Teen Angst: What to Expect During the Teenage Years

Teens are under pressure when trying to develop their identity by pushing the boundaries of their independence and planning for the future. Teenage angst refers to the feeling of being anxious, overwhelmed, rejected, or not wanted. Teens can feel less anxious by knowing what’s expected and the most pressing concerns than the average teenager’s development.

Every parent is concerned about their children’s success in life, and it’s not always easy to determine if your child is thriving. Particularly when they are constantly angry at you without reason whatsoever. Parents can be frustrated by their children’s behavior right when they reach their teenage years. Sometimes, parents forget that this is a part of normal teenage development, and it’s crucial to know what your child is experiencing.

Is it just teen angst, or is there something more serious? Due to the fluctuation of teenage moods, it can be difficult for parents to determine the cause of a teenager’s difficult phase is caused by depression or teenage angst. 40 percent of parents have a difficult time differentiating between mood swings and teen depression, according to a national poll conducted by the Mott Children’s Hospital.

What Is Teenage Angst?

Teenage angst can be characterized as anger, rebellion, and a general unhappy attitude towards life. The teenage years are the period of your child’s life where they leave their innocence and begin to challenge boundaries and limits as they grow older. Teenage anxiety may be the result of discontent with being told NO when limits and boundaries are not respected. Teenagers are searching for independence and freedom but lack the capacity to fully comprehend or anticipate all of the responsibilities they are expected to factor in because brain development isn’t fully completed until age 24.

Unlike anxiety and depression, which can both be diagnosed as mental health disorders, there is no official medical definition for teenage angst. 

Angst can be defined as feelings of pain, fear, anxiety, or depression because teen angst comes through feelings of insecurity, worrying, anxiety, and depression; it’s not uncommon to see teens afflicted with this sensation. With the changes in physical form and emotional turbulence which characterize the life of a teen, anxiety is a normal response to a variety of situations, whether it’s the result of a math test, a sporting event, or the stress of a relationship.

Teen angst often involves fighting, emotionality, screaming off, silliness, and even drama. This type of behavior results in parents being angry, frustrated, and grieved.

How do you deal with teen angst since it is part of typical teen development? What are the best ways to determine if this is normal teenage moodiness or something else?

Teen angst could be an integral part of maturing and becoming an adult with a healthy lifestyle. While it’s uncomfortable to feel anxiety, anger, frustration, or even fear, knowing how to manage teens’ angst could help young people become better at managing and regulating their emotions. It’s much more likely to happen when parents understand what teens are going through and support them in processing their feelings.

What is Normal Teen Angst and What’s a Problem?

You know your child better than anyone else, and watching your child’s attitude or behavior change, possibly in an instant, can be a surprise. Although “normal” is subject to debate but there are common facets or signs of teenage angst. If these behavior patterns begin to escalate and disrupt daily life, this is when they start to become a reason to be concerned and the reason to seek professional advice and assistance.

Here are a few of the more popular and “normal” signs of teen angst:

  • Feeling short-tempered
  • Emotional swings
  • Taking risks
  • Being self-conscious, particularly about relationships
  • Needing to spend more time with their friends
  • Physical pains
  • Listening to loud music
  • Messiness
  • Rudeness
  • Sleeping more
  • Changes in interests (such as hobbies, music, and activities)
  • Changes in friend groups
  • Modifications in the style of clothing
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in mood
  • Performance changes in the academic field
  • Being more secretive or dismissive of information
  • An increase in rebellious behaviors and breaking of rules

However, if the behaviors persist or escalate, this could be an indication that you have more severe mental health problems like anxiety, depression, or self-harm behavior and could require help from a professional.

Teen Angst and Mental Illness: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the difference between teen angst and mental illness is crucial to ensuring proper treatment for your teenage child; parents tend to misinterpret both, but there are some significant differences between them. 

Teenage angst is a term that describes the typical difficulties that people face in adolescents. 

Mental illness is a distinct condition that can seriously hinder daily routines, interpersonal skills, and relationships. It is essential to know the difference to ensure that you give your child the treatment they need. Here are the main differences between teen angst and mental illness:

Teen Angst:

  • Is it a normal stage of the adolescent
  • It usually disappears in time
  • Can be helped with coping mechanisms and support
  • It’s not a sign of a bigger issue.

Mental illness:

  • It significantly affects everyday life
  • Sometimes, it is necessary to seek professional help
  • This could be a sign of a bigger issue
  • You can be assisted by medication and therapy

Depression and Teenage Angst: What’s the Difference?

The primary distinction between depression and angst is that depression among teens is different from emotional angst and can be a life-threatening mental health issue. Mental health professionals stress how important it is to not minimize behavior that could be a sign of depression in teens.

