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Dealing with Emotional breakdown in Adolescents

To help you understand what is emotional breakdown better, I would like to share with you a case study.

Anne is a 15-year-old girl. Currently, she lives with her father only as her parents do not live together due to marital discord between them. He had separated from her mother, the consequences of this has caused her a range of emotional difficulties, as her mother chose to end contact and refuses to engage with her and avoids her even if she tries to come close to her. However, Anne wants to have a good relationship with her mother. Anne started to disengage with her education, partly due to being in a new school and feeling bullied by her peers.This is a classic example of an individual like  Anne, who is  undergoing an emotional roller coaster ride of unpleasant emotions owing to the challenging situations around her. This can be called an emotional breakdown. This is a case example of an emotionally broken Anne, where she is unable to cope with her emotions because of varied situations around her. What is an emotional breakdown?An emotional breakdown, also known as a nervous breakdown, is a period of intense negative emotions, where a person feels severe emotional distress and may feel paralyzed and entirely incapable of coping with day-to-day life’s challenges, affecting your ability to work, study or take care of yourself. It can be tough dealing with emotional breakdowns, whether they are our own or someone else’s. We may feel lost, helpless, and confused. If you are going through an emotional breakdown, it is important to seek professional help so you can start feeling better.

Signs of an emotional breakdown in teenagers

There are several signs that may indicate an emotional breakdown in teenagers. These can include: 

  • a sudden change in mood or behavior,
  • withdrawal from friends and activities,
  • drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits, increased irritability or anger, 
  • difficulty in concentrating or making decisions, unexplained aches, and pains, 
  • fatigue, or loss of energy.

 If you notice any of these signs it is important to reach out for help from a trusted adult such as a parent or a professional counselor.

Causes of emotional breakdowns in teenagers:

There can be many different causes of emotional breakdowns in teenagers such as 

  • loss or death in the family
  • trauma
  • violence 
  • financial issues
  • severe illness
  • work 
  • school stress

Some teenage girls may have a hormonal imbalance which can lead to extreme mood swings and make it difficult to cope with everyday situations. Often, feelings overwhelmed by stressors such as exams, family problems, or relationship issues can lead to an emotional breakdown. In some cases, drug or alcohol abuse can also contribute to the development of mental health problems that result in an emotional breakdown.

How to deal with emotions and prevent emotional breakdowns in teenagers?

Encourage your teenager to identify their feelings. It can be helpful for them to name what they are feeling whether it is anger, sadness, frustration, or joy. This will help them understand and cope with their emotions better. Try to remain calm when your teenager expresses his/her intense emotions. This will avoid further escalating the situation.

Teach your teenager how to cope with stress. Stress is a part of life, but it should not take over our lives. Teens may not have developed self-management skills as their brains are still developing and they may have trouble in rationally thinking and taking decisions during an emotional breakdown. There are healthy ways to deal with stress that do not involve harmful behaviors like self-harm or substance abuse. Helping your teen learn these coping mechanisms can reduce the risk of an emotional breakdown. 

Be present and remain calm and help your teen to understand that you are there to listen and help them during their difficult times. Listen to their views and opinions which may differ from yours and respect them. Since adolescence is a transition period where a lot of physical and psychological changes happen in them. Hence try to understand them.

Provide them with the space or outlets to vent out their emotions in a more positive way like writing a journal, doing some art and craft work, involve in dancing or gardening, going for a hike, doing meditation, and relaxation technique. 

Teaching them positive thinking will help them to manage stress in a more positive way. Distress tolerance skills such as grounding their thoughts back into reality also help someone who just had a big emotional outburst regain control over themselves. Being a good role model in the family with your partner, friends, and other family members will help your teen to take you as a good role model for their life.

Effective Ways to deal with Emotional Breakdown :

It is normal for teenagers to experience emotional difficulties. They are going through many changes in their bodies and lives, which can be overwhelming at times. However, there are things you can do to help your teenager deal with their emotions and prevent emotional breakdowns.

  • Acknowledging the breakdown signs
    The first step is acknowledging that an     emotional breakdown is happening. This might seem obvious, but it can be easy to try to bottle our feelings up and pretend everything is fine until we reach our breaking point. 
  • Recognizing the signs 

Recognizing the signs of an impending emotional meltdown – such as feeling overwhelmed, hopelessness, being unable to concentrate or sleep – can help us act before things spiral out of control.

As a therapist, I would suggest a girl like Anne to identify her feelings, any breakdown signs and acknowledge them first. In CHCP, we begin with the SOFTSEA process, helping the client define the problem, helping the client define the outcome, When- then and Anchoring process for emotional regulation. Other techniques that can be used maybe Journaling, Scheduling the daily tasks and following it, relaxation techniques, role playing will help her to come out of her heightened emotions and engage herself in her daily activities including academics.

For long term relief – Helping clients identify their unconscious thoughts and Helping them restructure their thoughts

 If you want to learn a structured step-by-step process, you can join the ICHARS CHCP Course.

Finally, if you think that your teen might be facing something more stressful, immediately reach out to a school counselor or a professional counselor for support.                                                                                                            

    S. Uma Maheswari

    Psychological Counsellor and Cognitive Hypnotic Coach


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Uma Maheswari
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I'm Uma, a certified Psychological counselor, and therapist in Navi Mumbai, India. From a very early age, with an interest to know more about the evolution of life and human development, I started learning more about human development and their behaviors which paved way for me to take up psychology and counseling to learn more about them. Finally, I am here now with 15 years of professional experience but more of personal experience in helping people with issues to gain more insight and inner strength that helps them to heal, grow and change. I love working with people as each and every person helps me to become a better version with what they leave with me to learn from. Specialized in CBT, Hypnotherapy and various other modalities, I use an integrative approach in helping my clients. I will help you centre yourself so that you can make decisions, take charge of your emotions, feel confident at work, and create meaningful relationships with people who accept and appreciate you. I can help you discover your true self-potential and learn to accept your flaws and shortcomings. It's from this place of self-love and acceptance that change is possible. You can let go of pleasing everyone else and feel good about being you!

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