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Understanding my feelings – for young people

Information for young people for when you're struggling with how you're feeling and want to understand why.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Understanding my feelings

Sometimes our feelings can be really upsetting or scary, especially if you're not sure why you feel the way you do. Are you feeling upset, scared or worried? Are you not sure why? We're here to help you understand.

This page has information on the following:

What's happening to me?

Thoughts and feelings can be hard to make sense of. You might be having new feelings you don't understand, like:

  • just not feeling yourself
  • feeling something isn't right
  • finding it hard to enjoy things you normally would, such as spending time with friends or doing your favourite hobby
  • feeling angry or sad
  • wanting to be alone
  • having strange thoughts that you don't understand.

If you're worried about anything you're experiencing then opening up to someone can help. You may just need to talk it through – or you may find there is information and support out there that can help.

"The secret of my struggles was weighing down on me like a ton of bricks, and I decided I had to tell someone."

Why am I feeling this way?

There are lots of things that can affect the way you feel, like:

  • problems at home, school or in relationships
  • big changes in your life
  • confusion about who you are, your sexuality or beliefs
  • pressure from yourself or others
  • feeling lonely or like nobody understands
  • being bullied or abused
  • worrying about what's happening in the world, like things you hear about in the news.

Whatever the reason, you're not alone and there is support available.

"When we’re really busy, like if we have exams or have started a new job… we might forget to check in with how we're feeling and that could lead to negative feelings building up."

How are my feelings and mental health linked? 

Our thoughts and feelings show our emotional state from moment to moment, and day to day.

When you’re a teenager, you go through lots of different emotional and physical changes, so you might experience lots of different feelings in a short period of time.

Being aware of your feelings can help you to judge how mentally well or unwell you're feeling. You can use negative feelings as ‘signs’ that something needs to change, like if you feel very sad or low for a long period of time. Or you can use positive feelings as encouragement to keep doing something that makes you feel good.

If you have trouble recognising and understanding your feelings, you may find it harder to cope with negative emotions. You may not know how to react, or you may react in a way that can be harmful, like getting angry.

To find out more, you can read our information on understanding mental health.

When should I ask for help?

It is always okay for you to ask for help.

It's common to wonder if you can handle things on your own, or even just feel like you don't know where to start. Whatever the issue may be, big or small, you don't ever need to cope on your own. You can talk to someone as soon as something is worrying you and you feel ready to talk.

"Do not run or hide from emotions: acknowledge and accept them. The more often you do this, the more comfortable you will feel with dealing with them."

Why should I ask for help?

Asking for help can feel like a really hard step but reaching out for support can help you to:

  • find support to help with how you're feeling
  • feel like you're not alone
  • share how you feel with someone you trust
  • understand your feelings better
  • speak to a professional, like a doctor, counsellor or mental health expert
  • stop things from getting worse.

What can I do right now?

  • Talk to someone you trust, like a friend or trusted adult, such as your teacher. See our page on opening up for ideas on how to start the conversation.
  • Visit your doctor - see our page on talking to your doctor for more information.
  • Explore options for support - see our page on finding support for more information.
  • Take some time to do something you enjoy or find relaxing. For tips on things you could try to look after yourself, visit the Childline website.

"I find meditation creates the clarity and space I need inside my head to allow emotions and feelings to rise to the surface."

This information was published in June 2019. We will revise it in 2022.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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