December 19, 2019, 9:06 am
Moodiness and teenagers go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it’s hardly shocking when your teen acts temperamental. Still, if they’re moody often, it’s understandable that you might start to wonder whether your teen is depressed.
While not every teenager experiences mood swings, it happens to enough teens during this phase of life to make many parents question what is and isn’t normal. Here’s what you need to know to understand the difference between “normal” behavior and potential signs of teen depression.
What’s normal when it comes to teen moodiness?
A lot of it has to do with your child’s baseline, Anthony L. Rostain, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and co-author of The Stressed Years of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive During Their College Years, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Some are very moody before they hit adolescence and then, during adolescence, they become even moodier and get upset easier,” he says. “Others aren’t very moody at all.”
In general, normal teenage moodiness is short-lived and usually a reaction to something that happened, like rejection or an argument, says Rostain. Jed Magen, DO, chair of the department of psychiatry in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University, agrees. “If your teenager has good friends you like, does well in school and generally doesn’t have a lot of other issues you worry about, some moodiness is likely the normal teenage behavior one can see,” he explains.
Teens also tend to flip-flop between moods, according to clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life. “If your teen snaps at you one minute and then is sugar and spice the next, it’s probably typical teenage moodiness,” says Mayer.
While upsetting, it’s not uncommon for teens to say, “I wish I had never been born!” or “I hate myself!” when they’re angry, Mayer notes. Still, Magen believes it’s important to follow up with them when they’re calm to make sure they didn’t actually mean it.
What’s abnormal for teens and mood?
It’s not normal when sadness, irritability or anxiety are the main emotions your teen seems to be experiencing for weeks and it starts to interfere with school, family and their relationships with friends, Mary Fristad, PhD, professor of psychiatry and psychology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “In other words, it’s a problem when it’s a problem.”
It’s also concerning if your teen picks up a knife when they’re angry or does something like open a window and threatens to jump out of it, says Rostain. “Behavior that threatens self-harm should be taken seriously.”
What are the signs of teen depression?
They’re very similar to the signs of depression in adults, Rostain says. They can include the following:
Sadness or irritability that lasts for weeks
Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
Sleep, energy and appetite changes