Emotional Problems

Teen Stress

Stress is a natural feeling when something important is on the line. In such circumstances, stress can assist with focus and provide energy for the task to be done or the situation to be dealt with. With the situation resolved, the stress dies out.

But not all stress is healthy stress: stress can get out of hand. Understanding teen stress can help identify and help a teen whose stress has gotten out of control.

Causes of Teen Stress

Teen stress can come from many different areas: it depends on what contexts the child moves in and what the expectations are for him or her. Here are some causes of teen stress.

• The Changes of Adolescence—Developing faster or slower than most of one’s friends can cause tensions because the teenage years are a time when being like others and liked by others is so important. As the teen transitions and hormone changes take place, teens can be stressed by feeling out of control and losing a sense of self.

• Family Issues—Tensions between parents, separation or divorce, parental infidelity, alcoholism or drug abuse in the family, poverty, or parents who are not involved with their children’s lives may all cause stress for teens. If a child is being verbally or physically abused or is a victim on incest, stress will be only one facet of a much larger set of issues.

Another family issue that causes teen stress is parents living vicariously through their children. When children have to not only fulfill their own dreams but have all their family’s hopes resting on their shoulders, this can weigh heavily on them.

• School—For students who have difficulty in school, whether or not they have a learning disability, school can cause a lot of stress. For students who aspire to goals beyond school that depend on excellent grades may also feel very pressured.

• Social Issues—The ins and outs of friendship and dating often cause stress for teens. Hoping for acceptance, and even love, and trying to balance one’s own developing personality with other teen’s perceptions and expectations is challenging. Teens worry not only about their own problems, but about their friends’ problems, and this can cause stress. If a teen is bullied, whether in person or via cyberbullying, this is likely to cause both stress and distress. Having an argument with someone can also cause stress.

• College Applications—The whole future lies open before the teen graduating high school, but so does the task of persuading a college to help the teen get there. This is a critical activity, and one for which many teens feel unprepared. The long waiting period for replies causes stress for both teens and their parents.

• Transition—All the transitions of adolescence can cause stress. From making the transition to high school to learning to drive to holding down one’s first job to—in many cases—sharing a room with a stranger when starting college and dealing with the increased responsibility to moving to a different city or town to the pile of responsibilities that fall on a teen’s shoulders when they turn 18 even the normal, expected transitions of adolescence can cause teen stress.

• Fear—Living in a neighborhood with a high crime rate or a drug problem, or living in a generally safe neighborhood, but having been mugged or robbed can cause fear, and fear causes stress.

• Sorrow—The loss of a loved person or a pet can lead to both grief and stress.

• Responsibility—Having to care for others when one is still growing up oneself can cause stress. This can result from caring for younger siblings, a disabled or substance abusing parent, or a failing grandparent.

Signs and Symptoms of Teen Stress

People young and old react differently to stress. Some get physical symptoms like diarrhea and tension headaches, while others show it in their mood, growing snappy or withdrawn or angry. Teens may develop healthy coping strategies on their own or need help to direct their activities when they feel stress. For example, temporary avoidance of something that is stressful could be taking a break from a difficult problem set in math to shift focus. Long-term avoidance may lead to failing to hand in the assignment on time. Even though the same strategy is employed, in the first case it is useful, but in the second, detrimental.

Other signs of teen stress include withdrawal; crying; picking fights; loss of focus and diminishing accomplishment;, change in eating or sleeping patterns, particularly loss of appetite and disturbed sleep; moodiness or anger. Extreme stress can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Help for Teen Stress

The first level of help for teen stress is simply having a way to express what is going on. This means both having language to name the feelings and having a safe place to vent one’s feelings. The first can be gained most easily from parents who discuss their feelings openly, telling their children when they feel stressed and, as appropriate why, and what they do about it. The second can be provided by a parent, sibling, friend, mentor, or even a journal or diary that the teens knows is a private place for reflection.

Certain activities may help relieve stress. Playing a sport can help, but so can other physical activities that one can do alone, like practicing a tennis serve, or just throwing a ball against a wall. Distraction can also help, whether playing a video game or something else that requires concentration, like chess.

Sometimes professional help is needed. This may start with the child’s pediatrician or school guidance counselor. For stress issues that are not responding, a therapist may be the next step.


Confronting Teen Stress

Emotional Problems

Teen Suicide

This page has statistics on teen suicide as well as general suicide statistics. We are trying to educate the public about the teen suicide warning signs. We will be adding more teen suicide prevention resources very soon. If you know someone who exhibits teenage suicide warning signs – please call a suicide hotline ASAP! 1-800-273-8255

Teen Suicide Deaths, U.S., 2001

Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.

