How Can I Tell If My Teenager Is Stressed?

Michelle Bailey, M.D, Duke

Question: How can I tell if my teenager is stressed?

Answer:Parents may sometimes wonder how to tell if their teenager is stressed. It's very common for teenagers to have changing behavior during the adolescent period. This can manifest as rebellion or acting out.

The number one cause of stress for the majority of teenagers tends to be school -- academic pressures, influences from peers, and a desire to be accepted all are potential stressors for children in this age group.

So how do you know if your child is stressed? One of the things to do is simply to ask them directly: "Is there anything you're worried about? Are you concerned about anything right now?" Trust me -- even if they don't seem to pay attention, they're listening. And they may not answer your question at that time, but they may come back at a later time to discuss this with you.

Look for changes in their behavior -- disruptions in sleep pattern, with either the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, as well as excessive sleeping.

Teenagers may also change their social habits, withdrawing and not wanting to spend time with friends or family.

Substance use is also something that may become evident during this stage. A lot of teenagers will experiment with substances such as tobacco and alcohol to try and alleviate some of the discomfort that comes from being stressed.

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