Treating Teen Stress, Anxiety, and PTSD – Part One

Teen stress can come in a variety of forms. It can range from minor and manageable levels to debilitating. It’s true that most adults and teens deal with stress. In fact, some stress is good. It can inspire you to accomplish a task or move closer to a goal. If you didn’t feel the stress of needing money to buy your first car, you might not have the motivation to get a job. Stress that drives positive change is sometimes called eustress. It is the optimal amount of stress people need to promote health and wellbeing.

Distress, on the other hand, is the effect of unpleasant and undesirable experiences. It can be described as the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses to challenging events. Sometimes these challenging events are happening all the time, such as in the workplace. Working in an emergency room where there is trauma, injury, and sometimes death can be an incredibly stressful work environment. Other times, stress comes in waves or in moments in our life.

Significant stress will arise from events that are seen as threatening or particularly life-altering. For instance, events like your parents getting divorced or your mother getting remarried can not only create circumstantial stress, like having to live with someone new, but also emotional and psychological stress. This kind of stress could require the aid of a mental health professional, a friend you trust, or a family member. Teen stress at this level might lead to, or be the result of a mental illness.

At other times, there is stress that is neither significantly traumatic nor optimal; it’s the stress of every day life. A February 2014 article in USA Today published the results of a recent National Survey on Teen Stress. It reported that teens are feeling higher levels of stress, which have a negative effect on their lives. Of teen students who were surveyed, 27% reported dealing with “extreme stress” during the school year and 34% expect that stress to go up in the next year.

Furthermore, the study indicated that teens who have very stressful lives, like that of adults, are potentially at risk for physical and emotional illness. As a result of stress, teens reported feeling irritable, angry, nervous, and anxious. One third of the teens surveyed reported that stress made them feel overwhelmed, depressed, and sad. The study revealed that female teens tend to be more stressed than male teens, which mirror the same trend in adults.

The tendency for teens to follow in the footsteps of their parents or adults in their life doesn’t bring good news. Likely those teens will continue the trend of becoming physically and psychologically ill. This pattern will continue unless those teens and adults decide to live their lives differently. Letting the demands of your life take precedence over your health can eventually become destructive.

When this happens, treatment becomes necessary. The next article in this series will discuss the means to treat the psychological disorders that result from significant amounts of stress.



Jayson, S. (February 11, 2014). Teens feeling stressed, and many not managing it well. USA Today. Retrieved on June 9, 2014 from: