What could toxic stress look like?
There are many factors that play a part in whether or not an experience will become overwhelming to an individual. For example, just because someone has experienced something from the list above, does not mean it will hinder how they function and interact with others. Age, quality of coping skills and previous experience with challenges and obstacles are significant factors in how someone will deal with stress. A four-year-old who got distracted looking at cookies in the grocery store and lost track of their mom will have a different reaction to that same event than a 16-year-old. The older teenager would most likely calmly walk around the store looking for their parent, while the four-year-old would begin to cry and not realize their mom is only a few feet away behind another customer. While it is the same event, each person is bringing their own experience, skills and know-how to dealing with it and coping with the event.
Because each individual is different, everyone will experience and deal with stress in a different way. Below, we have provided a short list of a few examples of what toxic stress could look like:
- Depression, hopelessness
- “Don’t care” attitude
- Sudden, new friend group that parents/guardians don't approve of
- Disruptive behaviors, like missing curfew, not following rules, etc...
- Smoking, drinking or substance use