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Identifying An Overwhelmed Teenager

depressed teen

All teenagers will experience bouts of overwhelm during their adolescence. The teenage years are filled with challenging lessons, immense physical growth, surging hormones, a newfound need for autonomy and all else needed to assist a young person’s development into adulthood. Societal norms and the subliminal pressures associated with American culture can be severely overwhelming to young people. There are a variety of factors that could contribute to a young person feeling overwhelmed. Some common teenage stressors, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry include: 

  • Schoolwork (i.e. homework, projects, exams, etc.)
  • Extracurricular commitments
  • Problems with school friends and/ or peers
  • Low self-esteem
  • Separation or divorce of parents
  • Body changes
  • Death of a loved one
  • Being overscheduled 
  • Family financial problems
  • Moving 
  • Switching school

The internal and external pressures placed on adolescents can be crushing. Often teenagers internalize increased stress when encountered with a situation that is perceived as painful, difficult, and/ or dangerous. When teenagers become overloaded with stress it can lead to a multitude of adverse effects. 

Common Signs

Every young person is unique and will process and express his or her feelings of overwhelm differently. The specific combination of signs exhibited will differ from teen to teen, as will the duration and severity of signs presented. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides the following examples of common signs an overwhelmed teen may exhibit:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal issues (i.e. diarrhea, stomachaches, nausea, etc.)
  • Increased irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dropping grades
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation 
  • Problems with friends
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Increased procrastination
  • Verbalize worries regarding friends, school, and/ or other activities

Some teenagers’ express their feelings of overwhelm by becoming socially and emotionally withdrawn. Many young people are forced to navigate the challenges of adolescence using outdated coping mechanisms that are ineffective, which often result in overwhelming emotions. 

How To Help

Teenagers enter adolescence with the emotional coping mechanisms discovered in pre-adolescent years. These methods are often quickly found to be ineffective, leaving teens with few, if any useful emotional navigation tools. As a parent there are several tips that can help you help your teen learn to manage his or her stress, so as to reduce or avoid becoming overwhelmed. These can include:

  • Learning and modeling your own healthy stress management skills
  • Encouraging regular exercise to facilitate the release of endorphins
  • Set limits and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Help your teenager develop attainable goals
  • Be consistent
  • Help your teen break down large tasks into manageable steps
  • Encourage a sleep routine that accommodates ample sleep
  • Help your teen explore and practice different relaxation techniques (i.e. meditation, journaling, listening to music, etc.)
  • Facilitate prioritizing healthy and nutritious eating 

Learning a variety of different coping mechanisms and various stress management skill can be advantageous for any teen. All humans can benefit from learning a variety of stress management skills, as some previously relied upon tactics may become suddenly useless and ineffective with little warning. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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