What Causes Disappointment & Distress for Teens?

The teen years are filled with inevitable ups and downs. Most teens are exposed to a variety of stressors that can result in disappointment and feelings of distress. Too much stress can lead to reduced motivation, anger, sadness and physical problems, says licensed counselor Raychelle Cassada Lohmann in an article for Psychology Today 1. It's painful to see your teen struggling with these feelings, but you can help your teen cope by learning about some of the common causes of disappointment and distress.

Social Concerns

A certain amount of disappointment and distress due to social concerns is inevitable during the teen years. Peer pressure, dating and friendships are some of the most common causes of distress in teens, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Bullying and rejection by peer groups or romantic partners can cause extreme feelings of distress. When friendships go awry and romantic relationships break up, teens might feel a strong sense of disappointment but more often than not also experience accompanying feelings of grief, loss, frustration and even depression.

Academic Issues

Academic issues are a primary cause of distress and disappointment for many teens, says the AACAP. Teens who don't achieve their full academic potential may become frustrated when they receive poor or failing grades. Similarly, teens who are used to excelling in their courses may feel disappointed and distressed due to the same issues. They may worry about the future and become overwhelmed when thinking about college and careers. Or they may feel distressed because they believe they've disappointed their parents' or their own expectations. And teens with learning disabilities may face a number of additional social and emotional issues that can result in disappointment and distress, says Sheldon H. Horowitz, Director of LD Resources and Essential Information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Family Relationships

Family concerns, especially issues such as divorce, illness of a parent or family member, fighting with siblings or parents or any type of abuse, can be a significant cause of teen distress or disappointment. When parents decide to separate or remarry, teens might not only feel an intense sense of disappointment and loss but also experience accompanying feelings of distress or guilt, according to KidsHealth 2. And the death of a parent is the number one cause of adolescent stress, according to the Adolescent Life Change Event Scale (ALCES), says HealthyChildren.org 3.

Busy Schedules

Juggling academics, family obligations, extracurricular activities and relationships can feel like a full-time job to many teens. Packed schedules and not enough time to have fun and de-stress can feel disappointing and lead to distress, especially when teens need to make compromises between activities. A teen may need to choose between attending a family party and a date with a potential romantic partner, or decide whether to skip an athletic event in order to study. And many teens experience the health consequences of frenetic, jammed schedules, says Dr. Anisha Abraham, chief of adolescent medicine at Georgetown University Hospital in a 2008 interview with "The Washington Post." 4

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