Teenage Angst: When To Reach Out for Help

You’ve seen the eye rolls, heard the dramatic sighs, and noticed that everything seems to set them off lately. Welcome to the turbulent world of the angsty teen. As a parent, dealing with all those mood swings and attitudes can be exhausting. On the one hand, some moodiness and angst are normal parts of the teenage experience as those hormones start raging and the pressures of adolescence set in. But at what point should you start worrying that it’s more than just your teen ‘finding themselves’?

The truth is, it’s not always easy to tell normal teenage angst from signs of anxiety, depression, or other issues that may need professional support. But by understanding the causes of teenage angst and looking for certain warning signs, you’ll be better equipped to get your teen the help they need.

What is Teenage Angst?

Teenage angst refers to the emotional turmoil and conflict that adolescents commonly experience while transitioning to adulthood. It involves frustration, confusion, and feelings of being misunderstood, arising from identity formation, independence-seeking, and societal pressures. Teen angst typically peaks between ages 14 and 17. Your teen is establishing their identity separate from you, worrying about how they’ll fit in, and feeling stressed by increasing responsibilities. It can be a challenging time, but some angst is healthy and helps your teen become independent.

Below are some common indicators of teenage angst:

  • Mood Swings
  • Isolation
  • Identity Exploration
  • Rebellion against rules and authority figures
  • Peer Pressure
  • Body Image Issues
  • Sleep Changes
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Lack of Interest
  • Difficulty Concentrating

While angst is a normal part of growing up, intense angst might indicate more serious problems. In such cases, seeking professional help is advised. By recognizing the difference between normal teenage angst and when professional assistance may be necessary, adults can prioritize the emotional well-being and overall mental health of the teenagers under their guidance.

Signs Your Teen’s Angst May Be More Serious

If your teen’s angst seems to be interfering with their life, it could be a sign that it’s becoming more serious. Some things to watch out for:

  • Extreme Changes in Behavior: Drastic changes in behavior, personality, or interests that are inconsistent with the individual’s previous patterns could be cause for concern.
  • Talk of self-harm: If your teens express suicidal ideation, self-harm tendencies, or intentions to harm others, seek professional assistance promptly.
  • Substance abuse: Turning to drugs, alcohol, or other substances to cope with angst is dangerous and requires treatment.
  • Physical Ailments: Frequent complaints of physical ailments like headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue with no clear medical cause could be related to emotional distress.
  • Extreme Irritability or Rage: Some angst is normal, but frequent emotional outbursts, especially those that seem disproportionate to the situation, can be a red flag.
  • Severe Anxiety or Panic Attacks: Frequent and severe anxiety, panic attacks in teens, or overwhelming fear can hinder daily functioning.
  • Persistent Sadness or Hopelessness: Prolonged feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness that don’t seem to improve could be indicative of depression.
  • Extreme Perfectionism: A relentless pursuit of perfectionism, fear of failure, and excessive self-criticism might be connected to emotional distress.

The causes of serious teen angst can include trauma, abuse, bullying, family problems, and mental health conditions. Don’t hesitate to have your teen evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional if their angst is persistent or intense. With treatment such as therapy or medication, they can get back to feeling like themselves again.

What are the Common Causes of Teenage Angst and Anxiety?

The teenage years are full of change, and with change often comes anxiety and angst. There are several factors that can contribute to feelings of worry, stress, and moodiness in teens.

Hormones

Raging hormones are partly to blame. Growth spurts, acne, and puberty can make teens feel awkward and out of control of their bodies. Hormones like cortisol also activate the body’s stress response, keeping teens on high alert.

Social Pressures

The desire to fit in and be accepted by peers is strong during the teen years. Worrying about popularity, relationships, and peer approval is common and can fuel feelings of angst or inadequacy. Cyberbullying, being addicted to social media, and the 24/7 availability of social interaction online amplify these pressures.

Identity Development

Teens are figuring out who they are and what they want in life. Questions of identity, purpose, and values can trigger anxiety and mood swings. Teens may feel torn between the comfort of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood.

Academic Stress

The demands of high school, including homework, extracurricular activities, and planning for college or a career, can be overwhelming. Fear of failure or not living up to expectations is a major cause of anxiety for many teens.

Traumatic Events

Experiencing trauma like the loss of a loved one, injury, family issues, or abuse can also lead to feelings of anxiety, worry, and angst in teens that may require professional support. At Paradigm, we offer grief and loss treatment that has proven to help teens and young adults navigate through this type of trauma.

Teenage angst and anxiety are usually normal and temporary, but if symptoms persist or interfere with your teen’s daily life, talk to their doctor. Counseling or therapy, support groups, and, in some cases, medication may help alleviate more severe anxiety and set them on a path to better well-being.

