Adolescence can perhaps be best described as a time of physical, emotional, and social upheaval. Changes happen so rapidly in the teen years, that it can be difficult for the child or parent to keep up and know how to cope.
Teenagers often become more detached from their family during this time. A adolescent’s peers become their primary social connections, making parents become less important in their teenager’s eyes.
While this is a normal and healthy part of development, it is not an easy place from which to parent effectively. Parents must try to let their children grow and become more independent while still monitoring them for signs of distress that require support or intervention. It can be difficult to detect concerning instability, because some moodiness is normal during the teenage years.
Here are 5 signs that your teen may be suffering from a serious mood disruption, like depression, and asking for help.
1. Mood Swings
Thanks to the cocktail of hormones suddenly surging through a teenager’s body, it is quite normal for them to have mood swings. So how can you tell what’s normal and what is a sign of a problem that needs help? You have to trust your parental instincts here about when to intervene and when to let your child work it out. You know your child better than anyone and should be able to recognize any significant shift in mood. Particularly look for mood shifts that are severe and last more than a few days, especially if they seem to have no root cause or are a severe and persistent over-reaction.
2. A Change in Behavior
It is normal for a teenager to have a certain kinds of behavioral change. Normal changes include some challenging of authority and claiming of their independence. They may also experiment with different looks and interests. What’s not normal is for your child to suddenly start presenting as a different person to you. Not just trying on a new style, but changing core attitudes and beliefs. This can be a sign of depression or that your child is struggling in a major way and needs help.
3. Substance Abuse
A lot of teens experiment a bit with drugs and alcohol to some degree. However, red flags are if your teenager is chronically abusing substances and coming home drunk or high on a fairly regular basis. Dropping grades at school and giving up long-term activities, like sports or hobbies, are also warning signs. Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol in an open non-judgmental, but concerned way is a good approach. It is especially important to discuss your worry about chronic problems if your family has a history of substance abuse.
Those teens who are experiencing significant emotional turmoil may choose to take their emotions out on themselves by cutting, hitting, or hurting themselves in some other manner. This is a sign that your child is overwhelmed and looking for desperate ways to manage their emotional pain. Teens can sometimes experiment with self-harm after a friend shares their experience, so noticing early and finding out if your child is really struggling or copying a behavior can be helpful in stopping this pattern before it gets established.
5. Talk of Suicide
While teenagers can definitely be prone to drama and overreacting to events, no parent should ever ignore talk of suicide. With teen suicide rates on the rise, particularly among girls, any mention or attempt should immediately result in professional help. A trained therapist, can assess your teenager’s comments and help you find the appropriate supports to keep your child safe while they learn how to manage their emotions.
If you or someone you know has a teenager who is showing one or more of these signs and would like to explore treatment options, please call to schedule a free consultation session. I would be happy to discuss how I might be able to help you support your teenager from a parenting perspective or work with them directly to learn healthy ways to manage their emotions.