Common Feelings and Struggles

Common Feelings & Struggles

Some feelings and struggles we experience related to our thoughts and emotions are signs of a more significant issue with our mental health. Other times, though, the feelings and struggles we experience are directly related to a temporary current situation or circumstance. 

Understanding the differences between these scenarios and what coping strategies we can use to provide relief is essential.

Sadness & Grief

Sadness is a normal feeling to experience. This is especially true if you’re going through puberty. These (totally normal) hormonal changes can cause sudden mood swings, leaving you exhausted in one moment and frustrated in the next.

Grief and sadness can feel similar but have one primary difference. Grief is directly linked to experiencing loss– losing a loved one during COVID-19, losing a relationship (romantic or platonic), or even losing a pet are all causes. Sadness and grief are typically short-term feelings, while depression is much more involved. 

Depression is a severe diagnosable illness that affects how you act, your appetite, and your sleep habits and can last weeks to months.

If your feelings of sadness or grief escalate to the point that they interfere with your daily routines, please talk to a parent/guardian, doctor, school counselor, teacher, or another trusted adult.

Stress & Worrying

Stress is uncomfortable but a very common struggle in life. Everyone deals with it, but the experience varies from person to person. So, what exactly is stress?

Stress is your mind or body’s reaction to an external event. The feeling you experience when you’re stressed is pressure and can come from numerous sources like life events, peers, family struggles, and more.

So many things can be stressors, and you need to learn how to manage them for when those moments arise. If you don’t know how to manage your stress levels, your sleep habits, emotional state, and more could be affected. Use the resources in this resource hub to help you understand how stress affects you and learn strategies to help you cope.


Another emotion that stress can cause is anger. When your stressors are active, pressure builds inside you. When you learn to manage your stressors, you can keep the pressure from building up too much and causing an outburst. However, when stress builds without management or relief, it can turn into anger or irritability.

For some people, anger is an overwhelming feeling. But it’s important not to lose control so you don’t unintentionally hurt yourself or others. Instead, the best coping strategy for anger is to find healthy ways to release it.

Sustained periods of anger and stress can result in physical effects like high blood pressure, heart disease, or emotional issues like depression or disordered eating.

Bullying & Online Bullying

Bullying is aggressive behavior repeatedly perpetuated by one or more people towards another person (or group) who is perceived to be less powerful. Bullying is intentionally harmful and can have devastating effects on whomever the aggression is aimed toward. 

There are two primary forms of bullying. One takes place in person, and another happens online. Cyberbullying uses digital devices like phones and computers to harass or spread false and potentially damaging information about a person online. Every state has laws against bullying, and many have implemented rules against cyberbullying.  

No one benefits from bullying. But, whether you’re the one who experiences bullying or the one who does the bullying, the result is a higher risk for mental health issues that can have lifelong effects.

Social Media Pressure & Influence

Social media and teen mental health are in a complicated relationship. Almost 50% of youth have mixed feelings about social media. The dominant belief is that “there are good and bad things about it.” However, research from the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth shows a significant connection between social media platforms and increases in anxiety and depression in students.

Social media makes you feel more connected online but makes it harder to connect in real life. Social media platforms increase the likelihood that you’ll compare yourself to your peers and present unrealistic, idealized images of yourself. At an age where your mind is highly impressionable, these highly filtered images can skew your perception of reality. The dilemma is more apparent when you combine increased self-comparison with your brain’s need for face-to-face reaction to learning people skills and social clues. 

If you’re ready to cut back on your social media time, here are some tips you can use:

  • Use your mobile device’s features to manage your time online. For example, features like “screen time” and “do not disturb” mode help keep notifications at bay for set amounts of time.
  • Set aside intentional screen-free time. For example, spend at least an hour weekly on a screen-free activity.
  • Check your relationship with specific sites and apps. Think about what apps and websites you spend the most time on. Do they make you feel good? If not, consider deleting them or setting boundaries with how much time you spend on them.
  • If you see something, say something. When your friend or someone you follow posts something that worries you (i.e., in a risky situation, at risk of hurting themselves, etc.), tell a trusted adult. 
  • Report any bullying or harassment immediately. The internet is where people often do and say the most extreme things in the name of going viral. If you see something that involves bullying, harassment, or other harmful behavior, report the post. If you know the people involved, telling a trusted adult can help prevent an unsafe situation from escalating further.

Remember: Many forms of online bullying are criminal offenses.

Peer Pressure

During a time when you’re still figuring out who you want to be, peer pressure is hard to resist. Sometimes, the peer pressure doesn’t even come from an outside source. Instead, it starts when you perceive yourself as being left out of an activity or situation.

The best way to combat peer pressure is to stand firm in your personal beliefs. You don’t have to do anything you feel uncomfortable doing. And although it seems silly, practicing your “no, thanks” in the mirror or with a trusted friend can help you confidently stand up for yourself when you don’t want to join in on an activity.

Identity, Fitting In, Self-Esteem & Discrimination

Your body is changing. Your mind is developing. On top of all those changes, you’re expected to do well in school, be a good friend, and prepare for adulthood. It’s a lot of change to deal with.

When you add pressure from social media, it’s no surprise that the number of lonely adolescents has doubled over the past ten years. So, if you’re feeling stressed about changes in your mind and body, remember that everyone your age is experiencing these changes, too– even if they don’t admit it out loud.

Differences in Marginalized Communities

Holding a marginalized identity means that along with puberty, peer pressure, and self-esteem issues, you likely experience forms of racism and bigotry regularly. The Centers for Disease Control considers racism a public health emergency because of its substantial effects on marginalized groups. In addition, trauma from racism directly affects mental health, which makes the reality of being a young person in America even more difficult.