It was the 8th leading cause of death for males, and 19th leading cause of death for females.

The total number of suicide deaths was 30,622.

The 2001 age-adjusted rate** was 10.7/100,000 or 0.01%.

1.3% of total deaths were from suicide. By contrast, 29% were from diseases of the heart, 23% were from malignant neoplasms (cancer), and 6.8% were from cerebrovascular disease (stroke) – the three leading causes.

Suicides outnumbered homicides (20,308) by 3 to 2.

There were twice as many deaths due to suicide than deaths due to HIV/AIDS (14,175).

Suicide by firearms was the most common method for both men and women, accounting for 55% of all suicides.

More men than women die by suicide.

The gender ratio is 4:1.

73% of all suicide deaths are white males.

80% of all firearm suicide deaths are white males.

Among the highest rates (when categorized by gender and race) are suicide deaths for white men over 85, who had a rate of 54/100,000.

Teen suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death among young adults and adolescents 15 to 24 years of age, following unintentional injuries and homicide. The rate was 9.9/100,000 or .01%.

The adolescent suicide rate among youth ages 10-14 was 1.3/100,000 or 272 deaths among 20,910,440 children in this age group. The gender ratio for this age group was 3:1 (males: females).

The teen suicide rate among youth aged 15-19 was 7.9/100,000 or 1,611 deaths among 20,271,312 teenagers in this age group. The gender ratio for teenage group was 5:1 (males: females).

Among young people 20 to 24 years of age, the youth suicide rate was 12/100,000 or 2,360 deaths among 19,711,423 people in this age group. The gender ratio for this age group was 7:1 (males: females).

Attempted Teenage Suicides
No annual national data on all attempted teenage suicides are available.
Other research indicates that:
There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for each teen suicide death; the ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and the elderly.
More women than men report a history of attempted suicide, with a gender ratio of 3:1.
Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warnings.

Pay attention to these teen suicide warning signs: 
Suicide threats, direct and indirect
Teen depression
Obsession with death
Poems, essays and drawings that refer to death
Dramatic change in personality or appearance
Irrational, bizarre behavior
Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or reflection
Changed eating or sleeping patterns
Severe drop in school performance
Giving away belongings

Parenting Articles

Preteen Help

Preteens, children aged 9 to 12 and also called preadolescents, can have many of the same issues as adolescents, but because of their age and stage of development, a different approach than that used with adolescents may be more fruitful. For that reason as well as because the influence of older kids with the same problem may not be conducive to recovery, preteen help is offer provided separately from help for teens by organizations that assist both children of both age ranges.

There are a variety of issues that can affect preteens to the point that their parents seek help for them and a variety of types of help. Matching the assistance to the issue starts with a clear identification of what the issue is, if the root cause is not clear.

Because health issues and mental health issues can have so many and so varied results, from bad moods to failing grades to acting out to defiant behavior, it’s always a good idea to have a preteen seen by his or her pediatrician when a problem arises without a clear cause.

If a child’s pet dies, and the child acts moody and sad for several weeks, parents can feel fairly certain about the cause. But things are not always so clear-cut. Nutritional issues, a mood disorder, or a debilitating physical condition can have results that look like an attitude problem, and jumping to a conclusion about the origins of what looks like laziness, uncooperativeness, or moodiness could lead punishments or other actions that a parent would later regret when the true source of the problem became known.

You can alert the pediatrician in advance to the issue in order not to have to discuss it in front of the child. Even if the cause is not a matter of physical or mental health, but something like bullying, an experienced pediatrician with whom the preteen is familiar may be able to get an explanation from the child.

Types of Preteen Issues

Here is an overview of some of the types of issues for which a parent might wish to seek assistance for a preteen:

• dramatic change in mood or demeanor
• social withdrawal
• trouble sleeping
• change in appetite
• insufficiently explained injuries
• smelling of alcohol or tobacco
• sudden desire for privacy and secretive behavior
• unexpected failures to be where he or she says he will be when he or she has promised to be there
• a sudden change in dress in which the child’s body is quite a bit more or less covered than it used to be or in which style of dress or any slogans on clothes are worrisome
• dramatic change in the amount of time spent texting or using technology, including the telephone
• objects or clothes in your child’s possession that you didn’t purchase and that he or she cannot satisfactorily explain the origins of
• behavior that leads you to believe you are not being told the truth
• breaking of house rules with insouciance
• the presence of any clues of sexual activity
• reports from teachers that do not match the attention to schoolwork that you are seeing at home
• obvious difficulty in completing school assignments

Usually, the first step is a conversation with the preteen about the change or behavior that you’ve noticed. There may be a perfectly legitimate explanation and the behavior may be passing. It may also have a health-related source, as noted below. It may be something you can deal with as a family, or something for which you need or want outside help. If you do want outside help, keep reading.

