My teenager says that they’re “fine”, and “nothing” is wrong. They don’t want to talk about it. But then one thing goes wrong and it’s like an explosion of emotions. Is it normal for teenage emotions to be so intense?
When we don’t talk about what’s going on in our minds, we start to believe that everything we think is true. The belief that our thoughts, ideas, judgments, and perceptions are the ultimate truth is even more present during adolescence. So much so that there is even a term for it, “adolescent egocentrism.” Adolescent egocentrism contributes to some of the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with being a teenager, and it helps explain why teenagers feel things at such intensity. Through the teenage years, this gets challenged and perspective gets broadened, and we start to learn that even if we feel embarrassed, or feel rejected, the whole world isn’t viewing us this way. We also learn that the whole world certainly isn’t thinking about us as much as we think about ourselves, or criticizing us the way we criticize ourselves. The stranger in the coffee shop hasn’t noticed that I’m wearing the shirt I wore last Tuesday, my peers already forgot about the time I embarrassed myself last year, and my parent’s aren’t disappointed in me just because I’m disappointed in myself.
As we progress through the teenage years, we learn that our bad days pass and our feelings are manageable. We learn our resiliency, and we are less impacted by one mistake or one bad day. This learning happens through letting people in, through sharing our thoughts and feelings, and then having experiences to serve as evidence that challenges our thoughts and beliefs. We get to learn first hand that everything we think may not be true. And this lesson is so valuable. The learning, however, happens through talking openly about our thoughts, feelings, reactions, and ideas. It is so important for teens to talk through these thoughts and feel safe to experience their emotions, allowing the intensity to pass.
The Role of Therapy for Teenagers
Your teenager’s mental health is just as critical to care for as their physical health. Building a relationship with a therapist can help teenagers navigate this challenging time and increase comfort in reaching out for support. Building a relationship with a therapist can provide a safe space for the teenager to explore their identity, find their voice, and learn the skills needed to effectively manage their emotions.
Common issues leading teens and their parents to seek therapy include: