Loud Sighs, Eyerolls, and Frustration: Understanding Teen Angst
We’ve all been there, the unexplained feelings of frustration, bursts of mild anger, and constantly doubting that anyone understands you. Being a teen can be tough, there is a lot changing in life and school can be challenging, leading to what many call “teen angst.” Whether you’re a parent or a teen who is currently experiencing this, everyone has been there.
We all know how complicated middle school and high school can be; things can feel lonely, overwhelming, and never-ending, so it’s no surprise that teens often find themselves in bad moods. You may notice that your teen has the shortest temper at home, and while that’s frustrating for everyone in the household, it’s generally because it’s the place they feel the safest.
Teen Angst vs. Depression
There is no medical definition for teen angst, it’s simply the manifestation of different frustrations as teens’ brains are developing rapidly, releasing many different hormones and feelings. Depression, on the other hand, is a medically diagnosed mental health condition that can have much more lasting and dangerous effects.
It can be hard for parents to discern if their teen is going through normal moody periods or dealing with depression, or other mental health concerns. If you’re questioning whether you should seek help for your child, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Talking to your child’s doctor is a great place to start.
Science Behind Teen Angst
There’s a bit of science behind why this age period can be so tough for teens and parents alike. Studies show that during puberty, humans see a sharp increase in the number of nerve connections being made in the brain. There is a lot of activity surrounding the prefrontal cortex which can make it more difficult to control behavior in social situations.
It’s also shown that teens have a harder time ingesting the moods and experiences of people around them, which is one of the reasons life can feel “so unfair!” to our kids. In fact, a team of neuroscientists at San Diego State University conducted a study in which they showed participants expressions or words and asked them to describe the expressed emotion. By age 11, the speed at which the children could identify these expressions dropped by 20%, not returning to normal until the age of 18.
Happy, Healthy Teens
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to supporting children through the tough times ahead, but being a supportive safe space can go a long way for your child. Encouraging them to spend time doing things they love, making friends, and getting outside are a few quick hacks to help regulate their moods.
If nothing else, remember, this too, shall pass. Everything is temporary and one day, the angst will fade away. Be sure to be cognizant and pay attention to your child’s mental health because teen angst can sometimes disguise more serious issues. Don’t be afraid to seek help, talk to your child, and get them support if needed. But, in most cases, the teen angst phase will give parents some funny stories to share with their less-grumpy young adult children in the future.