One of my favorite things about what I do, is when I get to share work that teens have done to educate other teens about health issues. Today is one of those days! This short video was put together by a teen who is interested in mental health. She selected the topic of depression as a biology project and put this together. She shared it with me since she wanted other teens to understand depression better. She is passionate about working towards taking down the stigma around mental health issues. Take a few minutes to watch it. And if you learned something, share with your friends.
Losing a loved is very difficult no matter how young you are. You love a person, you will grieve. I lost my Dad nine months ago from cancer which was far too advanced to treat. I found out he had cancer at the age of thirteen. I was very close to my Dad. He was a fantastic man. He did not let his disease damper his life. It was so awful hard to watch him decline. He was given two months and died within weeks. The transition to high school was hard and having a terminally ill parent made every aspect more difficult. Imagining my dad crying because he would not be there for my brother and I just shows me how serious life is, and how much he cared about me. I remember clearly taking to a hospice nurse and holding back a storm of emotion. I wanted to be strong. My friends were very supportive. My dad is dead but will always be a huge part of who I am.
Grief does not go away unless you dealt with it. There are five stages involved in grief:
The death of a loved one must be worked through, and it takes time to get adapted again to your daily life. You probably think you are fine, but you aren't. You are struggling emotionally, socially, and with religion . Experiencing a death can be overwhelming for anyone, no matter what your age and beliefs. It may be embarrassing to talking about feelings. Friends should be understanding and supportive of you. Don't let your emotions manifest you into a completely different person. You can ask your teachers, relatives, friends or anyone you trust for help. One out of every 20 children aged fifteen and younger will suffer from loss of one or both parent. Benefits of getting help are back to enjoying activities, not decrease in school performance, and being socially active.
Dr. O adds:
Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing such a painful experience with other teens. You are not alone with your grief, and sharing what you went through will help others out there who also lost a loved one. I thought it might be helpful if I pulled together some resources for teens with grief:
Guest blogger, Meegan Jesse Hussain, a Musician and Board Certified Music Therapist , talks about Music Therapy and how it can help teens like you.
When was the last time you felt angry, saddened, or even excited? Did you listen to a favorite song to reflect your feelings? Chances are, you have. Music can evoke powerful feelings and memories, and even help you to perform tasks better, like homework or exercise! You are not the only person to notice this!
Because music can have such a big impact on people’s feelings, there is actually a whole field of therapy that uses music. This is a scientific and studied type of therapy and its theories include the power of music to promote wellness, stress relief, help change negative or harmful behaviors, and even uncover emotional issues buried deeply inside of you. Pretty cool! This is called Music Therapy, and it is used in many ways to help all kinds of problems or illnesses. Music Therapists work in psychiatric hospitals, medical facilities, and within schools and programs to help all sorts of children and adults, and not only those with physician or mental problems. It is also used with “well” people seeking a safe and creative outlet for emotional issues and promote positive changes in their lives.
As we talked about, there are many ways music can help teens like you through difficult or traumatic events. You can use music on your own, such as sitting quietly, listening to music, and visualizing a safe place to relieve stress. Or, if you’re having difficulties containing anger, and likened a way to vent in a safe manner, you can listen to and/or sing/play a piece of music that reflects your anger. Don’t stop there, though – next you gradually bring the music intensity down by choosing calmer and calmer music until you feel calm. These are techniques that anyone can use. Yes, even you! As a teen, you may feel extreme stress managing schoolwork, relationships, and other personal issues. Try adding these techniques into your daily or weekly routine to help you cope!
If you want to know more about the field of Music Therapy itself, or feel you need further help and wish to see a Music Therapist, a great place to go online is the Music Therapy website at musictherapy.org to learn more. You can also find a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) on that website if you feel you might be interested in professional Music Therapy.
Please keep music in your lives, for it is a force for positive, powerful change!
