What Are the Causes of Stress Among Teenagers?

The adolescent years are some of the most trying, difficult times in most peoples' lives. Teens face a host of novel problems, challenges and situations that can cause or exacerbate symptoms of stress. While some level of stress can help teens take action or feel motivated, high or poorly managed levels of stress can create potentially serious problems, such as anxiety, withdrawal, aggression or chronic worry, according to Lifespan, an affiliate of the Brown Alpert Medical School. Learning about the common causes of stress might enable parents to help their teens reduce stress and develop better coping strategies.


Teens experience many significant physical changes. Their bodies grow and develop rapidly, and teens deal with hormonal fluctuations. Many teens are preoccupied with their appearance, understandably so. According to the University of Missouri Extension, rapid and sudden growth can lead to problems with coordination, or this rapid growth can lead to nutritional deficiencies 1. Hormonal changes can lead to mood fluctuations, feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. For many teens, dealing with bodily changes and mood swings can be a tremendous source of stress, not only for physical reasons, but also because:

  • teens must adapt their self-image on an ongoing basis
  • as they develop physical
  • emotionally


Another common cause of teen stress is social pressure. Most teens want to fit in with their peer group -- often, desperately so -- and try their hardest to win the approval of their friends and classmates. Teens experience social stress not only from peer pressure but also because they are beginning to date, according to Thomas W. McCormack, M.D., in an article for the Athens Regional Medical Center. Teens may also feel stress because they feel increased social pressure to engage in early sexual behaviors, experiment with smoking, drugs or alcohol, or to participate in other activities they might feel compelled to do -- simply because they want to be accepted into a particular peer group.


Most teens feel that school and academic concerns are at the top of their list of stressors, according to a survey by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation 3. Worries about the future, being accepted to college, attaining good grades, completing homework and preparing for examinations could cause teens to experience inordinate amount of stress. Teens can become stressed because they place too much pressure on themselves to achieve, but they might also feel stress due to parental or teacher expectations.


For many teens, the family can be another source of stress. Family problems such as parents separating or divorcing, death or illness in the family, parents who argue, emotional or physical abuse -- and fighting with siblings can contribute to increased stress levels. In addition, the family might need to move and teens might need to change schools; parents’ job transfers or relocation can be one of the most stressful events in a teen's life, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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