There is a difference between angst as well as depression that, if left untreated, depression in adolescent years may persist throughout adulthood and lead to other disorders. According to a study that was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 75 percent of people who experience depressive episodes as adolescents later battle depression, mood disorders, or alcohol use disorders in adulthood.

In light of these figures, It is crucial to understand how to spot depression in teens and to differentiate between depression and angst. Parents don’t have to set off the alarm each time a teen experiences an emotional swing, but they should keep an eye on the changes that occur over time. Child angst is something to be on the lookout for, signs of volatile and intense feelings in younger children, generally between the ages of 10-12, when hormonal changes start to intensify.

Teen Angst and Anxiety: What’s the Difference?

The primary distinction between anxiety and angst is that angst isn’t as intense, persistent, and broad-ranging as anxiety. However, determining the difference between anxiety and angst isn’t easy for parents. Fear, anxiety, and worry appear like different terms to describe the same thing. A recent study found that a third of parents think anxiety and worry are interchangeable. This is undoubtedly true to a certain degree. Anxiety, fear, and worry all relate to the fear of uncertainty regarding things to come.

But anxiety is more than just a general feeling of fear and worry. There are many forms of anxiety, and there are distinct anxiety symptoms and signs that go beyond emotional angst. Anxiety is often characterized by constant worry or irrational fears and self-judgment. Sometimes, it manifests as phobias or social anxiety, as they are technical kinds of anxiety disorders.

A mental health exam can help identify the distinction between angst and anxiety among teens. Parents who are worried about whether their child’s problem is more than just emotional angst should take a mental health examination as fast as they can. Studies show that 50% of all mental illnesses that are life-long begin before age 14 years old. The earlier anxiety is recognized, the faster it is treated, and the healing process can start.

How to Recognize Depression, Anxiety in Teenagers, and Emotional Angst

If your anxiety-related behaviors persist or get worse, you might have to be on the lookout for symptoms of anxiety, depression, or the potential for self-harming behavior. Some signs could indicate extreme sensitivity, difficulties in concentration, poor personal hygiene, or avoidance behavior. There’s plenty of similarity in the changes in behavior and emotions that happen in teens suffering from depression and anxiety, self-harm, or suicidal behavior. Remember that they don’t need to go through all these issues to be able to get help from a trained professional.

Signs of Mental Illness in Teens

There are some crucial factors to keep in mind when deciding whether your child is suffering from normal teen angst or has mental health disorders. It’s important to recognize that each teenager is unique; therefore, not every symptom is present in all cases, but the most common indicators of mental illness among teens are:

  • Depression, melancholy mood
  • Anger, irritability, or rage
  • The withdrawal from family, friends and hobbies, passions, and the pursuit of happiness
  • Changes in sleep, eating, and hygiene
  • A decrease in performance in school and at home due to a lack of focus, forgetfulness, or a lack of motivation

If your teenager exhibits any of these symptoms, It’s crucial to discuss it with him/her and seek professional assistance. These signs can signal an issue that is more serious and needs intervention.

Signs of Depression

Changes in emotions, such as:

  • Crying without a reason
  • Feeling unworthy or guilty
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking, and recollecting information
  • Insomnia and the ability to quickly become overwhelmed or frustrated
  • High sensitivity to rejection or the need for regular reassurance
  • A grim and dark perspective on life

Changes in behavior, such as:

  • Alterations in sleep patterns, either insomnia or sleeping too long,
  • Insane restlessness and inability to be still
  • Changes in appetite, whether leading to weight loss or weight increase
  • Drinking alcohol or using drugs,
  • A noticeable decrease in school performance and enthusiasm
  • Social isolation from family and friends
  • Less care of physical hygiene and appearance

Signs of Anxiety

Changes in emotions, such as:

  • Fear of being far from your parents
  • Extreme fear of certain objects or events
  • A constant worry and fear of the future
  • Affective hyper fixation on their looks
  • Verbalizing frequently concern that something bad is going to happen
  • Insane, sudden, and unanticipated anxiety that can lead to physical symptoms

Behavior changes, for example:

  • Sleep issues
  • Constant stomachaches or headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Avoidance of activities
  • Refusal or avoidance at school
  • Drastic changes in routines

Signs of Self-Harm and Suicidality

Changes in the emotional state:

  • Feeling trapped or depressed, either generally or in relation to a particular situation
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Extremely sensitive to feedback and rejection
  • Changes in appetite
  • Decrease in motivation or interests

Behavior changes, for example:

  • Social isolation from family and friends
  • Writing or speaking about suicide – for instance, saying things like “I will not be around for forever.”
  • The consumption of alcohol or other substances
  • Wearing long sleeves, hoodies, pants, etc., in warmer climates to conceal any physical indications of self-harm (cutting burns, cutting, picking, etc.)
  • Engaging in self-destructive, risky, or dangerous behaviors
  • Giving away their possessions without any reason

What Causes Teen Angst?