Types of Help for Preteens

Besides your preteen’s pediatrician, these are some other sources of help for preteens:

• the preteen’s guidance counselor
• the school special education teacher
• the school psychologist
• a social worker
• your minister, priest, rabbi, or other spiritual counselor
• a leader of any organization your child attends regularly, such as a coach, mentor, or scout leader
• a therapist, such as a cognitive behavioral therapist
• a psychologist
• a psychiatrist
• organizations that provide counseling and education and healthcare, alone or in combination:

  • hospitals
  • boarding schools
  • residential treatment centers
  • outdoor therapeutic programs
  • specialty psychiatric and behavioral hospitals
  • wilderness programs
  • small residential programs
Emotional Problems

Self Esteem

One of the issues that can affect teenagers is that of self esteem. Self esteem refers to how one feels about him or herself. Also, it refers to how you think others feel about you. Do you think they like you? Or do you feel like no one values you? There are different factors that go into self esteem, and for teenagers these factors often make a bigger difference. Low teen self esteem can lead to sexual activity (sometimes resulting in teen pregnancy), depression and even suicide. It is important to recognize that teenagers need to feel valued and loved.

Why teen self esteem is important

It may seem unimportant to worry about teen self esteem, but in reality, it can set the stage for one’s entire life. According to a questionnaire given to 90,000 students in grades 7-12, self esteem helps teens deal with emotional stress. Additionally, having good self esteem correlates with success later in life – mainly because good grades and confidence can allow a teen to start out with scholarships and other opportunities.

Self esteem is also important when it comes to making good choices. Teen pregnancy statistics show time and time again that girls who engage in unprotected sex often have lower self esteem than their counterparts. Other decisions, such as those regarding risky behavior and use of illegal drugs, can result from low teen self esteem.

Finally poor teen self esteem can lead to emotional and mental issues. Depression can stem from feeling as though you are not good enough. In some cases, teenagers who cannot overcome their feelings of hopelessness and low self esteem resort to suicide.

What causes low self esteem?

There are many factors that can contribute to a teen having low self esteem. Here are some of the factors that may contribute to teen self esteem problems:

  • Appearance (self image). It may seem shallow, but most teenagers are concerned to some degree about their appearance. This can be difficult to overcome, because in some cases it can be difficult to change one’s appearance. Overweight teens often feel bad about themselves, as do teens that think that there is some sort of irregularity with the way they look.
  • Peers. Teenagers may have peers that make fun of them or put them down. If a teen feels like an outcast, it can have an effect on his or her self esteem.
  • Parents. Sometimes parents or other authority figures put teens down and cause self esteem problems. Parents, coaches and teachers who always criticize can make a teenager feel as though he or she never does anything right, and is never valued. Such constant criticism may cause him or her to feel unloved.
  • Unrealistic expectations. We all want to live up to our potential. But sometimes teenagers feel pressures from unrealistic expectations. Parents and teachers may expect too much of them. Often, a teen can develop low self esteem because he or she is not “living up” to the expectations that one sets for oneself. A teenager can, at some times, be his or her own hardest critic. 

Helping your teen overcome low self esteem

You want to help your teenager overcome low self esteem. This means that you may need to make changes yourself. Look at your behavior, and determine if there is something you can do differently. Teens need to be corrected, but are you always criticizing? Try to say at least one positive thing for each negative thing you say.

If there is an appearance issue, encourage your teenager, if reasonable. If your teen is overweight, this can be done by exercising with him or her and encouraging him or her to lose weight for health reasons. Do not point to the appearance issue in such cases. Instead, focus on the health aspects of the change. If the appearance issue is something that can’t be changed, help your teen gain an acceptance for it. This may require counseling, especially if the issue is of a recent development, as from an accident.

You can also talk to your teenager about failure. Make sure that you don’t express excessive disappointment when your teen does not perform to your expectations. Instead, praise the effort and encourage him or her to work harder next time. Explain that mistakes should be viewed as chances to learn and grow, rather than a measure of one’s worth.

There is a fine line between giving your teen a false sense of complacency and feelings of entitlement and self esteem. But if you are careful, you should be able to help your teenager develop a healthy attitude toward him or herself.

Parenting Articles

Driving Contracts

What are Teen Driving Contracts?

