Treating Teen Stress, Anxiety, and PTSD

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. The results of a recent National Survey on Teen Stress 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.

Treatment Options for Stress in Teens

The prognosis for lowering the levels of teen stress doesn’t look good. Those who are stressed are not taking good care of themselves, such as neglecting to exercise, skipping meals, forgetting responsibilities at home, and snapping at friends and family members. However, if teens can find the treatment they need, perhaps their levels of physical and psychological health will improve.

Treating stress depends on its severity and cause. For instance, if stress and anxiety is the result of a trauma, then you will likely need to see a mental health professional. Post-traumatic stress disorder might be the appropriate diagnosis, with psychotherapy and medication as forms of treatment. It’s important to know that PTSD that goes untreated can lead to significant emotional, psychological, and even physical danger. If you are experiencing anxiety, you might be diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, or another mood disorder related to anxiety. Again, medication and therapy might be appropriate forms of treatment.

Lastly, if your teen stress is the result of every day life, there are a variety of ways to cope. For instance, you can remove yourself from the stress. If you’re feeling anxious because you need to prepare for an exam and there is too much going on at home one evening, perhaps the best option is to study at the library. You can change the way you feel about the stress. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated because you haven’t found that date for the party this weekend. You can laugh about it with your friends. Using humor can lighten up any situation, and laughter boosts the immune system.

If it’s appropriate, you can ignore the stress. For example, if you have a health concern, which you are adequately and properly taking care of, focusing on it might only bring more anxiety. Instead, putting your attention on your studies, your family, or your class activities could be more useful.

Of course, exercise, meditation, yoga, and having a belief in a higher power can provide great comfort when stress clouds your vision and blankets the canvas of life. Also, keep in mind that there are a host of other tricks and techniques for managing stress. Stay tuned for a future article that will provide a long list of specific stress relieving tools. For now, remember to breathe when the going gets tough. Breathing consciously can bring relaxation to the body, heart, and mind.

We all experience stress differently, and the ways we manage stress will also vary from person to person. There are a variety of ways you can respond to stress when you feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful, confused, or tired. The choice is yours. However, if the level of your teen stress is significant and you experience psychological symptoms, see a mental health professional for your psychological well being.

Further Reading

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