By Maria Lebron, February 2020
Being a teen can be really hard! The teen years are filled with emotional highs and lows as physical and emotional growth takes place. Teens face internal and external challenges as they try to cope with puberty, hormonal changes, and social, parental, and school pressures. Teens may feel overwhelmed and stressed making decisions regarding their college and career choices. Some common issues teens face are as follows:
Depression — The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 13% of 12- to 17-year-olds living in the U.S. have experienced at least one major depressive episode.
Depression can be caused by a variety of situations and can manifest in different ways such as sleep disturbances, stress and anxiety, isolation, appetite disturbances, difficulties concentrating, low energy and fatigue, low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, and problems in school.
Low Self-Esteem — The cause of low self-esteem in teens is often multi-determined. Some of the most common factors which can cause low self-esteem are anxiety, negative self-beliefs, isolation, problems with peer relationships, bullying, poor body image, shame or guilt, and not feeling valued or supported.
Bullying — Bullying causes a teen to feel unsafe and creates fear and anxiety. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or by cyber-bullying. Bullying is very serious, can cause major damage, and is abusive. It can be very difficult for a teen to deal with the bullying and it can persist even after the teen tries to handle the situation. In those cases, it may be helpful for the teen to inform their parent, school, or other family members in order to get the support needed to deal with this issue and determine the best course of action.
Gender and Sexual Identity — The teen years are a period of sexual development. Some teens enter their teen years very clear about their sexual orientation, while others may undergo a process of identifying who they are attracted to. Some teens may experience a period of questioning their sexual identity, which may sometimes cause some stress, confusion, or conflicts.
A person’s gender identity usually develops in childhood and some children may not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. Some transgender teens may begin hormonal or medical treatments to transition to their identified gender.
If a teen experiences bullying, discrimination, or little support for their gender or sexual identity, they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide.
Divorce or Separation — The feelings teens may have when their parents divorce or separate can vary and may be impacted by how the parents handle it themselves. Anger, sadness, and anxiety are common emotions. A teen may feel some guilt that they are somewhat to blame or feel they could have prevented it. Of course, some teens may be relieved that their parents are no longer together if the relationship was a very difficult or volatile one. In any event, there will be an adjustment period as the teen adapts to having parents in two households.
Relationship/Friendship Problems — During the teen years, it’s normal for teens to spend less time with parents and siblings. Friendships become an important part of the teen’s social life. Positive friendships provide the teen with a sense of belonging and support. Because of the importance of these relationships, it can deeply impact a teen when problems develop, causing depression, isolation, and anxiety.
Socioeconomic Difficulties — Low socioeconomic status in childhood and adolescence affects the well-being and development of children. Economic hardships and pressures can cause depression, anxiety, anger, and isolation. Economic hardships or restrictions play an important part in a teen’s decisions regarding education and career.
Family Conflicts — There are many conflicts which can occur between a teen and their family. One occurs when as a normal part of adolescence, a teen becomes more independent, causing tension and conflict between the teen and parents. Boundaries may be pushed as teens assert more independence and try out different ways of thinking and being. The conflict between the teen and parent can make the teen feel angry, alone, and confused. The parent may feel angry and frustrated that the teen no longer seems to respect parental authority or want to communicate and share their life.
Another type of family conflict which can occur is when the teen no longer feels they can rely on their parents for survival and emotional support. If this is the case, the teen may take on more responsibility than is age-appropriate by taking on more of a parental or caretaking role. The teen may feel depressed, angry, or resentful due to the burden and unrealistic expectations that are being put on them.
Finally, if there is domestic violence in the family, the teen is likely to experience depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, isolation, problems with peers, and problems at school. The teen may also feel guilt or a sense of responsibility to protect family members.
Loss and Grief — A teen can feel an overwhelming loss when a parent, sibling, friend, or relative dies. The teen’s feelings about the death of a person who impacted or shaped their life can become something that affects them forever. If the death of a parent came during a conflicted time or when the teen was developing an independent identity, it can cause unnecessary guilt.
The problems that teenagers face today are multilayered and interrelated. One problem can impact another. The teenage years are ones containing a lot of change, emotions, and challenges. It is important for the teen to be able to find the support and guidance needed to deal with difficult or overwhelming problems.