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When Should My Teen Seek Therapy for Negative Self-Talk?
“My Teen is Very Negative. When Should They Go To Therapy?”
In our last blog post, I talked about how it’s somewhat normal for your teen to talk negatively about themselves. Your teen’s logic and reasoning skills are still developing.(Related article: Parenting- It’s Not What You Think) It can be normal for your teen to talk negatively about themselves, their experiences, and their peers. You can read more about how to productively respond to your teen’s negative comments and how teen therapy can help here.
However, negative self-talk can also be a sign of bigger mental health problems for some teens. Today, you will learn about the signs you should look for that might indicate that your teen’s negative self-talk is due to a larger concern, like depression or anxiety.
Negativity is (Somewhat) Normal
A certain amount of negativity from your teenager is expected. That might sound odd, but developmentally, it makes sense that teens engage in negative comments about themselves and others. (Related article: How to Empower and Validate Your Adolescent Child). Let’s talk about it.
During this time in your teen’s life, their brain is still developing. As part of their current developmental phase, your teen’s cognition still tends to be pretty black-and-white. Your teen probably thinks of things in extremes. (Source)
For example, after their first day of high school, they might come home and say “I had the worst day of my life. I hate my school.” That’s a pretty absolute comment! (Related article: Emotions 101). And that’s a great illustration of how teenage cognition tends to be; your teen might jump to conclusions or into extremes. As an adult, you probably look at that same situation and think “okay, one bad day doesn’t mean all hope is lost”. But, your teen will struggle to reach that same conclusion.
As a parent, there are things you can do to help. You can practice validating their feelings but not the extreme conclusions. (Related Article: Parenting Adolescents 101). You can also help them to find realistic solutions to their concerns. We talk more about this in this blog post.
When Negativity is Something More
While some negativity is normal and expected for teens, it’s also possible that your teen’s persistent negative self-talk can be a sign of a larger mental health concern. But, how do you know when self-talk is a sign of something bigger? (Source). Let’s talk about what you can watch for.
Self Talk is “Persistent and Pervasive”
Some negative self-talk can be expected for your teen. But, what if you find that your attempts to validate your teen are met with consistent resistance? Or if your teen can’t seem to move past the persistent negativity, especially about themselves? If the negativity seems persistent and recurring over and over, especially about the same situation or their own self-image, it might be a sign of a larger concern, like depression or anxiety.
The Self-Talk is Unrealistic
Naturally, your teen’s negative self-talk will be somewhat unrealistic. Like we talked about earlier in this article, the negative conclusions your teens reach will seem especially unrealistic from an adult perspective. However, you may start to notice that your teen’s negativity persists, despite obvious confirmations that what they are seeing is not reality.
For example, your child may worry and voice concern about failing tests. But, they have never actually failed a test, and they have an A in the class. That kind of negativity despite positive results can be an indication that they may be struggling with something bigger than just regular negative self-talk.
The Negativity Is Interfering With Their Life
Your teen’s negativity interfering with their life can happen a few different ways. You might notice that the negativity is hurting their friendships or close relationships. Or maybe you start to see that your teen loses their appetite or struggles to sleep in
addition to their negativity. These can be indicators that your teen’s negativity might be due to more than just normal negativity and they might need some extra help.
Another common indicator that your teen may be dealing with more than the “normal” amount of negativity is if they begin to complain about being sick, but don’t show any physical signs of illness. Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems can cause your teen to feel under the weather. They might not be able to explain how they feel exactly, but they may insist that they are too sick to participate in their normal activities and responsibilities.
Teen Therapy Can Help
It’s not easy being a teen. And it’s not easy parenting one either! If you aren’t sure how to respond to your teen’s behavior and negativity, you are not alone. Therapy can help! Individual therapy can help your teen understand why they are feeling the way that they do, and how they can develop more positive self-talk and coping skills. And therapy for you as the parent can help you understand how to respond to their struggles in a productive way that builds your teen’s self-esteem and confidence. If you’re ready to find help for you or your teen, make an appointment for individual therapy today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins