Let’s face it. Growing up is hard. It’s even more difficult when growing up in turbulent times with a global pandemic, civil unrest, and access to a 24/7-world of internet comments and constant connection.
The stressors in the world can make a teen stressed, and teen angst and frustration are normal — to an extent.
At some point, it can turn into something more. If you are questioning whether your teen is exhibiting typical signs of teen angst or if their behavior is a sign or something more, here are a few ways to tell.
What Is Normal Teen Angst?
We all know the cliche of teen angst. Countless coming-of-age movies document this phenomenon. But, teen angst is rooted in truth and biology.
Research has shown that teens often are met with emotions that can feel overwhelming at times. However, they haven’t developed the tools to fully understand and manage them. Findings reported by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California said, “adolescents tended to experience many emotions simultaneously, but they differentiated them poorly. In other words, a teenager might consistently feel angry and sad together, indicating that it is difficult for them to distinguish between the two.”
Teens experience a wide range of emotions and have a difficult time identifying and reconciling them. This experience, paired with the desire to grow up and feel more in control of their lives, can lead to what we often call “teen angst.” These behaviors and actions include:
- Need for independence
- Wanting to spend time away from family
- Mood shifts and changes
- Sleeping a lot
Knowing that teens are wired to experience a wide range of complicated emotions, it might be difficult to discern what is normal and what isn’t. If your teen is acting out, could it be typical teen agent or something more?
What Is “Something More”?
While there is normal stress in a teen’s life, there are other more serious feelings and situations they could be experiencing. If teens show signs that something more is going on, it may be a sign that they are experiencing:
- Low self-esteem
- Anxiety disorder
- Chronic stress
- Forms of PTSD
- Academic challenges
- Eating disorders
- Interpersonal issues with family or friends
- Struggles with sexual orientation or gender identity
- Substance abuse issues
- A psychiatric condition
If a teen is going through “something more,” they may need more help than they are willing to ask for. They may not even know that they need help or that help is available. So, keep an eye out for these signs that your teen could be going through something more than typical teen angst.
12 Signs It Could Be Something More Than Teen Angst
#1) Lack of energy. While sleeping a lot is normal for teens (they need about 11 hours of sleep each night), serious fatigue and a total lack of energy are not.
#2) Physical pain. Mental and emotional pain can manifest as physical pain in the body. If your teen is complaining of constant aches and pains in their body, it could be a sign that something is going on in their mind.
#3) Angry outbursts. Teens may have outbursts and arguments, especially with their parents and caregivers, but it may be something to worry about if episodes are hostile, aggressive, and physical.
#4) Changes in eating habits. Pay attention to if your teen starts eating far more or far less than what is normal for them. While eating habits may change as teens age, look for signs that they are using food to find control rather than find nutrition and nourishment.
#5) Changes in sleeping patterns. As mentioned above, teens need about 11 hours of sleep a night. Their sleeping patterns might be an indicator that something is wrong if they sleep much more or less than that or experience insomnia and unusual waking hours.
#6) Lack of self-care and grooming. When someone doesn’t care about themselves, sometimes they stop taking care of themselves. If you notice that your teen has stopped engaging in regular, basic self-care and grooming habits such as showering and getting dressed each day, something may be wrong.
#7) Alcohol and drug consumption. Regularly catching your teen with alcohol or drugs is likely a sign that they are engaging in more bad behavior that you are aware of or seeking to mask something else going on.
#8) Isolation from friends. Seeking independence from family is to be expected with teens. But if you notice the teen also pulling back from friends and spending more and more time alone, it may be a red flag.
#9) Dropping interests and hobbies. Teen interests will change as they get older. But keep an eye out if the teen stops doing all of the things they love. Disconnecting from hobbies, interests, and sports that they used to love is a sign that the teen may be withdrawing from other healthy, positive aspects of their life.
#10) Risk-taking behavior. If your teen is regularly getting into trouble for doing things that could hurt them or others, they may not be in full control and need help.
#11) Self-harm. Self-harm is a major warning sign. Notice if you see your teen hiding their arms or body in a way that might be trying to hide marks or wounds.
#12) Suicidal thoughts. A teen might not come right out and share that they are having suicidal thoughts. Ask them, and if they are, seek immediate help.
How to Monitor and Measure the Signs
If a teenager in your life is exhibiting some of these signs, it might be difficult to tell where they cross the line. Some habits and episodes, such as sleeping too much or having outbursts, can be both normal and a warning sign. So, how can you tell?
- Intensity of episodes
- Length of episodes
- Frequency of episodes
- Environment of the episodes
If episodes are getting worse, lasting longer, and happening more often, it might be a sign that something is wrong. Also, if episodes happen in public or in front of friends, rather than only in front of family, the teen might be experiencing something beyond typical angst.
What To Do If You Need Help With Your Teen
Living with a teen can sometimes feel like a roller coaster. But, the ups and downs you feel might not compare to what is going on inside of them. Be patient with the teens in your life, and understand that typical teen angst is a part of growing up.
Also, be on the lookout for behaviors that move outside of the scope of typical teen angst into something more. And if you notice the signs, take action.
Talk to your teen’s primary care doctor, seek a support group, or participate in family therapy or counseling to get the support you and your teen need. Professional counseling can not only help you identify whether or not behaviors are out of the ordinary, but it can also provide ways for both you and your teen to learn to cope and manage emotions.
Loving Life Today offers family therapy both in-person and virtually. Learn more about how our counseling services might be right for your family, or call 813-609-6946 or schedule an appointment today.