Recently a parent submitted this anonymous question (I've tweaked it a bit...):
"My teenage daughter was caught a while back with synthetic weed and admitted to drinking. She stole merchandise from stores and the 3 girls she is friends with have and continue to do all of these things. She has snuck out of the house in the middle of the night for hours on end with and without friends. We punished our daughter for a while , gave her back her phone tonight with rules and had her sign a contract that she won't engage in these activities and and she is currently limited to only seeing these friends at school. Although she said she won't do these negative things anymore because she doesn't want to lose her phone, she admitted to us that she misses smoking/drinking because it made her happier. My daughter sees a Psychologist. We are very concerned ........"
Usually I don't answer questions from adults, since this website is all about teens and for teens, but there are some things I want teens to know that this question brings up.
Last part - here are some great links and resources I like:
NIDA For Teens : This website is written for teens and has all sorts of accurate and easy to understand info about drugs and addiction. There is a cool blog and links to ways to get help. There is even a place to see how to get help for yourself, a friend, a parent or other people in your life - HERE
Youth Suicide Prevention Program: Lots of really useful information about teen depression and suicide. A lot of it is written for adults, but there is info for teens too....
OK, teens, any experiences you want to share with others? Comment below! Anonymous! And, if you want to hear other teen voices right here on Real Talk, go HERE
Guest blogger, Grace, discusses her take on “Normal” Sadness vs. Clinical Depression, and shares her advice from one teen to others about depression:
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
YouTube credits and acknowledgements for DEPRESSION PSA above
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0z7Kh7_wiw ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asFB30xyN5k ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVaFSbn6lKs ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1LDBaponFI ; (MUSIC) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxxOQpItDAk
Though depression is found in people of all ages, it is an undeniable fact that it lies prominently amongst teenagers. Why? The answer is quite simple. Teenagers are growing rapidly during puberty, and hormones released from their brain cause them to be emotionally sensitive. Most people suffering through depression face a slew of problems, ranging from social acceptance to a happy lifestyle. Today I am going to be tackling the difference between normal sadness and depression.
Since both sadness and depression convey negative feelings, many people tend to mistake one for the other. Major Depression (most of the time) lasts two or more weeks, with rarely, or no, peak of happiness during that period. Physical changes may be evident on the depressed, such as weight loss or dark eye circles. Marks of suicide attempts or pain infliction will show up as deep cuts or scars (after a period of time). Also, a typical behavior shown from teenagers suffering from depression is solitude, or lack of social activity amongst peers. Many people sleep to live, and to escape the dark reality.
Sadness, on the other hand, will last roughly short periods, ranging from an hour to possibly a week MAXIMUM. Usually, short periods of sadness will not prompt people to attempt suicide or cut themselves. Furthermore, people will usually look for their friends for advice. All in all, there’s more social activity associated with “normal” sadness.
A bit more from Dr. O
Yes, many teens do experience depression, and figuring out if a sad spell is just that, a spell, or if it is something more, like clinical depression, is really important so that teens get the help that they need. Classic signs of depression are (including what you noted):
Now, back to Grace and her advice to other teens about depression:
If you are a friend, or even an associate of a depressed teenager, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE take the initiative to reach a hand out. Many teenagers commit suicide each year with the last memory that “no one cares about them.” Having a friend, or just someone to talk to means the world to a person who’s depressed. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL to help someone as fast as possible, since you never know when they will decide to end their life.
All it takes is one match to light a whole room of candles.
If you are depressed, then hear me out. The feeling of being depressed is something you know more than anybody. Sometimes, you think to yourself, “why me?”, and you feel wronged. Trust me, it’s OKAY. People tend to (mistakenly) view depression as a weakness, as a sign that you lack confidence. But honestly, who actually knows what’s going on in that brain of yours? Nobody but you. YOU hold the key to your future, to your decisions, to EVERYTHING – despite all the obstacles that may come in your way. Life is a choice, yet you only get one chance to live it. Live it while you can and to your fullest. Though it may seem like the world has cast its darkest phase upon you, I beg you to realize that there is ALWAYS a rainbow at the end of a storm. Giving up is not an option. Please stay strong and inform someone immediately of your issue. Trust me, depression IS a strong entity; but you can overcome it, if you fight through it.
