Teen Stress Warning Signs

Danger!  Warning Signs of Teen Stress Overload

Is your teenager sad, tired, frustrated, mad, or confused all the time? Do they constantly seem stressed out? These are danger signs that point to stress overload and as a parent, you should be aware of the warning signs and how to react.

Teen stress is a normal part of teenage life as they participate in school, sports and other extracurricular activities, and engage in various relationships. But pressure to excel or outside influences can cause teenagers to experience too much stress, to the point of an anxiety disorder or other serious mental health problem.

If your teenager suddenly feels or experiences the following, pay attention! If your teen:

  • Has lost interest in former enjoyments
  • Doesn’t sleep or eat well
  • Wants to be alone and avoids friends and family
  • Daydreams and doesn’t want to do things
  • Talks about suicide or complains that life is just too hard to live
  • Hears voices
  • Experiences a sudden drop off in their grades
  • Grieves for an abnormally long time after a death
  • Feels guilty or not worth anything
  • Shows extremes anger and/or sadness and overreacts to many things
  • Worries constantly about appearance and/or physical problems
  • Is afraid constantly
  • Gets multiple headaches and stomachaches
  • Forgets and doesn’t want to study
  • Withdraws for social situations
  • Sweats profusely and/or experiences an increase in needing to go to the bathroom
  • Cannot make decisions and or concentrate well
  • Have constant nightmares
  • Turns to drugs or alcohol
  • Eats way too much or diets way too much
  • Exercises obsessively
  • Breaks the law and/or hurts others
  • Takes extreme risks

All of the above are danger signs that warn of more serious problems and/or are serious problems in themselves. If your teenager is experiencing any of the above, get help. Additionally, the following questions can help you determine whether your teenager is in danger of stress overload:

  1. Has your teenager recently gone through a traumatic event such as a move, death of a loved one, major relationship change?
  2. Is your teenager frequently teased or are they overscheduled with all their activities?
  3. Have they experienced any of the above listed physical symptoms (i.e. headaches, tired, low motivation)?
  4. Are they emotionally out of control (i.e. extreme anger, sadness, or hopelessness)?

Dealing with stress overload can sometimes be as simple as better prioritizing their life or can be as complicated as needing outside help such as law enforcement, counseling and additional therapy. Speaking with teachers, the family doctor, or counselors can be a first step in determining what is best for your teenager.

Warning Signs of Teen Stress Sources

  1. Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration “Teen Mental Health Problems: What Are The Warning Signs,” [online].
  2. Wholistic Stress Control Institute, “What is Stress,” [online].
  3. Center for Adolescent Health, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “Confronting Teen Stress, Meeting the Challenge in Baltimore City,” [pdf online]