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Recognizing Signs of Stress in Your Family

man hugging young girl

Tatiana Gladskikh/Getty Images/iStockphoto

In this Article:

  • Citizen-Soldiers and their families face unique daily stressors.
  • Stress looks different in men and women, teens and children.
  • If stress is overwhelming, ask for help.

Research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that adults and their children stress about similar things, including money, work, family responsibilities, relationships, and health.

For Army National Guard families, this list may also include stress related to mobilizations, weekend drills, and other Citizen-Soldier responsibilities.

But how can you tell the difference between “normal” reactions to stress and when you should be concerned?

Stress doesn’t look the same for everyone. Use these tips to recognize and address symptoms in your loved ones and prevent stress from impacting your happiness and quality of life.

Signs of stress in adults

Symptoms of stress often differ for men and women. The symptoms also can be overlooked for other issues. When looking for signs of stress in your spouse and other adult family members, think about how their typical personality and behavior has changed.

Adult stress symptoms include:

  • Physical symptoms: headaches, backaches, indigestion, weight gain or loss, skin problems, or teeth grinding
  • Excessive focus on a particular concern, such as money
  • Poor memory or trouble concentrating
  • Low or overly high motivation
  • Issues with intimacy
  • Anger or restlessness (more typical in men)
  • Feelings of guilt or depression (more typical in women)
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Reckless driving

Signs of stress in teens

Beyond stress from family matters, teens get stressed from peers, school, sports, and other sources.

Teen stress symptoms include:

  • Changes in sleeping, eating, exercising, socializing
  • Increase in risky behaviors (smoking, drinking alcohol, drinking alcohol, sexual activity)
  • Acting out or bullying
  • Feeling “sick” often
  • Reports of worry, sadness, confusion or anger

Signs of stress in children

Research shows children feel family and financial stress more often than their parents realize.

Stress in children often shows up as changes in behavior:

  • Eating much more or much less than usual
  • Sleep issues: bed wetting, nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent stomach aches, headaches or feeling “sick”
  • Clinginess
  • Changes in interactions with the family (especially with siblings)
  • Acting out, refusing to play with others or isolation
  • Academic under-achievement or under-engagement

What to do if you are worried about someone in your family

If you have concerns about family members’ levels of stress, talk to them. Listen to what they say, and ask if you can help and how.

Remember that help is available for you and your family. Military OneSource offers non-medical counseling services to Army National Guard Soldiers and family members to help with short-term issues. You can also anonymously call or live chat with a trained health professional through the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-TALK (8255). Counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you, and all calls are confidential.

Whether you are a mother, father, child, or friend, reaching out to a loved one who is experiencing stress could make a world of difference.