Teen Angst - Myth or Reality?

Teen Angst - Myth or Reality?
Francisco Pérez

Written and verified by the psychologist Francisco Pérez.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Teen angst is something we’ve all experienced to some extent. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly makes this particular life stage unique.

Adolescence is a period of development between childhood and adulthood. It’s unarguably a difficult stage for most people.

Adolescence is quite a long stage. The exact length varies a bit depending on who you talk to, but it generally spans from just before the age of 13 to a little after the age of 19. It’s a transition phase, as we’ll see below.

What seems fairly clear is that teenagers are no longer children, but they aren’t adults either. They have to face many physical, social, and psychological changes that affect them every day.

The teenage years represent the transition to adulthood

There are many different ways to consider the concept of transition. The fact that adolescence is a universal experience is why it should be called a transition.

Transitions have different characteristics. Transition means:

  • An enthusiastic anticipation of the future.
  • A feeling of loss for the stage that you’re leaving behind.
  • Anxiety about the future.
  • An important psychological readjustment.
  • Ambiguity about your social position during the transition.
A sad teen with her head on her knees.

All of these characteristics are surprisingly present during teenage years. The idea of adulthood attracts teens. They want the freedom and the opportunities that come with being an adult. At the same time, they feel sad because they’re leaving their childhood behind.

After all, inside every teenager is a child that’s fighting to get out. Young people worry about what comes next. That’s why this article is dedicated to teen angst.

Psychological readjustment

Since jobs, living situations, and relationships are all up in the air, it’s no wonder why teens feel scared about the future.

Teens undergo a significant psychological readjustment. This psychological readjustment affects every facet of a teen’s life. Things change with their family, friends, and adults. Not only that, but their own identity also changes.

That’s why it makes sense to consider adolescence a transition. Teens also reach many meaningful milestones during this stage.

Teen angst and identity

The way that young adults understand and perceive themselves has a powerful effect on how they’ll react to life events later on. During adolescence, teens  go through an essential dilemma. They believe they have to live up to others’ expectations while also figuring out who they are.

During adolescence, teens struggle to determine who they are and how they define themselves. They have to make decisions that will define who they are as a person. A young person can experience depersonalization if they don’t try to figure out who they are.

A worried teen outside.

Immature thought process

In a lot of ways, an adolescent’s thought process is strangely immature. They can be rude to adults, have a hard time deciding what to wear every day, and often act like the world revolves around them.

According to psychologist David Elkindtheir immature thought process manifests itself in at least six characteristic ways:

  • Idealism and critical character: Since teens imagine an ideal world, they blame adults when they realize how far the real world is from what they imagined.
  • A tendency to argue: Teens are always looking for an opportunity to test and show off their new formal reasoning skills.
  • Indecision: Teens can hold many different alternatives in their minds at the same time. They’re inexperienced and, as a result, they lack effective decision-making strategies.
  • Apparent hypocrisy: Young adults often don’t recognize the difference between the expression of goals and the sacrifices that you have to make to actually reach them.
  • Self-awareness: During adolescence, teenagers are able to understand their own thoughts, as well as other people’s. Nevertheless, they often think that others are thinking the same thing they are.
  • Assume they’re special and invincible: Teens believe that they’re special, that their experience is unique, and that they aren’t subject to the rules that govern the rest of the world.
A teen girl looking at the forest.

Teen angst is a reality

In light of this information, it’s easier to understand why we hear so much about teen angst. Teen angst is a reality, not a myth. Adolescence represents the transition to adulthood, with all the uncertainty that that brings. What’s more, a teen’s thought process isn’t mature yet and they haven’t discovered who they are.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.