“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going” –Beverly Sills
“If you take shortcuts, you get cut short” –Gary Busey
Before I start this, I just want to say that if you are suffering from or you suspect someone you know is suffering from depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
March 15, 2013: My first attempt. I can remember how hopeless I felt at the time, seeing no possible ways of getting out of my family, but I honestly don’t even remember what me and my mom were arguing about. But I do remember looking at her and truly losing the small bit of hope that I had left that she’d ever actually understand what I was feeling. That’s when I went into the bathroom, pulled out my phone, typed my suicide note, and sliced up my ankles.
Suicide is an action that has strong emotional repercussions and consequences and that affect more than just the immediate families and friends of the victims. In 2013, there were 41,149 deaths by suicide in the United States. It’s very easy to look at these numbers and to distance yourself, but every one of those people had someone out there, at least one person, who loved them, a person who may be wondering what they did wrong.
Despite the fact that most suicide prevention centers are directed towards our age group, recent years have had a spike in the middle aged group, with men being 4x more likely to be suicidal than women. All of this, when, according to AFSP.org, 90% of people who die by suicide have a potentially treatable mental disorder at the time of their death—a disorder that often has gone unrecognized and untreated. Personally, I was in the majority— I was (and am) still dealing with depression, a disorder which is very much treatable.
Some of the warning signs of someone at risk of suicide may include (but are not limited to):
Now, some of these (i.e. sleeping too little/too much or suddenly happier/ calmer) don’t necessarily mean a person is suicidal. For example, a person could be suddenly happier or calm because they just got a good grade on a final that they’ve been studying for for weeks , not because they’re trying to off themselves. However, if you see quite a few of these in tandem, especially the first five, then you need to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
There are lots of ways you can get help – some of them are taking medicines that help correct your brain chemistry, some are getting counseling or therapy or other treatments. Many people do best with a bit of both. The bottom line is, each person and each person’s depression is different, and you need to sort out what is right for you with your Dr.
BUT, despite all of these ways to help you medically, many people are unable to have access to these because of financial issues or because they are afraid of telling people how they are feeling (i.e. teens afraid to tell their parents, or even soldiers who won’t tell mental health professionals for fear of appearing “weak”). However despite the reasons why you can’t utilize these methods, that doesn’t mean there’s no hope! There’s a plethora of ways to help yourself, and even more ways where other people can help you also! For me, when I’m feeling on edge, I usually watch some of my favorite YouTubers or read a book. It helps me because it helps me to distance myself from what is actually going on around me. By the time I “tune in”, I have a clearer head, which helps to deal with things in a more logical sense.
Also, money should NOT be a problem when it comes to dealing with your mental health. There are apps, websites, anonymous and public, at all times of the day so that you can talk with mental health professionals, or maybe just to vent to another teen. I used an app called MeToo - The Experience Project App. The people there helped me more times than I can count. There’s also 7 Cups of Tea, another app I used when I didn’t want to talk to my friends and family because I was too embarrassed to have them judge me and see me in that light. However, once I told my mom that I was depressed and suicidal, I realized that there wasn’t any judgment; it was just me being paranoid I guess.
Suicide is a prevalent problem in this day and age, and it is NOT a solution. If you are feeling suicidal, PLEASE do NOT hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.
Did you know that out of the 26 people who survived the plunge from the Golden Gate Bridge, all of them say that they regretted their decision about halfway down. Please don’t let that be you; also, please get help from an actual mental health provider, as this isn’t a replacement.
More from Dr. O:
Thank you for sharing all this information and your personal story. You may not know, but for young people between the ages of 10 – 24, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. And although males account for more suicide deaths. Females are more likely to attempt suicide.
