If you thought only adults have stressful lives, you’d be shocked to know that India has one of the highest suicide rates for people between the ages of 15 to 29.
Teen stress is a widespread and also a severe health issue. It is the stage in life when there are so many changes happening – emotional, physical and intellectual. There are significant life decisions to be made, and the weight of that itself can cause tremendous stress. Unfortunately, that same stress can have numerous long-term consequences. Before we find out what they are, let’s look at some of the main reasons for stress.
Common triggers of stress in Teens
- Academic Pressure
The most common cause of stress is the pressure from parents, peers and teachers to do well in the board exams. Tenth and twelfth exams are crucial because college, streams and even employment opportunities all seem to depend on these. It is why students between 16 and 18 years of age are subject to unnecessary pressure from home to do well. Unfortunately, many of them crumble under the pressure and some resort to suicide. In 2013, 2,471 suicides were ascribed to “failure in examination.”
- Less recreation and socialisation
Because of the focus on better grades, students spend less time socialising and engaging in recreational activities – both are an essential part of development. Their entire self-worth is based on their grades and ranking. Also, this takes the fun out of learning as they study only to get better marks.
- Peer pressure
Adolescence is the stage when teens try to build their identity. It can make them try new things like drinking or smoking. They want to develop an attractive social image and then maintain it.
- Dealing with Change
At this stage of life, numerous changes are happening. Students change schools, have to make new friends, might go to a new city for further studies, etc. Apart from these, there are the changes the body goes through as well.
- Relationships and social conflicts
During the teenage years, close friendships and possible romantic bonds are formed. It means lots of excitement, jealousy, sadness, conflict, misunderstandings, etc. At this age, all these new feelings can confuse, leading to stress.
Children who face some form of social conflict as teenagers have been reported to have higher levels of interleukin-6, a protein that’s associated with the development of arthritis, cancerous tumours and various other problems related to ageing when they become adults.
The symptoms might include trouble-concentrating, lack of sleep, social withdrawal, being easily irritable and low self-esteem. As parents, it’s important to keep a lookout for early signs and remember not to trivialise our teenager’s issues. What you might think of as them being over-dramatic might be a call for help. You might think they will get over it or grow up, but the experiences and struggles felt at this time usually stick and can cause problems later in life.
Studies show that many adult illnesses and diseases have their origins in adolescence. Stress eating and unhealthy habits like consuming too much junk food at this stage can lead to obesity in adults and other health issues.
The World Health Organization predicts that mental health problems among children and adolescents will increase up to 50% by the year 2020. What’s even scarier is that only one out of five adolescents with mental health issues receives proper treatment. Anxiety and increased levels of stress can lead to a constant feeling of low energy or depression that continue into adulthood.
The continuous existence of stress hormones can alter certain aspects of the nervous system. It can affect the ability to remember, the ability to pay attention and the ability to solve problems or using judgement.
Personality changes and social impact
Teens who are stressed can experience personality changes like irritability, anger, frustration, communication problems, social withdrawal, impulsive behaviour, etc. They can also cut off from people. The exposure to extreme stress during adolescence (or any time in life) can cause the mind and body to become hyper-responsive and hypersensitive to any future stressors. It results in individuals who are very sensitive to perceived threats, and who usually overreact to minor risks that others might not even notice.
Though some stress is unavoidable and a part of growing up, all the evidence proves that chronic stress during adolescences has short and long-term consequences that cannot be ignored.
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