Now that we have explored the subjective experience of stressors, including the potential dual role of situational stress as both a motivator and inhibitor, we need a better understanding of chronic stress and its impact on our health. Chronic stress is often described as a feeling of being constantly overwhelmed, always on alert, and never able to relax. While these feelings are quite common among individuals who have experienced trauma, they can also be felt by people of all ages and circumstances. Chronic stress can be related to both the on-going impact of environmental factors (such as: poverty, physical pain, or abuse), as well as difficulty coping with troubling thoughts, worrisome feelings, and relationship challenges. It is important to note that when we habitually minimize or disregard significant day-to-day stressors, we put ourselves at risk for chronic stress.
Studies suggest that chronic stress can affect our minds and bodies in a myriad of troubling ways. The long-term effects of stress have been correlated with susceptibility to illness and poor resiliency, along with mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, teens can be just as vulnerable to chronic stress as adults. Additionally, given their relatively young age and life experience, they may be less able to recognize and cope with stress, and less informed about how to seek help when needed. While many teens may report feeling panicked, stressed, worried, or upset, other signals can be less overt. Although individual differences are important to consider, some signs of stress in teens can include: increased irritability, withdrawal, apathy, changes in eating and sleeping habits, labile mood, and frequent health complaints. In cases where symptoms of chronic stress are significantly impacting mood, behavior, academic progress, or social functioning, consultation and treatment with a mental health professional is warranted. In our next installment, we will address the impact of academic stress on teens.
More information on the effects of chronic stress can be found here: