Am I overthinking my teen’s moodiness? 

Teen years are some of the most essential years for development and also bring a great range of experiences. Sometimes, in the midst of these many changes, teens may display an increase in expressions of emotional highs and lows. The teenage years are a time of self exploration and development which can feel exhilarating! On the other side of this, there can be a deepening of experiences that feel uncertain and can involve feelings of lowered self worth and depression. While it is normal for teens to experience a variety of emotions, it is important to be aware of what may be a sign that your teenager could be experiencing a depressive episode. 

Before you assume depression, look deeper 

You may be asking yourself whether or not your teen is experiencing what would be considered normal changes in temperament and mood within these teenage years – or if this could be an indicator of depression?  Often parents of teenagers find themselves worried that they may be brushing things off, when in fact the things they are seeing are something that needs greater attention and concern.  Other times, parents find themselves feeling anxious that they aren’t doing enough and fear that they may miss some important sign that could signal greater danger for their teenagers personal well being. Having some clearer guidelines for knowing when things fall outside of the normal range can help you to know if your concerns for your teenagers behaviors are signs of depression.

It could be helpful to use these three simple indicators to help in understanding if your teenager is experiencing a depressive episode.

How long is too long for my teen’s mood?

Change in mood can happen for a variety of reasons, especially in the years of adolescence. However, the difference here is a matter of consistency. It is important to note that just because a teen may seem a little more reserved or withdrawn it does not necessarily indicate the presence of a depressive episode. Teens often have times when they will be more withdrawn or tend to pull back in their normal interactions at home. This can often be a natural shift toward the importance of peers or other relationships in their lives. A good indicator of a change in mood that may be of greater concern for your teen is that of

  • experiencing a low or diminished mood for two weeks or longer
  • continued sadness
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • tearful spells
  • displaying a lack of desire or engagement in activities that they find pleasurable

Is my teen’s mood effecting their daily life?

It is important to consider the effects regarding changes in mood and behavior, including any of the following changes:

  •  significant change in weight or a change in appetite
  •  change in sleep patterns: either a decrease in sleep patterns (difficulty falling or staying asleep) or increase in sleep (greater than the normal range of 8-10 hours of sleep)
  •  consistency in feelings of fatigue or lack of energy
  •  lowered ability to concentrate or difficulty in making decisions on a consistent daily basis
  •  the feeling of lowered motor physical ability or feelings of physical sluggishness happening nearly every day

    These may be things you hear your teenager complaining about or may be things that you or others are noticing for your teenager. If at least two or more of these are present and happening nearly every day, then this may be an indicator that your teen is experiencing something greater than just a normal change in mood.

How is their mood impacting their academic and social performance?

The change in functioning is one that is also very important to consider for your teen.  A question you may want to consider is how the change in your teens mood is affecting their ability to perform normal daily activities. Some things to consider for this include:

  • if the change in their mood has had an impact on their school attendance or punctuality, the ability to maintain part time work of any kind
  • their ability to maintain their social or peer engagements such as normal activities at school, church or other social activities.
  • change in mood is having any effect on their level and engagement in usual self care such as hygiene and personal care, or ability to make a keep a schedule (ie eating regular meals or completing required homework).

Understanding the changes that your teenager may be going through can prove difficult. Ensuring that your teen has the support they need to help them to understand what they are experiencing can be essential.  I would love to set up a time to be able to schedule an initial consultation to help your teen find what they need to navigate their teenage years.

Kristi Wollbrink, AMFT 
Kristi Wollbrink, AMFT 

I help teens and couples decrease anxiety to find meaningful connection.