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The teen stereotype is a stressor

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Julia Miller, Santa Fe Staff Writer

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Many people notoriously stereotype teenagers as demanding young people constantly displaying emotional outbreaks, capricious mood swings, and overall gloomy dispositions. However, the American Psychological Association (APA) asserts that these teenagers are at real risk and these dramatic behaviors are anything but healthy (apa.org).

Teen stress manifests itself through a variety of signs. Some of these signs include heightened or volatile emotions, disrupted sleeping patterns, altered eating habits or risky conduct, including the initiation of poor or rash decisions (kidshealth.org). Failing to identify these signs, says the APA, can prove dangerous. Parental guidance can help teenagers manage high stress levels and return to normal behaviors but neglecting them can stimulate further mental negativity and sometimes even physical self-infliction.

Although people often attribute such behaviors to an underdeveloped teen brain, these behaviors may point to an acute health issue plaguing the mental state of teenagers. Severe stress is more than just a brief flicker of worry—it is a deep and constant anxiety that reflects itself in daily patterns through erratic irregularities. Attributing harmful behaviors to an underdeveloped brain may prevent the emergence of the real issue afflicting teenagers.

However, stress is not an issue that forms suddenly and without warning; more often, the development of heightened stress is a gradual process that stimulates from a traumatic or difficult experience or series of experiences. These experiences can “trigger” stress in teens and result in irregular attitudes or actions. The loss of a loved one or the painful divorce of one’s parents are examples of such triggers. In contrast, triggers can also involve more personal issues that specifically target the teen, like a mental condition.

Conversely, teen stress can indicate itself on a much more subtle scale. The mundane aspects of a teen’s life can contribute to stress as well, although not to such a grand extent. Teen students sometimes demonstrate this as they struggle throughout high school (npr.org). Some students concern themselves with schoolwork in order to perfect their grade point averages (GPAs), fixating on academic matters until they feel like they are drowning under the pressure of maintaining flawless grades in college-level advanced classes. Additionally, this pressure transfers to teen students’ home lives as they take out their frustration on family members. Once this problem escalates, this kind of fixation can lead to symptoms that reflect the signs of severe teen stress.

As seen in the lives of many teenagers, teen stress does not simply disappear; leaving the issue alone may only worsen the problem, as uncontrollable factors in a teen’s life can manufacture more stress. Identifying the problem is the first step to relieving the stress. Once one recognizes the problem, one can then make measures to decrease stress-causing factors (npr.org). Some parents encourage teens to do only what they can handle as individuals—which may mean limiting the number of AP classes they take.

Conclusively, teen stress is a health issue that some researchers have confronted but many continue to omit. As researchers uncover more information regarding teen stress, parents can focus instead on fixing the underlying issue rather than excusing unhealthy behavior with the teen stereotype.

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