Tips for Parents on How to Help Your Teen Cope

Supporting your teenager through periods of angst and anxiety requires understanding, empathy, and effective communication. Here are some tips for parents on how to help your teen cope:

Open Communication

Open communication with your teen is a cornerstone of fostering a healthy and supportive parent-child relationship. It involves creating an environment in which your teenager feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and experiences with you. This type of communication goes beyond mere exchange of information; it’s about actively listening, empathizing, and validating their perspectives.

Creating an atmosphere of open communication requires effort and patience, but it’s an investment that can strengthen your bond with your teenager and provide them with the support they need during their journey through adolescence.

Avoid Minimizing and Provide Reassurance

Avoid using phrases like “It is not a big deal” or “You will grow out of it.” Instead, affirm their feelings and have them realize that it’s completely okay to go through the emotions they’re currently feeling. Assure your teenager that the ups and downs of adolescence are normal parts of growing up. Emphasize that their present emotions will not last forever, and let them feel your unwavering presence to provide support through every step of the journey.

Teach Coping Skills and Encourage Healthy Habits

Help your teenager learn healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety. This could include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, journaling, or engaging in creative outlets. Proper sleep, regular physical activity, and a balanced diet can have a positive impact on mental well-being. Encourage your teen to engage in these healthy habits.

Respect Their Privacy

Respecting your teenager’s privacy involves acknowledging their need for personal space and boundaries. As adolescents strive to establish their sense of identity and independence, giving them the space they require to explore their thoughts, emotions, and interests is crucial. It entails refraining from prying into their personal belongings, such as diaries or electronic devices, without their consent.

By respecting their privacy, you convey a message of trust and autonomy. This communicates that you value their individuality and are willing to grant them the autonomy to manage certain aspects of their lives. However, while respecting their privacy is important, it’s equally vital to maintain open lines of communication. Encourage your teenager to share their thoughts and concerns with you voluntarily, assuring them that you’re available whenever they’re ready to talk.

Be Patient and Calm

Remember that teenage angst is a normal part of development. Patience and understanding go a long way in helping your teen navigate these challenging emotions. If your teen is facing a crisis or appears overwhelmed, stay calm and provide a safe space for them to express themselves. Your calm presence can help reassure them.

Every teenager is unique, so tailor your approach to your teen’s individual needs and personality. Building a strong foundation of trust and support can help your teenager develop healthy coping skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

What are the Treatment Options for Teen Anxiety and Depression?

young adult angst

Many times, people seek professional assistance as a last resort to solve their problems. You and your teens don’t have to wait until they are at “rock bottom” to ask for help; that is the key. The sooner you and your teen start discussing and looking into ways to deal with issues or anxieties, the sooner everyone will feel better. Depression symptoms in teens are not to be ignored, as it is often better to be more conscious of this behavior.

Therapy

Speaking with a therapist or counselor can help your teen work through difficult emotions, give them coping strategies, and provide support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for teens is often very effective for anxiety and depression. A therapist can also diagnose any underlying conditions and determine the best course of treatment.

Medication

For moderate to severe anxiety, depression, or other disorders, medication may provide additional relief from symptoms. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed for teens. Medication can be used alone or in combination with therapy. Work with a psychiatrist to find the right medication and dosage for your teen.

Lifestyle Changes

Professional treatment works best when combined with healthy lifestyle changes. Encourage your teen to exercise regularly, stick to a routine, limit screen time and social media use, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Spending time with supportive friends and family and engaging in relaxing hobbies can also help improve your teen’s mood and outlook.

Hospitalization

In severe cases of depression, anxiety, or other mental health crises, temporary hospitalization may be needed to stabilize your teen. Hospitalization provides intensive therapy and supervision, as well as medication management. The goal is to keep your teen safe and start treatment so they can transition back home.

Getting the right treatment and support can help your teen better cope with their emotions and find more confidence, happiness, and success. With patience and compassion, you can guide your angsty teen through this challenging life stage.

Getting Help for Teenage Angst at Paradigm Treatment

therapy for unruly teen

If a teenager’s emotional distress has escalated to the point where they are experiencing persistent and intense symptoms, it is advisable to seek professional assistance and ensure that the teenager undergoes a thorough evaluation of their mental health.

At Paradigm Treatment, we can help. Our approach emphasizes collaboration between therapists, parents, and the teenager, where we ensure that everyone is on the same page and working together to address the teenager’s needs and concerns. We specialize in assisting adolescents in cultivating self-awareness, acquiring coping skills, and enhancing emotional management. Feel free to reach out to us today to discover more about our program offerings!

