hospital beds have worsened the situation and contributed to an increase in Emergency Room visits related to mental health.

The widespread use of social media has also played a role in rising anxiety and depression levels among teenagers. Researchers have found that teens who spend more time on social media are more likely to have feelings of anxiety, isolation and hopelessness. In addition, looking at screens for long periods of time can make it harder to sleep. Sleep deprivation is also linked to increased anxiety, stress, depression and substance abuse.

Learn to Recognize Signs of Stress

Is your teen acting in ways that are different from their usual behavior? Take notice if your teen:

  • Acts angry or irritable
  • Complains of headaches or stomach aches
  • Cries often or seems teary
  • Eats too much or not enough
  • Has trouble sleeping or sleeps too much
  • Seems overly worried
  • Seems tired or has no energy
  • Uses drugs or alcohol
  • Withdraws from people or activities they used to enjoy

How to Help Your Teen

Try to strike a balance between encouraging teens to be independent and supporting them. If you think your teen is under too much stress, you can help them learn to manage it. Here are some tips:

  • Learn to listen. Listen openly to your teen’s concerns and feelings, and share positive feedback.
  • Ask questions, but don’t jump in with advice unless you’re asked. Work together to brainstorm solutions and let your teen come up with ideas. This helps teens learn to tackle stressful situations on their own.
  • Be a role model. Do your best to keep your stress under control and manage it in healthy ways.
  • Get your teen moving. Getting regular exercise is one of the best ways to beat stress.
  • Encourage your teen to lead a healthy lifestyle. Staying active, eating healthy foods and getting enough sleep can help them manage stress.
  • Create routines that can comfort your teen during stressful times.

Remember, as hard as it may feel, you’re not alone. Ask for help if your teen:

  • Seems overwhelmed by stress
  • Talks about self-harm
  • Mentions thoughts of suicide

Asking for help can be challenging, but you are not alone.

Call Horizon Behavioral Health to help you navigate the support you need at 1-800-626-2212 (TTY 711), 24/7.

If you are having an urgent mental health crisis, call 911 or visit an emergency room as soon as possible.