Teens feel angst for a variety of different reasons. The reason for angst among teenagers as it is a push for independence and privacy. The ability to be more independent is an essential element of learning how to be an adult, but it requires time and can be a challenge to navigate.

The teenage brain is still developing in size, reaching its biggest size at 11 and 14 years of age in girls and boys, respectively. Alongside its physical dimensions, the teenager’s brain is still maturing and growing until mid-to the late twenties. Skills like making decisions, prioritizing tasks, and regulating impulses aren’t fully developed in the teenager’s cerebral cortex.

There could also be other causes of teenage angst, for example, insufficient sleep; because of the massive brain development taking place at this time, teens require sufficient sleep. NIMH recommends that teens get around nine to ten hours of sleep each night; with the proper care and support, they’ll be successful adults regarding brain development. Teenagers are faced with various transitions during this time as they transition from changing schools, friendships, and even their interests. They start contemplating more and more about the future; this can create feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

How to Help Your Angst Teen

Before you jump to conclusions and try to force your teenager to talk to you, it is vital to set aside a few minutes to reflect on your own. Are you approachable and non-judgmental? Are you giving advice or solutions without permission? Are you still bringing up topics after your teenager has told you to quit? These are a few of the most common obstacles parents face. 

Clear and open communication can be the very first stage towards developing trust and establishing a connection.

Here are a few ways to help teens who are struggling with angst or other emotions that are difficult to deal with:

Make Time for Them

As the world turns and tensions rise, ensure that you and your teen have activities to do. Families may be mixed, as well as welcoming younger sibling(s). It’s normal for focus to shift; however, making time for your child is essential.

Demonstrating genuine interest in what they like can go a long way; evening gaming.

Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits

This is backed by science but is a lot more difficult to implement. Making sure your child develops an effective sleep routine will benefit you in the long run! In the development of the brain in adolescence, general functioning is improved when we get enough sleep.

Model healthy sleep habits by using guided meditation to go to sleep or reading a book. Teens are aware that they require more sleep, but modeling this behavior can help them stay on track.

Give Your Teen the Space They Need

It’s not easy as a parent or guardian to witness your teenager struggling with their emotions, but allowing them to solve their problems will help them take another step towards independence. 

Most teens I have met share the same need for the space to contemplate and think independently. Sometimes, they might have trouble admitting that they need your help. What’s great about providing your teenager with space is that they know they can reach you at any time they need. This will be due to the trust and communication that you have built up earlier.

Don’t push whenever they say “stop” or say they aren’t interested in discussing it now, but ultimately you, as a great parent, should be able to tell when to step in even if they are not asking; it all rooted in building open and honest communication and respecting boundaries.

Ask Your Teen Directly How You Can Help

Teens usually know how they would like to be assisted, but you might be pleasantly shocked by their responses. Most of the time, they’re not searching for solutions but, instead, a space to be acknowledged. Sometimes, they simply would like to hug someone and be assured that their emotions will ease or be acknowledged. Sometimes, they have to drive around with you and pick up some snacks. It’s perfectly normal for your teenager not to know how they can be helped.

Don’t be afraid to take the initiative to start challenging discussions regarding mental health. You can tell your teenager what you did to handle the same situation at the time you were their age.

Even though the situation you faced was dealt with differently, you can tell us your thoughts on how you would have dealt with it differently based on what you know today.

Try Journaling to Express Thoughts and Feelings

Your child may be practicing this independently, but invite them to consider using a journal to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas; this is an excellent mindfulness practice. Journaling looks different for everyone, so let your teen develop an individual style of their own. Help them purchase journals or self-help journals with prompts.

Another significant issue is privacy and space, particularly concerning journals. Give your teenager the right to share what they’ve drawn or written, but only if they want to share it – no looking!

It’s recommended that everyone have an outlet that allows them to keep emotions out of the way, which is why journaling is among the most effective ways to do this.

Keep It Real

Teenagers are at the point when many of their childhood dreams and fantasies are no longer feasible. Teens have an increased awareness of reality and are able to discern the adults who try to conceal details from them. Most of the time, adults use this tactic to “protect” their children, but most likely, teenagers are aware. They are no longer as naive as they once were, and the less you try to hide from them, the better.

