Teenage Angst: Is It Normal Or a Sign of Something More?

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In my social group, I am notoriously bad at sharing my emotions – I have been this way since I was a teen. Whenever I would try to express my feelings, I would be made fun of, so eventually, I bottled up until I couldn’t deal with them anymore. Now, as an adult, I still deal with a whirlwind of emotions – from frustration to confusion to anger. 

Now imagine these emotions heightened! This emotional rollercoaster is hard enough to deal with as an adult, imagine doing this as a teen. Impossible, right? But that’s what happens. 

This weird range of emotions – and more –  is what defines your teenage years. Because we fail to understand where these emotions come from, so what we see is what we call. While adults might relate more to “outbursts”, teens can relate more to “angst”. 

Teens are typically placed under a lot of pressure while they are busy exploring their sense of self, identifying themselves, finding their boundaries, and seeking independence. Here’s when “teenage angst” steps in. When I talk about “teenage angst” I talk about the feeling of being so overwhelmed, anxious, and feeling rejected by one’s peers. 

You and I – as teens – must have felt that; just without the label or someone to explain to us what these jumbled feelings meant. Today, let’s resolve that, shall we? 

What is Teenage Angst?

Teenage angst is not an official diagnosis of any kind, but it does refer to a complicated mix of emotions that teenagers often experience. This term includes feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and a constant struggle to find their place in this big world. This emotional distress can manifest as mood swings, bouts of irritability, and a desire to test boundaries. 

As a parent, guardian, or an older sibling, you might ask yourself; Is teenage angst normal or a sign of something more? 

What you need to understand is that a certain level of angst is normal for a teen and their emotional development. Teenagers go through physical and mental changes as they grow. Their brains rewire, making them more than just sensitive to emotional stimuli.

Moreover, they struggle with issues such as self-identity, peer pressure, academic pressure, and the constant need to feel independent. These factors combined can cause emotional outbursts and what I call “a goth phase” – a tendency to appear all mysterious and withdrawn. 

However, when this behavior becomes constant and begins to interfere with your teen’s daily life, relationships, and academic success, then it could be a sign of something more serious than a heightened sense of sensitivity. 

Signs It’s More Than Teenage Angst 

If it’s just teenage angst, then the signs could be; 

Their passion or hobbies change 
Their friends or social group changes 
Their dressing sense changes
Their sleep pattern gets affected 
Their mood changes dramatically 
Their academic performance is affected 
They become secretive or dismissive 
They become rebellious 

If angsty teen behavior worsens, then you might need to look out for signs of something more serious such as teen depression, anxiety, and more. 

Here are some signs of teen depression to watch out for; 

They cry for no reason 
They feel a sense of worthlessness or guilt 
They can’t concentrate on their studies 
They get irritated and overwhelmed quickly 
They become sensitive to rejection and need reassurance 
They perceive the world as bleak 
They turn to drugs or alcohol to cope 
They begin to isolate themselves from friends and family 

If your teen is showing signs of teen anxiety, then here are some symptoms you might notice in them; 

They fear being away from their parents 
They fear specific situations or things 
They worry constantly about their future 
They hyper-fixate on how they look 
They feel a sense of paranoia and are on edge 
They complain of headaches or stomach aches 
They feel fatigued and drained 
They refuse to attend school 

Sometimes, teenage angst can turn into something more serious than depression and anxiety. If your teen is struggling with self-harm thoughts, then watch out for these signs; 

They are vocal about how hopeless they feel 
They struggle with mood swings 
They are too sensitive to rejection or feedback 
They are not eating well or are over-eating 
They don’t show excitement towards anything else 
They isolate themselves from their friends and family
They talk about suicide or thoughts of death 
They turn to alcohol or drugs 
They hide signs of self-harm by wearing long-sleeved clothing 
They engage in risky behaviors 
They give away their things to others without reason 

What Causes Teenage Angst?

Several factors can contribute to the development of teenage angst. One is brain development itself. The teenage brain changes, especially in the prefrontal cortex – the area responsible for decision-making and emotion regulation. This change can cause brain chemical imbalances, making teens more vulnerable to emotional distress. 

Another factor is hormonal changes. Puberty brings a surge of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. These hormones can impact mood, energy levels, and even the way a teen perceives them. Moreover, the idea of belonging to a peer group, making friends, and getting into romantic relationships are the pinnacle of the teen years. Any kind of rejection or social awkwardness can trigger emotional distress. 

Even family dynamics can impact how a teen’s transition years go. If your teen’s not getting support, love, and understanding from their family, then it’s only going to push them more into teenage angst. 

We need to acknowledge that teenage angst can mask mental health disorders such as depression disorders and anxiety disorders. According to NIMH, 1 in 5 teens, aged 13–18 years – experience a mental health condition in a year. 

Helping Your Angsty Teen… 

If your teen is living through their teenage angst phase, then here are some tips that you can use to help your angsty teen; 

1. Talk to Them:

First, create a safe space for them at home where your teen can feel comfortable enough to express their emotions without fearing rejection, invalidation, and judgment. 

2. Listen to Them:

Next, if they are opening up to you about their emotions, then listen to them, actively. Pay close attention to what they are saying – verbally and otherwise. Learn to read their body language and the cues they give as they talk. 

3. Validate Them:

Once they are done with their expression, acknowledge their emotions as they are. Do not dismiss them as a child or respond in a way that makes them feel awkward or uncomfortable. Tell them that it’s OK to feel the way they are feeling. 

4. Introduce Boundaries:

When you’re offering your support, don’t forget to introduce boundaries. Set clear expectations regarding their behavior and the responsibilities they have as a student and child. You need to let them know, gently, that they still own to take care of themselves – academically and personally. 

5. Encourage Healthy Coping:

Next comes helping your teen know the best – and healthy – ways to cope with their feelings. Tell them about the benefits of exercising, doing something creative, or relaxation techniques they can practice dealing with the stress and anxiety they feel. 

6. Be a Role Model:

Most of all, remember, that your child or younger sibling would be looking at your behavior to model theirs. Teens observe, so it’s on you to demonstrate healthy coping skills and healthy living when it comes to dealing with stress and uncomfortable emotions. 

Get Help…

If you suspect that your teen is struggling with more than just normal teenage angst, then consider seeking help from a professional. A teen therapist or a counselor can help you find the right support, guidance, and tools to help you and your teen deal with whatever is troubling them. 

Teenage angst is a natural part of growing up. You and I were teens once, and I bet we went through similar experiences – just different manifestations. As adults with teens in our lives, it’s on us to recognize the signs of teenage angst or something more serious.

With open and safe communication and seeking professional guidance when necessary, we can help our teens work through their angst with love, patience, and encouragement. 

Hopefully, the tips I mentioned in this article will help you and your teen move forward from teenage angst effectively. Let us know in the comments what you think about this article! 

Until next time, take care!

The post Teenage Angst: Is It Normal Or a Sign of Something More? appeared first on Calm Sage – Your Guide to Mental and Emotional Well-being.

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