Causes of Teenage Stress

Teen stressed by homework

Most parents don't realize teenagers can become just as stressed as adults can. For this reason, teenagers often feel alone. They believe that no one really understands how they feel, and they don't know what to do about it. Understanding the causes of stress can help teens see that there isn't anything wrong with them, and motivate them to seek help to lower their stress levels.

What Teens Stress About

If you're a teen, you could probably list about 100 causes of stress for yourself and friends. If you had to scale it down to only six stressors though, it's probable you'd list at least one of these:

  • School work
  • Parents
  • Romantic relationships
  • Friends' problems
  • Younger siblings
  • Drugs in the neighborhood

The Shifting the Lens: A focus on stress and coping among East Baltimore African American adolescents study reported that participants chose these six as being the most stressful to them.

School Work

Many teenagers become stressed when their teachers and parents expect too much from them as far as school grades. According to the NY Times, when some teenagers receive a poor grade, they feel badly because they know they haven't only disappointed themselves, but also the people they care about the most.

When some teens study hard for an exam, but end up scoring poorly, they may feel defeated and hopeless. These feelings of failure can lead to depression, which can be a result of overwhelming stress.


Teenagers from a dysfunctional home life where abuse or alcoholism are problems can suffer from extreme stress. Teenagers need to feel safe and cared for at home. When they do not receive this from their safe place, they may take the stress of home, bring it to school, and act out.

Romantic Relationships

The University of South Carolina points to dating as a highly stressful aspect of adolescence. The peer pressures of having a partner and becoming intimately involved are difficult to deal with so early in life. Breaking up is a difficult situation to deal with too, which can bring about feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and loneliness.

Friends' Problems

Getting along with friends or getting into the "in" crowd can be very stressful for teenagers, according to a recent survey. A teen's social group means everything to some teens. When arguments happen or a teen feels awkward around peers, it's normal to feel sad or anxious.

Popular teens experience just as much stress. They need to keep up a certain image within their social group. It's hard to make it into the "in" group, but it can be even harder to stay in it.

Younger Siblings

Arguments with younger siblings are normal, but sometimes, they can make teens feel worse about themselves. They may feel inferior to their younger siblings, or they may end up resenting them because they seem to have it easier in life.

Drugs in the Neighborhood

With drugs infiltrating many neighborhoods across the country, it's no surprise some teens feel stressed about drugs. Peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol are everywhere, and the fight to say no seems so difficult when everyone around them says their social life depends on it. With adolescence being such a sensitive time in social development, drugs only make this developmental stage harder to get through safely and healthfully.

How Stress Has Changed for Teenagers

Teen stress isn't anything new. Adolescence has been a stressful developmental stage for hundreds of years, and many of the reasons for stress many years ago are the same as what you're experiencing as a teen in present day.

The problem is that nowadays there are many more stressors for teens, according to Psychologist Bruce Kohlhase. He understands that it's not only the stress of a teen's home and school life that causes them anxiety and depression, but it's also the world around them. Teens now think about what might happen in the future instead of just what is happening around them now.

There Is Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you've been under stress for a year of more, it can feel as though you'll never feel relief. The good news is that most of the stressors you have now as a teen will go away. According to psychologist Jean Twenge, the author of Generation Me, most teenagers start to feel less stressed once they hit their 20s and 30s. Some teens are able to feel better before this time with the help of anti-depressant medication, but this is something that should be discussed with a physician or therapist.

Stress is common for teenagers. If you're a teen who feels like you are at the end of your rope, don't give up now. This is supposed to be a difficult time in your life, so you are not overreacting or imagining anything.

If you feel as though you can't take another day, talk to someone. Talk to a guidance counselor, your mother, father, or another trusted adult. If you have no one to talk to, call one of the teen crisis lines listed on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation website. You deserve to be heard and feel safe in your surroundings and in yourself.

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