The American Association of Suicidology has a good memory tool to help you remember the warning signs of suicide – it is called Is Path Warm:
S Substance Abuse
M Mood Changes
Here is the link for full information: Warning Signs
If you need help or are thinking of hurting yourself, please contact the suicide prevention hotline:
1-800-273-TALK or online HERE
Once, when I was in sixth grade I scratched my arm so hard on purpose that it bled. That was my first encounter with what would turn into a parasite called self-harm. It didn’t happen again for three years, but that time it wasn’t my nails on my skin, it was razor blades to the soft skin of my thigh. Proof of which I still carry with me to this day, which I will carry with me forever. What I didn’t know then is that self-harm is an addiction like any other. It started out of anger, of hurting. It turned into a compulsion, a need, and an everyday thing. By the December of my 9th grade year I was hurting myself often, at least twice a week and it just kept escalating from there. From twice a week, to three times, to five, to every day. Eventually somebody got worried when they saw them, and told the guidance counselor, who told my mom and I started seeing a counselor at school. That didn’t exactly help. I was still cutting myself, still thinking about dying all the time, still wishing I never existed. I lost all motivation, on average I was missing two days of school a week, usually just lying in bed and sleeping or not sleeping for days. I was pathetic. I was having an enormous depressive episode, the biggest one of my life.
The next time someone saw my cuts and scars it was the June before I went into 11th grade. After that I started going to a therapist who has helped me immensely. I also started going to a psychiatrist who gave me medication which has helped me more than I can describe. I have slipped up, I have cut myself since then, I haven’t been the poster child for recovery, but then who really is? I have doubted the fact that I am actually sick on good days and wondered how I could ever think something wasn’t wrong with me on the bad days. I have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression and possibly Borderline Personality Disorder.
So this letter is for you, anyone who has hurt themselves on purpose, in any way and anyone who is thinking that it might be a good idea. Your hurt is real. You shouldn’t let it escalate, because it’s not worth it. You will regret the fact that you can’t go to a water park and wear just a bathing suit because your legs are riddled with scars. You will regret the fact that two years later the scars on your thighs will still hurt to the touch because you’ve damaged the nerves. I am here to tell you that it’s not worth it. I know how good it feels. I know the release it gives you; I know that it will be the only thing you feel for days on end. I know how it can be. Talking to someone helps. Medication can help. Someone will always be there for you. I know it can feel like it never will and like I’m spouting the typical tones at you but it really does get better. I promise you it does.
More from Dr. O:
Thank you for sharing this with other teens who struggle with the same issues. For teens out there reading this, please know that there are a ton of resources out there for help online and through your doctor or therapist or counselor.
For more on self-harm on Real Talk with Dr. Offutt: CLICK HERE
and for even more information: http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/issues/self-harm-2
And, again, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is there to help you as well 24/7: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Well I owe all of you an apology! It has been far too long since I have sat down here to write about some of the topics that you all are interested in. After digging myself out of a mountain of snow and a mountain of to-do’s as well, here we are. Ready for spring and ready for some new Real Talk.
A few weeks ago I got this question, and to the teen who sent it in, I am so sorry it has taken me this long to put something together to answer it! But here we go.
Question: “I have to take Abilify and Concerta. I hate it and I want to go off of them. They make me feel weird. What do they do to me? How do they work? What happens if I stop taking them?”
Answer(s): I am going to break this down and answer in parts. I think the best way to tackle these questions is to talk about ADHD meds in general, since specific medication and therapy choices are made one on one with your doctor.
Q: Let’s start with “How do they work?”
Most ADHD medications are stimulants that have different durations of action. It isn't completely known why stimulants help with the symptoms of ADHD, but most experts think that they affect the dopamine and noradrenergic systems in your brain. In doing so, brain chemicals or neurotransmitters seem to be released that help with concentration and attention. The full effects can take a few months to see – and others may see the positive effects in you before you see them in yourself!
Q: “What do they do to me?”