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Teenage Angst: When To Reach Out for Help

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Lucy Nguyen

Lucy Nguyen, LMFT
Medical Reviewer

Lucy Nguyen is the Executive Director at Paradigm Treatment, overseeing all clinical treatment programs across the organization's southwestern region. Her extensive experience includes working with young adults in private practice, serving as a therapist for children and teens with emotional and behavioral needs, and acting as a behavior interventionist for teens with developmental disorders. Lucy integrates cognitive-behavioral approaches with mindfulness and compassion in her work, and she is also EMDR-trained. She holds a Master of Science in Counseling from California State University, Fullerton, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine.

You've seen the eye rolls, heard the dramatic sighs, and noticed that everything seems to set them off lately. Welcome to the turbulent world of the angsty teen. As a parent, dealing with all those mood swings and attitudes can be exhausting. On the one hand, some moodiness and angst are normal parts of the teenage experience as those hormones start raging and the pressures of adolescence set in. But at what point should you start worrying that it's more than just your teen 'finding themselves'?

The truth is, it's not always easy to tell normal teenage angst from signs of anxiety, depression, or other issues that may need professional support. But by understanding the causes of teenage angst and looking for certain warning signs, you'll be better equipped to get your teen the help they need.

What is Teenage Angst?

Teenage angst refers to the emotional turmoil and conflict that adolescents commonly experience while transitioning to adulthood. It involves frustration, confusion, and feelings of being misunderstood, arising from identity formation, independence-seeking, and societal pressures. Teen angst typically peaks between ages 14 and 17. Your teen is establishing their identity separate from you, worrying about how they'll fit in, and feeling stressed by increasing responsibilities. It can be a challenging time, but some angst is healthy and helps your teen become independent.

Below are some common indicators of teenage angst:

  • Mood Swings
  • Isolation
  • Identity Exploration
  • Rebellion against rules and authority figures
  • Peer Pressure
  • Body Image Issues
  • Sleep Changes
  • Changes in Appetite
  • Lack of Interest
  • Difficulty Concentrating

While angst is a normal part of growing up, intense angst might indicate more serious problems. In such cases, seeking professional help is advised. By recognizing the difference between normal teenage angst and when professional assistance may be necessary, adults can prioritize the emotional well-being and overall mental health of the teenagers under their guidance.

Signs Your Teen's Angst May Be More Serious

If your teen's angst seems to be interfering with their life, it could be a sign that it's becoming more serious. Some things to watch out for:

  • Extreme Changes in Behavior: Drastic changes in behavior, personality, or interests that are inconsistent with the individual's previous patterns could be cause for concern.
  • Talk of self-harm: If your teens express suicidal ideation, self-harm tendencies, or intentions to harm others, seek professional assistance promptly.
  • Substance abuse: Turning to drugs, alcohol, or other substances to cope with angst is dangerous and requires treatment.
  • Physical Ailments: Frequent complaints of physical ailments like headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue with no clear medical cause could be related to emotional distress.
  • Extreme Irritability or Rage: Some angst is normal, but frequent emotional outbursts, especially those that seem disproportionate to the situation, can be a red flag.
  • Severe Anxiety or Panic Attacks: Frequent and severe anxiety, panic attacks in teens, or overwhelming fear can hinder daily functioning.
  • Persistent Sadness or Hopelessness: Prolonged feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness that don't seem to improve could be indicative of depression.
  • Extreme Perfectionism: A relentless pursuit of perfectionism, fear of failure, and excessive self-criticism might be connected to emotional distress.

The causes of serious teen angst can include trauma, abuse, bullying, family problems, and mental health conditions. Don't hesitate to have your teen evaluated by a doctor or mental health professional if their angst is persistent or intense. With treatment such as therapy or medication, they can get back to feeling like themselves again.

What are the Common Causes of Teenage Angst and Anxiety?

The teenage years are full of change, and with change often comes anxiety and angst. There are several factors that can contribute to feelings of worry, stress, and moodiness in teens.

Hormones

Raging hormones are partly to blame. Growth spurts, acne, and puberty can make teens feel awkward and out of control of their bodies. Hormones like cortisol also activate the body's stress response, keeping teens on high alert.

Social Pressures

The desire to fit in and be accepted by peers is strong during the teen years. Worrying about popularity, relationships, and peer approval is common and can fuel feelings of angst or inadequacy. Cyberbullying, being addicted to social media, and the 24/7 availability of social interaction online amplify these pressures.

Identity Development

Teens are figuring out who they are and what they want in life. Questions of identity, purpose, and values can trigger anxiety and mood swings. Teens may feel torn between the comfort of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood.

Academic Stress

The demands of high school, including homework, extracurricular activities, and planning for college or a career, can be overwhelming. Fear of failure or not living up to expectations is a major cause of anxiety for many teens.

Traumatic Events

Experiencing trauma like the loss of a loved one, injury, family issues, or abuse can also lead to feelings of anxiety, worry, and angst in teens that may require professional support. At Paradigm, we offer grief and loss treatment that has proven to help teens and young adults navigate through this type of trauma.

