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Emotional Health in Adolescence: Definition & Changes

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura has taught at the secondary and tertiary levels for 20+ years and has a Ph.D. in Instructional Design for Online Learning.

In this lesson, we will define what it means to be emotionally healthy, discuss emotional changes that take place during adolescence, and look at unhealthy emotional issues which might merit consulting a professional.

Emotional Health

If you were to do an Internet search of the term emotional health, you would probably get over a million hits, all with slightly different definitions. Basically, though, emotional health is a measurement of how relaxed and secure you feel in everyday life - in other words, how 'ready' you are to deal with whatever life may throw at you.

We know that adolescence, or the years between about 12 and 18, are a time when kids' bodies and minds undergo tremendous changes. In this lesson, we will first explore what some of those changes are, and then we will discuss the signs of unhealthy emotional stages where a teacher or parent might want to seek help for the teenager in question.

Emotional Changes During Adolescence

During the pre-teen and teen years, LOTS and LOTS of changes take place in kids, mentally as well as physically. Let's look at some of the emotional changes that happen:

  • It is entirely normal for an adolescent to become very self-conscious. In other words, she may begin to care a great deal about what she looks like, what others think of her, and if that secret she just whispered to her best friend sounded 'stupid.' Teenagers often compare themselves (especially physically) to others their age. This probably explains why most adolescents want to dress and talk exactly the same way their friends do.
  • Adolescents are also much more sensitive, and this is quite normal as well. It is common, at this age, for kids to be very attuned the facial expressions, body language, or voice tones of others. While they are learning to figure out these various cues, they may even misread someone's expressions or tone of voice.
  • And let's not forget the mood swings, or the extreme highs and lows. If you are a parent or a teacher who works with teenagers, you may feel as if your teens go from very high to very low to very high again, often multiple times within the same day! Relax... this is also normal. Basically, at this stage, kids' brains are learning to process and control emotions in a more grown-up way, and it is expected that these 'glitches' will happen.
  • Finally, many adolescents go through stages where they feel that they are invincible, or that nothing bad will ever happen to them. While it can be fun to feel 'ten feet tall and bulletproof,' acting on this behavior is sometimes not a good idea and can lead to problems.

Recognizing Unhealthy Emotional Displays

So... how do you know, exactly, when 'normal' isn't normal?

Good question.

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