Well, the positive effects of these medications used in the right person, are that they help patients with ADHD pay attention and concentrate. That doesn’t mean that everyone should take these medications willy nilly to help with concentration! They are specifically to help those who have a true diagnosis of ADHD.
Of course, all medications come with risks and side effects. The most common side effects are decreased appetite, weight loss, problems sleeping, stomach-ache, feeling sick to your stomach. Some teens feel “ a little unusual” shortly after starting them (maybe this is what was meant by “feeling weird”) and some people feel irritable. Usually these side effects get better with a little time. But if you are feeling like a “zombie” or your irritability isn’t going away, that would be something to tell your Dr.
There are some rare, but serious, side effects that your Dr. will watch for – like hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that isn’t there), agitation (much worse than irritability), suicidal thoughts and talking, and liver and heart problems. Because of these rare but serious side effects, your Dr will make sure you have a true diagnosis of ADHD before thinking about prescribing medications, and they will also make sure you (or your family) have no medical problems that mean you shouldn’t. And with some of these medications, there is a risk of abusing them. SO they shouldn’t be taken as an extra “boost” during exam time, or without a good diagnosis of ADHD and close medical supervision.
Having problems with your medications but you need them? No problem! You just need to be honest with your Dr about what you’re experiencing so that he or she can change the dose, the medication, or other parts of the treatment regimen.
Q: “What happens if I stop taking them?”
Stopping your ADHD meds is a decision you make with your Dr. A lot of teens actually grow out of their ADHD symptoms, but others go on to have ADHD for the rest of their lives. There are a few things that might mean you can talk to your Dr about trying to see how you do off meds:
The length of treatment is different for everyone. And it takes a few months to see a full effect of a selected treatment. Some medications can be stopped all at once, but others need to be tapered more slowly. If you and your Dr. decide that going off meds is appropriate for you, there needs to be a plan for regular followup so you can make sure that your symptoms don’t come back and interfere with your life again!
More info? This Medication Guide is written for parents, but it’s a good resource for you too…from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and American Psychiatric Association
Click here for the LINK
More questions about ADHD itself or ADHD medications? You know where to ask! Right here - add a comment. And #JoinTheDiscssion
A while back I got a question about being normal. There was a lot included in that question about disappointing parents, feeling different, and a whole host of related issues.
Well, back to the matter at hand. That is a big question – no, not because you are NOT normal, but because that is such a common question as you go through your teen years (and really through your whole life!). Adults still struggle with this sometimes, especially at challenging times in our lives. I thought what might make sense is to break it down into a couple of scenarios that might occur that might make you wonder, “Am I normal???!”
Everyone I see on FB/ instagram / whatever looks so happy. I’m not.
Social media is great – it is social, after all! But keep this in mind: IT DOESN'T ALWAYS REFLECT REALITY!!!. People spend a lot of time grooming their online images so that the image that others have of them is the one they want to project. That all makes sense, but the message here is, look at all that with a grain of salt. I mean, seriously, when is the last time you saw a picture on instagram of someone loading their dishwasher, mowing their lawn, or doing piles of homework, or a post on FB about spending Saturday night alone babysitting their little sister, in sweats and no makeup, watching old TV shows? You get the idea. Your life is filled with stuff you have to do, stuff that isn’t all that pretty and sexy and fun. But I am guessing those are not the things you (or your friends) post online! You probably post pictures of you and your pals smiling at a party, the beach, hanging out at a sleepover, playing sports. Not a lot of pictures of those glum days that aren’t going so well, where you are stressed out and you yelled at your family or cried in the shower. Not all of life is happy and fun. Some parts are really hard. Some are a lot of hard work. Those unglamorous, messy pieces are not the stuff that people post. They post the results. Results aren’t from magic or good luck alone, though people may make it seem like that on FB!
