Teens can be moody, no doubt about it. For some, the moodiness seems to hit the second they enter their teen years. For others, it creeps up slowly. Either way, it can take an unsuspecting parent by surprise.Teenage moodiness is pretty normal in most cases. The ups and downs are all part of the physiological changes going on in a teenager’s body as they mature and grow. Moodiness hits in varying degrees, and some teens might seem to have a whole lot more downs than ups. At some point, parents might start to worry that teenage “moodiness” might be something a bit more serious.Don’t Ignore Your Feelings
As a parent, you’re right to be concerned. You should expect some mood swings, but you should also be aware that some teenagers do experience very real depression. It’s important not to ignore possible warning signs. Some parents brush off concerns, preferring (on some level) not to know. They simply chalk odd behavior up to “moodiness” and nothing more. While this may indeed be the case, warning signs should not be ignored or brushed aside.
If you have seen consistently strange or extreme behavior, it might be time to take a closer look at what’s going on with your teen. There are some tell-tale signs that a teenager is troubled on a deeper level, and if you start to see these signs, it may be time to take action.
Recognizing the Signs
You know your child better than just about anyone. If you can take an honest look at your teen’s behavior and you notice something amiss, you should trust your instincts. Following are some common signs that a teen has gone beyond normal moodiness to something a bit deeper:
– Extreme need for privacy – A desire for independence and freedom is normal, but a steadily increasing degree of secrecy, and demands for extreme privacy are definite warning signs.
– Sudden angry outbursts – A bit of teenage angst is normal. Sudden outbursts of extreme, unreasonable anger are not.
– Extreme mood swings – Expect some cranky days, but if your teens swings wildly from depression to elation, that’s not healthy – especially if these mood swings are accompanied by a lot more sleep than usual.
– Dropping grades –Troubled teens will often lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Grades may drop suddenly and unexplainably.
– Dishonesty and sneakiness – A troubled teen may start to lie about their whereabouts. They may start to miss curfews, and they might not show up when and where they’re expected.
– Petty theft – Some troubled teens may take to stealing money from your wallet. Others may turn to petty shoplifting.
– Changes in friends –It’s natural for a teen to develop new friendships over time; but it’s unusual for a teen to suddenly change peer groups entirely. This is especially concerning if the new group of friends has resulted in a negative change in attitude or appearance.
While one or two of these signs may not be a cause for concern, you should certainly keep an eye on how things progress. Some teens return to an even keel after a brief period of difficulty. Others grow progressively worse, and intervention may be required.
Understanding the Symptoms
It’s also important to understand that teenage depression is a very real condition. It goes deeper than simple moodiness, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. If your family has a history of depression, it’s all the more important to watch for signs in your teenager.
There are a few major symptoms of depression to watch for:
– Ongoing physical symptoms including persistent headaches, stomach aches, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, and shortness of breath.
– Persistent mood swings that are disproportionate to the situation. A deep sadness or persistent irritability, accompanied by unusual bouts of crying, fatigue, anger, or acting out.
– A negative self-concept that manifests in talk of hopelessness or self-hate. Some teens will say things like “It would be better if I just weren’t around.” This may be accompanied by persistent anxiety and/or deep introspection.
– Rarely, depression can cause visual or auditory hallucinations and delusional thinking. At this point, depression has progressed to a more serious psychosis.
Know When to Seek Help
It’s hard to admit it when we can’t be all that our children need – especially when we see them in pain. If you suspect that your teen is depressed or troubled, don’t feel like you need to handle it alone. In fact, it’s almost always best to seek professional help and advice.
If your child is willing to talk, listen carefully and take his feelings seriously. Don’t minimize or belittle his feelings and problems. Instead, realize that your child needs you now more than ever, and do all that you can to provide the support, help, and understanding that he needs.