Teenage angst and anxiety are usually normal and temporary, but if symptoms persist or interfere with your teen's daily life, talk to their doctor. Counseling or therapy, support groups, and, in some cases, medication may help alleviate more severe anxiety and set them on a path to better well-being.

Tips for Parents on How to Help Your Teen Cope

Supporting your teenager through periods of angst and anxiety requires understanding, empathy, and effective communication. Here are some tips for parents on how to help your teen cope:

Open Communication

Open communication with your teen is a cornerstone of fostering a healthy and supportive parent-child relationship. It involves creating an environment in which your teenager feels comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and experiences with you. This type of communication goes beyond mere exchange of information; it's about actively listening, empathizing, and validating their perspectives.

Creating an atmosphere of open communication requires effort and patience, but it's an investment that can strengthen your bond with your teenager and provide them with the support they need during their journey through adolescence.

Avoid Minimizing and Provide Reassurance

Avoid using phrases like "It is not a big deal" or "You will grow out of it." Instead, affirm their feelings and have them realize that it's completely okay to go through the emotions they're currently feeling. Assure your teenager that the ups and downs of adolescence are normal parts of growing up. Emphasize that their present emotions will not last forever, and let them feel your unwavering presence to provide support through every step of the journey.

Teach Coping Skills and Encourage Healthy Habits

Help your teenager learn healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety. This could include deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, journaling, or engaging in creative outlets. Proper sleep, regular physical activity, and a balanced diet can have a positive impact on mental well-being. Encourage your teen to engage in these healthy habits.

Respect Their Privacy

Respecting your teenager's privacy involves acknowledging their need for personal space and boundaries. As adolescents strive to establish their sense of identity and independence, giving them the space they require to explore their thoughts, emotions, and interests is crucial. It entails refraining from prying into their personal belongings, such as diaries or electronic devices, without their consent.

By respecting their privacy, you convey a message of trust and autonomy. This communicates that you value their individuality and are willing to grant them the autonomy to manage certain aspects of their lives. However, while respecting their privacy is important, it's equally vital to maintain open lines of communication. Encourage your teenager to share their thoughts and concerns with you voluntarily, assuring them that you're available whenever they're ready to talk.

Be Patient and Calm

Remember that teenage angst is a normal part of development. Patience and understanding go a long way in helping your teen navigate these challenging emotions. If your teen is facing a crisis or appears overwhelmed, stay calm and provide a safe space for them to express themselves. Your calm presence can help reassure them.

Every teenager is unique, so tailor your approach to your teen's individual needs and personality. Building a strong foundation of trust and support can help your teenager develop healthy coping skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.

What are the Treatment Options for Teen Anxiety and Depression?

young adult angst

Many times, people seek professional assistance as a last resort to solve their problems. You and your teens don't have to wait until they are at "rock bottom" to ask for help; that is the key. The sooner you and your teen start discussing and looking into ways to deal with issues or anxieties, the sooner everyone will feel better. Depression symptoms in teens are not to be ignored, as it is often better to be more conscious of this behavior.

Therapy

Speaking with a therapist or counselor can help your teen work through difficult emotions, give them coping strategies, and provide support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for teens is often very effective for anxiety and depression. A therapist can also diagnose any underlying conditions and determine the best course of treatment.

Medication

For moderate to severe anxiety, depression, or other disorders, medication may provide additional relief from symptoms. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed for teens. Medication can be used alone or in combination with therapy. Work with a psychiatrist to find the right medication and dosage for your teen.

Lifestyle Changes

Professional treatment works best when combined with healthy lifestyle changes. Encourage your teen to exercise regularly, stick to a routine, limit screen time and social media use, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs. Spending time with supportive friends and family and engaging in relaxing hobbies can also help improve your teen's mood and outlook.

Hospitalization

In severe cases of depression, anxiety, or other mental health crises, temporary hospitalization may be needed to stabilize your teen. Hospitalization provides intensive therapy and supervision, as well as medication management. The goal is to keep your teen safe and start treatment so they can transition back home.

Getting the right treatment and support can help your teen better cope with their emotions and find more confidence, happiness, and success. With patience and compassion, you can guide your angsty teen through this challenging life stage.

Getting Help for Teenage Angst at Paradigm Treatment

therapy for unruly teen

If a teenager's emotional distress has escalated to the point where they are experiencing persistent and intense symptoms, it is advisable to seek professional assistance and ensure that the teenager undergoes a thorough evaluation of their mental health.

At Paradigm Treatment, we can help. Our approach emphasizes collaboration between therapists, parents, and the teenager, where we ensure that everyone is on the same page and working together to address the teenager's needs and concerns. We specialize in assisting adolescents in cultivating self-awareness, acquiring coping skills, and enhancing emotional management. Feel free to reach out to us today to discover more about our program offerings!

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