So, bottom line, yes, you are normal if you don’t feel happy and social 100% of the time, and aren’t out with BFFs 24/7 OR at every social event ever, and don’t wake up looking like a million bucks and all buff and cut and all that. Use those “reality glasses” as I like to call them, when you think that everyone else is that way because of what you see on their pages.
My family doesn’t look like the ones I see on TV, or like my friends’ families.
Popular culture projects pretty traditional images of families that are made up of 2 heterosexual adults with the same ethnic background, and some kids, maybe a pet. These media images are starting to change, but very slowly. Maybe you are the only one in your class that has a “non-traditional” family. Families can look all sorts of different ways. You might live with your biological parents, or you might be adopted by a family that wanted nothing more than a special child to love and with whom to share their lives! You might be raised by grandparents, a single parent, straight parents, gay parents, an aunt….. It’s all NORMAL! In fact, I looked at US census data and here is how THEY defined families – married couples with kids, unmarried couples with kids, single moms, single dads, living with grandparents, living with parent(s) and grandparents, and same sex couples. Almost a third of kids live with a single parent. A lot of kids live in families with gay parents. Or with adults that are not their parents. A family is where you get love, and support and build a life together. That can look like a whole host of things.
So, just because YOUR family doesn’t look like what you see around you doesn’t mean your family isn’t normal or that you aren’t – Yes, you are NORMAL!
I don’t want to be what my parents want me to be when I grow up.
Here’s a good one. I see this all the time with teens in different ways depending on where they live. Teens have dreams, and are open to the world of possibilities for their futures. And parents say things like “You MUST go to BlahBlah college, since your father went there” or “You are going to medical school” or “You have to take over the business from your uncle” or “Don’t waste your time on that – you’ll never earn a living or get a job doing that” or even "Girls don't need to go to college; that's for boys" (Yes, I have heard that from more than one smart young woman!!). You get the idea. I think really the intent is often good. Families want their kids to do well, have enough money to support themselves and not to struggle day to day to eat or have a place to live, and to be happy. But sometimes parents and families want so much for you that they can lose track that Such-and-Such status symbol college is less about what you want, and more about how good it makes them look as parents. Or parents worry about difficult challenges in life, and want you to go for the Sure Thing (family business). Or are not sure how you are going to juggle work to pay for school, or whatever the issue is for you.
But your life is yours. You may take a path that disappoints others in your life. You may have a dream that no one else can understand. Your job is to work hard towards what you want. You should listen to the advice and perspective of a whole host of different people – even those you disagree with. Adults you respect (such as your parents) do have life experience that only age can bring. Listen to it, consider it, apply what is relevant. And you can respectfully disagree with it. Your life is yours to build.
A few things to think about, though. At the other extreme, some families say “do what you love” and “find your passion”. These are certainly excellent, supportive messages. But I have recently heard a lot of young adults remark that they wished someone had also provided some of those Reality Glasses in terms of how hard it could be to find a job that pays enough for you to afford rent and groceries, or to be able to support themselves with certain paths that they had pursued. As the adult that you are shaping yourself to be – you need create a way to support yourself. That may mean that a passion that doesn’t make that much money may be very worthwhile, but that you may need a boring job just to help make ends meet. That passion may need to be a hobby. That is fine too! Life is made up of a lot of different pieces, some practical, some fun, and some inspirational. All those parts fit together. That is OK! That is normal! Even your most favorite job will not be filled with day after day of only fulfilling work. So extra interests and hobbies can help with that. But you need to get to the point you can support yourself.
So, you are NORMAL if you are not all that into doing what your family wants you to do. But keep these thoughts in mind: Work hard, keep all the doors to your future paths open, and build yourself into the self-sufficient, happy adults you want to be.
I have no idea what I want to be / major in / do for a living when I grow up.