These are agreements used by parents of teen drivers that clearly define rules and consequences. The rules can range from a curfew time, drug/alcohol use while driving, and/or driving behaviors/habits.

Why do Teen Drivers Need Contracts?

Teenagers sometimes make very poor choices without thinking about the consequences. In the case of making a poor choice while driving can result in bodily injury, property damage, and obviously – death. Teen Driving Contracts define these consequences and brings them to the front of the teen’s mind.

Benefits of a driving contract:
1. Better driving habits
2. Reduced risk of accident
3. Less argument when enforcing consequences

Creating a Driving Contract

There are many different methods for making driving contracts. It will take a few hours of well thought out ideas. You will need to make a list of the rules to be made and then a list of consequences if a rule is broken. Always be sure to make rules that you are willing to enforce. If you say you will take the keys away – be prepared to act. If you don’t enforce the agreement – the teen will be less likely to live up to it. After writing out the teen driving contract and discussing them with your teen you should both sign them. Make a copy for your teen so they can have to review later or you can even make a short list of the rules and post them in the car.

Buying a Teen Driving Contract

If you don’t have the time or ideas it takes to create a driving contract there are many services and products available on the internet for under $20. We recommend – they offer many behavior contracts with a teen driver contract bundled in the package. The contract may be used together or separately from the other agreements.

In our opinion, all teen drivers should be required to sign a driving contract. Rules and consequences must be discussed before the teenager ever starts to drive.

Mental Health

Teen Depression

What is Teen Depression?

Most of us feel sad or unhappy at various times in our life, but teenage depression that extends for a longer lengths of time (usually more than 2 weeks) and that interferes with our daily life is considered to be major depression. This type of teen depression is one that isn’t to be taken lightly and should be treated as early as possible to prevent further problems.

Studies and statistics show that approximately 1 in 8 adolescents may be suffering from depression, a very scary statistic. Even more frightening is that only about 30% of these children who are suffering emotional/mental turmoil are receiving any treatment for it.(1)

Many teens have mood swings or are quick to express anger, but how do you distinguish between normal teenage angst and a more serious problem?

Teenage Depression Warning Signs

Although at times teens will normally go through some of these following signs, when they occur alone for extended periods of time and/or occur in conjunction with each other it’s important to look at what may be causing them.

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sluggishness (less active)
  • Substance abuse
  • Spending more time alone (this includes time alone from you as parents and time away from their regular friends)
  • Decrease in desire to do things they used to like to do (sports, activities, hobbies)
  • Physical ailments (headaches, appetite problems, sleeping problems)
  • Problems in school (falling grades, getting into trouble, not paying attention in class)
  • Talking about death or suicide (never to be taken lightly)
  • Not caring about appearance
  • Running away from home
  • Blaming self for things that are not their fault
  • Unable to concentrate and/or make decisions

Who’s At Risk for Teen Depression? 

Every teen is at risk in developing major teen depression, but there are certain groups of individuals that are more prone to this type of disorder.

  • Females are more likely to develop adolescent depression than males (about 2x more often)
  • Abused/neglected individuals
  • Children that have or have had long-term/chronic illnesses
  • Teens that have a family history of depression or other mood disorders
  • Teens with family disruptions at home (divorce, death in family, etc)
  • Teens with low self-esteem

Adolescent Depression Treatment Options

Depending on the degree of depression your teen is determined to have, there are several forms of treatment that are available. Only a mental health professional is qualified to determine what would be the best course of treatment for your child. All types of treatment can take place either at home and/or in a residential setting.

  • Medicine (anti-depressants – usually used in addition to other forms of therapy)
  • Individual Therapy -Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – helps to teach healthy ways of thinking
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy – helps to determine interpersonal issues/situations that may be the cause of the depression
  • Group Therapy – individuals with the same affliction meet together to discuss their problems and in turn help each other through their situations

Major adolescent depression, if left untreated, will rarely go away on it’s own. Relapses are extremely common and should always be prevented. Other forms of mental health illnesses are more common as well in depressed teens. If teens are left without help, they may decide to take things into their own hands. They can turn to alcohol and/or drug abuse to help make their pain go away. At it’s worst, teen depression can lead to suicide. According to, teen suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. We must all do our part in preventing these outcomes as best we can. Early intervention is key. Watch for those warning signs and if observed, seek the necessary help right away.

Teen Depression Sources:

Parenting Articles

Teen Counseling

The teenage years are challenging for teens and their parents. Teens face many new pressures and may not always react in the healthiest ways to the problems they encounter. In some cases, teens may need counseling to help them cope with their problems. Parents should know the danger signs to look for and how to find a counselor if their teen needs one.

