10 Signs Your Teenager Is at Risk of Burnout

Solemn teen girl hugging her knees in a chair

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Is your teenager burning out? Believe it or not, it is quite possible. High school, sports, extracurricular activities, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, social media, and family all demand time and attentiveness from your teen. So much so, that he could be experiencing signs of stress or worse— burnout.

Prevalence of Stress in Teens

In a 2013 survey of adults and teens conducted online on behalf of the American Psychological Association by Harris Interactive Inc., Teen reported stress levels during the school year far exceeding what they believed to be healthy (5.8 vs. 3.9 on a 10-point scale). The average reported stress level of adults was 5.1 on a 10-point scale, demonstrating that teen's feelings of stress rival those of adults.

In the survey, results indicated that:

  • 31% of teens reported feeling overwhelmed
  • 30% of teens reported feeling depressed or sad as a result of stress
  • 36% of teens reported feeling tired
  • 23% of teens reported skipping a meal due to stress

How Stress Leads to Burnout

Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, depression, detachment, cynicism, and lack of accomplishment including feelings of ineffectiveness.

Though most adolescents go through situations that cause stress and tension, chronic stress and piled up stressors can result in depression, aggressive behavior, or suicidal tendencies. Some teens may take to fighting, drinking, and smoking or other risky behavior in an effort to cope and deal with their feelings of stress.

If you or your teen are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

10 Signs Your Teen Is Burning Out

Here are 10 signs of burnout that you should be on the lookout for:

  1. Depression: He doesn't want to do anything, he has lost interest in things he likes to do, and he has decreased attention or effectiveness when doing things.
  2. Anxiety: Your teenager is feeling some anxiety for no known reason or acting overly anxious. The inability to relax, or not sleeping well (having nightmares, restless, etc) are all signs of anxiety.
  3. Insomnia: Your teenager is suffering from insomnia if he is unable to get to sleep at night or he wakes up and is unable to go back to sleep.
  4. Eating Habits: Your teenager is either overeating or undereating—both are a response to being stressed.
  5. Emotional Behavior: Your teenager is giving in to impulse behavior, more than normal, and is showing signs of emotional instability (extreme anger, fear or sadness), more than normal.
  6. Physical Pain: Your teenager is experiencing neck or back pain.
  7. Missing Periods: Many health conditions can cause your teenage daughter to miss her menstrual cycle, stress may be one reason.
  8. Health Issues: Your teenager is complaining of stomach ache, dizziness, dryness of throat and mouth.
  9. Nervous Behavior: Your teenager is acting hyper, has emotional tension or alertness not usual to their personality (including high-pitched voice or nervous laughter).
  10. Risky Behavior: Increased risk-taking behavior can be a sign of burnout. For example, smoking, drinking alcohol, experimenting with sex or drugs sometimes point to underlying problems such as burnout.

How You Can Help an Overwhelmed Child

Parents can start to help by being understanding of the problems faced by their teens. With proper guidance and time, your teen can learn to overcome stress and related issues, this is why it is important to seek the help of a trained professional like a guidance counselor or psychologist. 

Better support and health education (at both school, home, and at the community level) will lead to breaking the cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors for your teen.

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Psychology Today. The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout ... Do You Have Them?