Methods to Improve Your Self-Esteem

Even though some of the emotions you feel are puberty-related, there are methods you can use to feel better. Daily work goes a long way toward building your confidence and sense of belonging. Try:

  • Challenging negative self-talk as soon as it comes up
  • Being kind to yourself and others
  • Finding a friend whom you can talk to about what you’re going through
  • Meeting new people at the YMCA

Over time, you’ll strengthen your mental health and find it easier to handle moments when negative thoughts come your way.

Substance Abuse, Addictions, Drugs & Alcohol

The emotional ups and downs of being a young adult cause seemingly never-ending stress and anxiety. Sometimes, you will feel like you’d do anything to feel better. Combined with peer pressure, that line of thinking catalyzes substance abuse in young adults.

Millions of young adults have mental conditions or suffer from substance abuse without realizing it. Since young adult brains aren’t fully developed yet, substance use has harmful effects. Some effects of substance use you could experience include:

  • Compromised cognitive development
  • Permanent brain alteration that often leads to addiction
  • Engaging in life-altering high-risk behavior (unprotected sex, drunk driving, etc.)

If you’re struggling with mental health so much that you’re willing to turn to drugs for relief, please talk to a mental health professional or trusted adult about your feelings.


Almost half of all high school students admit to using marijuana. However, when you compare teens who did smoke marijuana to those who did not, the teens who abstained were more likely to graduate from high school and pursue a college degree according to CDC research.

To some, marijuana is considered the “least harmful” drug to experiment with, but that’s not necessarily true for teens. Smoking marijuana is linked to several mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, psychosis, and schizophrenia when used at a young age. You are also more likely to give up essential parts of your life (like spending time with family, hobbies, etc.) if you start smoking marijuana at a young age. 


Think of every adult you know who smokes. Research on youth and adolescent tobacco use shows they likely started smoking before age 26. Like marijuana, nicotine is unsafe to use and inhibits brain development in young people.

Prescription Drugs

Even though a licensed medical professional administers prescription drugs, they are equally as harmful as other non-prescription drugs when misused. In addition, prescription drugs are only deemed safe when used as instructed. Therefore, you face short and long-term consequences when you abuse drugs that a doctor administers.

Commonly abused prescription drugs include:

  • Stimulants: similar to cocaine, they cause paranoia, increased body temperature, and rapid heartbeat.
  • Opioids, prescriptions, and synthetic drugs: opioids are similar to heroin and cause drowsiness, nausea, slowed breathing, and more.
  • Fentanyl: the deadliest drug in the United States, with over 100,000 lives claimed from January 2021- January 2022.
  • Depressants: cause slurred speech, fatigue, disorientation, and can cause seizures during withdrawal.

Learn more about the connection between substance use and mental health:

Understanding Eating Disorders

Another severe illness that can affect anyone regardless of gender is disordered eating. Disordered eating is influenced by genetics and is reflected in a person’s eating habits and behaviors.

The occasional concern about your health, weight, or appearance doesn’t mean you are experiencing disordered eating. Disordered eating occurs you become obsessed with weight loss, obtaining a specific body goal, or strictly control your food intake.

If you suspect a friend or family member is struggling with disordered eating, tell a mental health professional or trusted adult as soon as possible. Full recoveries are marked by early intervention and incorporating family into the treatment process.

Treatment plans for disordered eating vary but likely contain some combination of psychotherapy, medical care, monitoring, nutritional counseling, and medication.

Specific Disordered Eating Patterns

Anorexia Nervosa is a medical condition where people avoid, severely restrict, and consume minimal quantities of only certain foods. People experiencing anorexia also deal with severe body dysmorphia– seeing themselves as overweight no matter how thin they are.

Other symptoms include: 

  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with being thin
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Denial about the severity of low body weight

Anorexia can lead to serious health concerns including, but not limited to, thin bones, weak muscles, anemia, brittle hair and nails, a yellowish tinge to the skin, constipation, low blood pressure, and even death.

Bulimia Nervosa is a medical condition where people eat excessive amounts of food, then expel what they eat through forced vomiting, excessive laxative use, or another similar method. Bulimia Nervosa is often seen as the opposite of Anorexia Nervosa, primarily because these conditions exist on different sides of the weight spectrum. While people with anorexia tend to be severely underweight, people with bulimia tend to be average or overweight.

Symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed throat
  • Worn tooth enamel from excess exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux
  • Severe dehydration
  • Intestinal distress

Bulimia Nervosa doesn’t usually result in death, but electrolyte imbalances can result in a stroke or heart attack.

Binge disordered eating is a medical condition where people have recurring sessions of eating large amounts of food. People with binge-eating conditions are typically overweight or obese.

Symptoms include:

  • Devouring abnormally large amounts of food in one sitting
  • Eating after you’re full 
  • Hiding binge eating episodes
  • Shame, guilt, and distress from eating

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a medical condition similar to anorexia nervosa. The primary difference is that people with ARFID don’t deal with body dysmorphia or purge after eating. Commonly confused with picky eating, someone with ARFID would experience difficulty growing and developing, while a picky eater would not.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe restriction of food types you’re willing to eat
  • Disinterest in food
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Picky eating that gets worse over time

Resources about Disordered Eating

Other Forms of Self-Harm

Some people experience more difficulty communicating their emotions than others. Sometimes, when people can’t figure out how to express their feelings, they self-harm to distract themselves from what’s happening around or inside them.

This isn’t always the case, however. For example, some adolescents self-harm to rebel against some aspect of their life. If you notice someone in your life is self-harming, you should tell a trusted adult. People who self-harm often have trouble:

  • Accepting reality
  • Identifying and discussing feelings
  • Quieting their minds
  • Evaluating the risk
  • Managing their stress

If you or someone you know is self-harming, the best way to get to the root of the issue is to seek help from a mental health professional.