Some of the struggles teens face are a normal part of growing up, like dealing with peer groups, experimenting with new ideas, and going through changes in mood, identity, and interests. Parents can help their teens through some of these issues by talking to them, being patient with them, and creating an environment that is structured and supportive.

Problems that teens and their parents may need a teen counselor’s help to handle include:

  • Changes in family life, like moving, divorce, or a death or serious illness in the family
  • The loss of a close friend or girl or boyfriend through death, a breakup of the relationship, or moving
  • Developing an illness or disability
  • Any kind of substance abuse or addiction
  • Bullying or abuse
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Tragic events in the community or the world 

While some teens can cope with these events better than others, almost all teens will benefit from talking to a counselor about them. Sometimes a teen’s behavior will indicate that there is a serious problem that requires teen therapy. Some of these negative behaviors are:

  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors. These may include talking, joking, drawing, or writing about suicide or death, giving away cherished possessions, or expressing feelings that they are worthless or that things would be better without them. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, call 911 or a suicide hotline or get medical help immediately.
  • Symptoms of depression, like being withdrawn, lack of appetite, sleeping very little or more than 9 hours per night, loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, neglecting personal hygiene, or crying for no reason or seeming sad for longer than two weeks.
  • Violent behavior, harming or threatening to harm themselves or others, including animals
  • Suddenly gaining or losing a lot of weight, which could indicate a life-threatening eating disorder
  • Extreme, rapid changes in moods or personality, or drastic changes that last more than six weeks
  • Running away from home
  • Illegal activities
  • Behavior problems at school
  • Using tobacco, drugs, or alcohol
  • A sudden change in friends
  • Risky sexual behavior or sexual promiscuity
  • Other risky or dangerous behavior
  • Noticeable changes in school performance or attendance 

Teens who exhibit any of these signs should be taken to a doctor to check for medical conditions that may lead to negative behaviors. A stay in the hospital may be necessary for a teen who is suicidal or experiencing severe medical problems. Therapy and counseling is an important part of treating these problems. Individual or group therapy can help teens to:

  • Understand why their behaviors are negative, and how to cope better
  • Recognize and change negative thoughts that may cause or trigger their behaviors
  • Find better ways to solve problems
  • Learn better social skills 

Doctors or schools can usually recommend a therapist, or parents can talk to other parents or look in the phone book for counselors. In the teen is not covered by insurance, a school counselor or a therapist at a local clinic can usually provide free or inexpensive counseling.

The different types of therapists who can counsel teens are:

  • Adolescent Psychiatrists – medical doctors trained to deal with mental illnesses and prescribe medications
  • Adolescent Psychologists – professionals trained to help people with mental illnesses; they can prescribe medications in some states
  • Social workers – professionals who help counsel and guide people with problems
  • Licensed mental health counselors – therapists who have studied how to provide teen therapy
  • Psychiatric nurses – registered nurses with special training in counseling 

Regardless of the type of counselor a teen sees, make sure that the counselor is licensed, has experience treating teens in similar situations, and is someone the teen and his or her parents feel comfortable with.

There are several types of adolescent counseling that may benefit troubled teens:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens reduce their negative thought patterns and increase positive behaviors.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on how the teen relates to other people.
  • Problem-solving therapy teaches teens positive ways to cope with their problems.
  • Group therapy allows teens to meet with others who have similar issues and talk about their problems under the supervision of a counselor. Online therapy groups are not recommended for teens because they are often not well monitored and can have negative results.
  • Family therapy is also beneficial in helping teens and their families understand and deal with teen problems. 

Some teen counselors may recommend medications to help teens, especially if the teen has a physical or mental illness. Though medications improve the quality of life of many teens, medications may have negative side effects that parents should be watchful for, especially suicidal behaviors.

In severe cases, teen counselors may recommend alternative therapies, but the long-term effects of alternative treatments may be dangerous for teens. Teens and their parents should try to find out all they can about alternative treatments before trying them, and need to inform their therapist of any treatments they want to try on their own.

Teen Counseling and Teen Therapy Sources:
WebMD, Growth and Development, Ages 15 to 18 – When to Call a Doctor [online], Depression in Childhood and Adolescence [online]
Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth for Parents, Emotions and Behavior [online] from the Nemours Foundation, Understanding Depression [online]
Parents: The Anti-Drug [online]
U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, Depression signs in Teenagers [online]
Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, A Family Guide, Keeping Youth Mentally Healthy and Drug Free, Depression Hurts [online]