Kind of related to the last topic…. I think that this is something that I think has really changed over the past generation. All sorts of high school students (or their parents!) know exactly what they want to do with their lives. Certainly there were always a few people like that when I grew up, but it was generally not expected that by mid-high school, you’d know your major in college! I had no idea what I wanted to be until well into college. I wanted to be a dentist, an architect, even Miss America (very cool back then, and no, I did not do Pageants!). These ideas would last a month or so, and then I’d move onto my next idea. College came. Flirted with a bunch of different ideas. Took a year off to sort out what I wanted to do. Got a boring job, paid rent and fed myself, and then decided to go to Med School.
So, enough about me. My point is that you are NOT weird if you have no idea what you want to do when you are an adult. How could you possibly be sure!? There are so many possibilities out there, and you have so many experiences and exposures ahead of you to help you figure that out. You may even change your path over the course of your life depending what you are interested in. I always say, “Be open to the universe”. But to do that, you cannot close off doors by blowing off school, getting in trouble with the police, getting in a life altering car accident, getting hooked on alcohol or drugs. You get the idea. Work hard. Stay healthy. Stay safe. Be open minded.
Not sure if I like boys / girls / both / neither.
Just like people develop physically and sexually at different rates, not everyone has sorted out exactly who they are interested in romantically at the same time, and others don’t feel at home in their body or with their sexual identity. It is not abnormal to be confused, or to wonder about these things, or to have your feelings go back and forth while all this sexual identity development is occurring. This is not to say that it is always easy and that everyone is open-minded to non-traditional romances or identities. Actually, more often it is difficult because often you may not be raised in a community of others similar to you.
A few facts – there are a number of studies out there looking at genetic links to homosexuality, and (in a nutshell) there is a link between certain genes and homosexuality. Meaning being gay is not a disorder or an illness, or even simply a “choice”, or something that “conversion therapy” will “cure”. Also, rest assured that confusion about identity and orientation lessens as your teen years progress. Wondering about same-sex relationships doesn’t mean you’re gay, but if you are, that is OK – love is love is love, right? I thought this was pretty interesting: One survey I found of 7th – 12th graders showed that reported homosexual attractions were more common than homosexual fantasies, which was also more common that homosexual behavior or identification. There weren’t big differences between genders, and not being sure about sexual orientation decreased as the teens got older.
Need more info?
So, like I said, it is NORMAL to be wondering about these things as you mature through your teen years.
I am the only virgin I know.
NOT TRUE! (yes, those Reality Glasses again. ) ACTUALLY, teens like yourselves are waiting until later to date and to have sex, and U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rates are at their lowest levels in years (way to go!)! Recent stats show that about half of all high school students reported that they had had sexual intercourse. So, 100% - 50% = 50%, or half of high school students have NOT had sexual intercourse.
And just like everything else during this huge time of change in your life, everyone’s sexual feelings develop at different rates. So if you’re just not feeling the Urges, you are normal. And if you ARE but others around you aren’t, you are NORMAL! But either way, you need to educate yourself, so that when those times come, you are protected from infection and unwanted babies and emotional pain. Lots more on my blog about this.
So, in a nutshell: Different does not mean abnormal! Difference is what makes the world an interesting place! And difference should not trigger hate or disgust or judgment or harassment. Be kind to people that seem different to you – because, guess what, you are different to THEM! Doctor’s orders.
Just look at all these Tweets I found... Really? Is it true? You guys are all stressed out?!
Who knew? Well, you all knew, that is for sure. And I knew. And last month, the American Psychological Association came out with a big report on Teen Stress that made the news. All the headlines said: “Teen stress approaches that of adults” and that went out all over the news outlets. So probably now, the adults around you know a bit more about teen stress too.
I think often adults forget how stressful being a teen can be. Honestly, that is something I hear from young people like yourselves All. The. Time. And as a result adults sometimes aren’t as sympathetic to your stress level as you’d like. But that is because all of life is stressful, so the adults around you are dealing with their own stress. And because all of life is stressful, it is really important to understand stress and to learn good and healthy coping mechanisms that work for you.
And that is what this post is all about. You may remember we covered Exam Stress and Holiday Stress already. This post is a bit more general and goes into a bit more info about exactly what stress is, what it feels like, is it stress or anxiety, and finally, what tools can help you manage your stress.