Of course, having boundaries is equally important; as their parent or guardian, your responsibility isn’t to be their best friend but someone they can count on. 

Sugar coating and band-aids are no longer quick fixes for heartbreak or stress relief.

Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude

It is likely that your teen feels down in one aspect of their life. It could be a feeling of insecurity regarding their appearance, relationships, their grades, or even the relationship they have with their families. It will help a lot if you spend a few minutes every day to remind your teenager how important they are to you.

If your goal is to express your gratitude and appreciation, take the time to express your appreciation. Don’t assume your teen knows how much you cherish and appreciate them.

There’s more to be proud of than a few good grades at school.

Remember That It Isn’t Personal

Try to avoid getting yourself into trouble when it comes to the role of parent. Your child will likely experience “low blows” or “painful pokes” that strike home. However, be aware that this can be one of the most confusing and challenging aspects of your child’s existence. How you handle teens’ angst is vital to your relationship throughout their lives as they transition into adulthood.

Maintaining healthy boundaries and letting things go is good for you and your teenager’s mental health. Taking it personally will only build resentment toward your teen.

Offer your teen and you the same respect by using affirmations that can help you remain relaxed and keep healthy boundaries. Try repeating the following phrases, “I know in my heart that my teen appreciates and cherishes me. I am confident that they’re not out to hurt me.” “I prefer to release the painful and hurtful things they’ve said about me and won’t consider it a personal attack.”

Have a YES day

Similar to creating time for your teenager, set aside a day when you can say “yes” to nearly everything your teenager wants to do. You might be amazed by what your teenager says they want to do. Letting your teen decide the activities you and your partner do throughout the day could be a delightful and stimulating method of gaining insight into your teen’s preferences and decisions.

There might be a few restrictions and guidelines regarding what they can or cannot request, and you should create an expense plan for the amount they can spend and how far they can go. The goal is to let your teenager be free, safe, and feel supported as always.

Open Door and Code Words

One of the most important ways to help your child is to establish an “open door policy” that allows them to feel at ease coming to you to discuss issues they are struggling with. The more trust they build in you, the safer they will be from risky or dangerous situations.

There is also the option of having an identifier or a phrase that your child can use in a group or in situations where they are uncomfortable. The no-questions-asked, no-lecture agreement often accompanies this. Knowing that they won’t be bombarded by questions or lectures is likely to encourage them to seek out and solicit assistance when they need it the most. Your teen will likely be honest with you about the incident which led them to use the word “code,” and it’s likely that they’re exercising good judgment by asking for assistance.

It can be challenging not to ask any questions or restrict the duration of the class. Still, it is essential to establish trust and keep the environment of open doors that you’re trying to establish.


Read More: Asocial Vs. Antisocial Behavior: Understanding the Differences

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Read More: How to Build Effective Communication skills


Teen Angst Is Part of Growing Up

It is likely that your teenager’s mood swings are a typical phase of becoming an adult. They require time to question their beliefs and yours to determine the person they truly are and want to be. This can be difficult both for them and you.

If you view anxiety as a normal aspect of life and work through it, you can transform this time of stress into something that strengthens your relationship.

It doesn’t mean that your teenager would not benefit from professional assistance from a therapist who can understand teenagers’ anxiety and will assist in navigating through the process.

Treatment for Depression and Anxiety in Teenagers

Most of the time, individuals seek professional assistance as the last option for solving their issues. The good news is you and your teenager do not have to wait until they are at rock bottom to seek help. The earlier you and your teenager start talking about and discussing solutions to stressors or problems more quickly everyone can feel better.

As a parent, you need to provide some space for children to develop and grow into an adult. If, however, teenage anxiety becomes more severe and more destructive, it’s time to seek the help of an expert. If it seems that your child is unable to shake off the emotions for longer than two weeks, or when the despair makes them feel extremely weighty, to the point that even the smallest tasks require an immense amount of effort, they’ll benefit from professional help.

Also, suppose it seems that your child is totally detached from reality, not recognizable to themselves or the people around them, and is unable to stand being around other people or doing things they’ve previously enjoyed. In that case, these are certainly issues that you and your teenager need to tackle sooner instead of later and with the help of professionals.

Conclusion

Tell your teenager how much you cherish them and that you’re always available to support them whenever they need help.

Tell your teenager that, even though feeling depressed or anxious may be unsettling, they’re not alone. If you’re at ease and open about mental health, the better chances for trust to be established. That being said, as a parent, it is essential not to trust your teen to be your own personal therapist or listening ear. Be sure that as a parent or guardian, you have a support system; do not make your child your support system. Finding a therapist or a safe space to talk is equally important to you!

Teen Angst: Is It Normal?

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