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What Causes Teenage Stress? A Parent’s Guide

Updated: Sep 24

A stressed teenager lays on the ground amidst a pile of school books and supplies

How to help your teen when they’re feeling stressed

Key takeaways:

  • Almost all teenagers experience stress

  • Stress can actually make a teen more productive but too much is harmful

  • There are specific signs and symptoms of excess stress in teens

Raising a teenager is a phenomenal experience. These budding adults have a unique vantage point on the world and often have some pretty exciting ideas. Teenagers can also be extremely vexing. No matter how intelligent they are, a teen’s brain isn’t fully capable of rational decision-making until age 25, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The developing teen brain experiences stressors that adults don’t usually have to worry about. Teens stress over things that don’t always register with the adults around them and they react differently to those stressors. When you don’t understand what a teen is going through, parenting becomes extra challenging.

This article discusses teenage stress causes, the symptoms they may cause, and the most effective ways to treat teen stress.

Types of teenage stress causes

Stress is the body’s response to external and internal events. Teens not only feel stress from what’s going on in their own lives but from what’s going on in their family and friends’ lives, too. Luckily, the first step in coping with stress is to identify it. Some common causes of teen stress include:

Time management

Managing their time can be hard for teens, especially those with many responsibilities. Some kids have after-school jobs, participate in sports and/or clubs, and do chores at home. Trying to do everything without properly planning their time can be overwhelming and leads to burnout.


Romance is a big deal for teenagers. Sometimes, it’s the biggest deal, and everything else in life takes a back seat. Hormones are raging and unpredictable during the teen years, making something as emotional as first relationships exponentially harder to understand.

Social pressures

Social pressures, including social media, are harder for teens. They are just starting to realize who they are and looking for a place to belong in the world. The opinions of their friends, peers, and even total strangers on the internet mean a great deal to them. Feelings of not fitting in or upsetting their friends can cause major stress.


Traumatic events are challenging for everyone but a teenager’s hormones and developing brain can make things even more difficult. Losing a peer or family member can be too much for a teen to handle, especially if there was a close connection.

Understanding the source of a teenager’s stress is a huge part of helping them overcome their concerns and find peace. There are some symptoms stressed-out teens typically display, no matter the cause.

Stress symptoms in teens

Keeping an eye out for stress-related behavioral and emotional cues can help parents address potential issues. There are some typical signs most stressed teens exhibit, including:

Sudden negative changes in behavior

When a usually happy and upbeat teen becomes sullen and irritable, there’s a good chance they’re stressed about something. Hostile or violent outbursts, argumentativeness, and constant complaining can all point to an abundance of stress.

Unexplainable illnesses

Suddenly feeling sick for no apparent reason, especially before a big test or important event, could really be a sign of stress. Frequent stomach aches, headaches, and trips to the bathroom could signify that the stress is becoming too much to handle.

Avoiding others

Teens going through a lot of stress may isolate themselves. It can feel like too much effort to socialize or attend family functions or after-school activities. It’s much easier to hole up in their bedroom and lose themselves in television or video games.

If you notice your teen is exhibiting these or similar symptoms, it’s time to address their stress levels. Tactics like scheduling, meditation, and yoga can help alleviate moderate stress, but therapy is the best option when it begins to interrupt daily life.

Treatment for severe teen stress

Talking about problems is helpful, and listening to your teen goes a long way when they feel overly stressed. You can offer gentle advice or just an eager ear. Sometimes, teens feel more comfortable talking to a professional where an uninvolved third party can hear them.

There are several helpful therapies for teens, including:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Therapists use this modality to address specific problems that could be causing stress, anxiety, and panic. It helps change problematic behaviors and develop healthy ones. Sometimes, stress is learned from years of reinforcement. CBT addresses that behavior and works to replace it with something more productive.

Group therapy

Teen group therapies are useful to show teens that they aren’t alone. They learn from each other’s experiences and help others in the group manage their stress. Group therapy is the perfect place to practice new, healthier behaviors to thwart stress.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)

DBT is very similar to CBT but with a more mindful approach. It is used to treat people with such severe stress that their symptoms could be life-threatening. DBT involves core mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

A therapist will assess the issues and determine the best route of therapy. It could consist of weekly or monthly sessions, in-person, or virtually.

almost all teens experience some level of stress but when it becomes overwhelming, there are health matters to consider. Stress contributes significantly to diseases and illnesses such as insomnia, depression, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, obesity, and premature death.

Let your teen know you see their stress and are available for whatever they need.

Teen stressed

All teens can use some help coping with stress occasionally

The teen years are stressful for everyone but there are many ways to help make it easier for the teens in your life. The Love Discovery Institute is an elite emotional and cognitive wellness center that offers therapy for adults, children, and teens from licensed therapists.

Our therapists understand relationships well and help people develop significant and authentic relationships. If you are having challenges parenting your teenager or one or both of you is dealing with mental health issues like stress and anxiety, we can help.

The team at Love Discovery is ready to welcome you with open arms. If you’re ready to start therapy to help improve your relationship with your teen or make parenting easier, make an appointment with any of our therapists today. Feeling hesitant about how we can help? Call 305-605-LOVE.

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