Now, if you are feeling so stressed that you are worried about hurting yourself, the Suicide Prevention Hotline is there for you: 1-800-273-TALK.
Your doctor can help you, your family, your friends, and your school counselors and nurses. Just reach out for help – there are people in your life that really want to help you!
Moving on….. As a general background on what stress is, I love this video from the BBC
What exactly is stress?
As so nicely defined by the CDC, “Stress is a condition that is often characterized by symptoms of physical or emotional tension. It is a reaction to a situation where a person feels threatened or anxious.” It is your body reacting to a situation with its “fight or flight” response that you hear about all the time. That heart-pounding, blood-pressure-soaring sort of reaction. Now, not all stress is bad stress – for instance, stress can be positive (e.g., preparing for a big event like graduation or performing in a big show, or finally going on a date with your crush) or negative (e.g., dealing with a tough class, worrying about your family’s financial situation, having tension in a close relationship). And we need some stress sometimes for us to perform our best (class oral report, big playoff game, debate match, college or job interview). In fact, dealing with stress helps you learn how to deal with challenges and difficult situations later in life. But sometimes (or maybe often, as the case may be) stress can become exhausting and make you unable to function.
What does stress feel like?
You probably could tell me this! That APA study I mentioned when we started, reported that teens like yourselves often felt they had an unhealthy level of stress.
In that study, the most common stress related symptoms that teens experience are:
What about you – which do you feel? Others like clammy hands? Jittery? Lightheaded? Heart racing? Something else? Which gets me to a related point. Sometimes you may feel the symptoms that stress causes, but not realize that you are stressed. It may require some thought to sort out what might be the source of stress that is making you feel bad, so that you can come up with a game plan to manage it so it doesn’t mis-manage you! Of course, you may have any or all of these symptoms WITHOUT them being due to stress – and that is something your regular doctor can help you sort out.
What is causing all this stress?
Let me sum up what you already know! The most common source of stress in teens is school-related (shocker, I know), but another one is time management with a bunch of academic and social and family demands and only a 24-hour day (during which sleep is not optional more on sleep here - but I digress. Then there are your friendships, relationships, your changing body, family problems (divorce, chronic health problems in the family) and family financial stresses, feeling not good enough, and on and on and on.
So, how do you know if what you are feeling with the jitters and fluttery stomach and irritability, is stress or anxiety?
Now that is a good point - we often use the words “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably even though they are not the same thing. A good way to think about it, is stress is your body’s reaction to an external situation – like a test, an argument, a difficult basketball game, a challenging part of a play that you are in, etc. Anxiety is worrying about the worry, rather than about something that is happening. Worrying about what COULD happen. Having constant worries about school or friends or illness. Perhaps having repetitive rituals or unwanted thoughts. You can get all the same physical symptoms as those with stress, but unlike stress, it doesn’t get better when a stressful situation goes away. It stays there and you worry about the next thing. Your doctor can help you if you think you might have anxiety that is interfering with your life.
OK, here is another video for you – real teens, like you, talking about what stresses them out. But then also, what they DO to manage their stress.
So, let’s build on that – what can you do to manage your stress?
Well, there are the basics I say again and again: Eat a healthy diet (now, there is room for fun food in there too – just don’t let the fun food take over everything you eat!) – and sleep a healthy amount. For the average teen, we are talking 9 hours. A NIGHT! Yes, YOU! Your body needs fuel and rest to deal with the stressful stuff that life throws your way.
And then you can try these things:
There is so much we can talk about regarding stress. This post just gets the discussion going. I did want to share a couple of great things I found on line that might help you if you want to know more.
So, enough of me blabbing on and on. What about you? What works for you? Share your tips since there is probably another teen out there you can help! Or what stresses you out? Share that since maybe someone else looking at this site has the same issues. Join the Discussion! Comments and disagreements welcome!