How to Deal with Teenage Stress & Depression

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Stress and depression affect millions of teenagers today, and it's important to become familiar with coping strategies that can help teens deal with these issues. This lesson will provide information on managing teen stress and depression.

Stressed Out!

Rebecca is a 17-year-old high school junior who is having a tough time in her calculus class. She is determined to do well, but no matter how much she studies has difficulty understanding the material. She is becoming increasingly frustrated and frequently engages in negative self talk. She feels stupid and is anxious and worried about passing the class.

Teenage Stress

The stress and overwhelming feelings that Rebecca is experiencing is a normal reaction that many teenagers experience for many different reasons. Simply stated, stress occurs when we view an event as threatening us in some way. The threat might be real, such as when someone is chasing us with an intent to do us harm, or it might be perceived meaning that others may not view it as terribly threatening, but for some reason we do. Some of the major causes of stress identified by teens include:

  • Relationships
  • School work and tests
  • Worries about the future
  • Time management
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Juggling jobs with school

Stress can be adaptive or maladaptive. Adaptive stress is stress that can be considered positive. For example, a teen who is stressed about taking a chemistry exam may actually feel as though they need to study harder and, as a result, earn a higher grade. Stress can help us become more focused and increase awareness of our surroundings, which is good when it happens for a valid reason, but not when it occurs over a prolonged period of time. Maladaptive stress is stress that occurs over minor events and persists over time. This type of stress can lead to both physical and psychological consequences including depression.

Teenage Depression

Teenage depression is a serious psychological disorder that can arise when stress is left unchecked and unmanaged. The following symptoms are often seen in teens that may be suffering from depression:

  • General disinterest in what's going on around them
  • Increased sleeping
  • Social isolation
  • Persistent sadness
  • Frequent headaches or complaints about other physical ailments
  • Lack of appetite or increased appetite
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor academic performance
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors like cutting
  • Suicidal thoughts

If teenage depression is suspected, a medical professional should be consulted as soon as possible so that an official diagnosis can be made and appropriate interventions can be determined.

Coping Strategies for Teenage Stress and Depression

According to the American Psychological Association, almost half of all teens report that they don't know how to cope with stressors; stressors that have the potential to leading to depression. The following are some ways teens can deal with stress and depression and keep things under control:

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