If you are worried about your teenager, you are not alone. It is very common for parents to wonder and worry if the behavior they are witnessing is normal or the early signs of depression, anxiety disorder, or other mental or emotional illness. Drama goes hand in hand with the teenage years, and that is normal. There are dramatic physical, emotional, and emotional changes and swings going on in your teen’s life. So it is expected that they will often seem oversensitive, self-conscious and unable to cope with day-to-day life.
One of the main things to look for if you are concerned about your teen is the length of time the behavior has been occurring. Most of the time, the particular side of the mood swing your teen is on at that moment, will be just that, momentary. For normal teens, their moods will usually change in a day or two. Chronic issues that come and stay for weeks or months at a time or go away and reoccur are usually the first indicators that there is something more serious going on.
It is also important to figure out what is considered “normal” for your teen, remember, they are a part of a different social culture than you were. Things have changed and what is considered normal for you, may not be normal now. Talk to teachers, other parents, and other teens to get a sense of what is “in” for your teen. You can tentatively explore their world by watching some of the shows targeting teens, find out which social media channels they are active on. While you might not agree with or like the social culture your teen operates in, it can give you some context for their behavior.
There are some behaviors you can watch out for. When you notice these on a consistent or reoccurring basis, it might be time to contact a professional for some additional help.
- Substance abuse
- Being over suspicious of others
- Excessively neglecting personal hygiene
- Feeling hopeless, sad, anxious
- Crying often
- Loss of interest in friends and family
- Frequent disobedience or lashing out verbally
- Aggressive and violent behavior
- Significant changes in energy levels or sleeping patterns
- Big decreases in school performance
- Los of interest in hobbies or other favorite activities
Remember that even some of the changes above can be caused by other sources than mental illness or teenage hormones. It is important to explore all of the options including:
- Changes in the family structure including death, a divorce, or a new addition to the family
- Physical conditions like new allergies, changes in medication, etc. can cause some of the symptoms above
- Learning problems or relationship issues like bullying can add additional stress
If you are worried about your teen, trust your gut and reach out to someone. As mentioned before, that may be a school advisor or even the parent of another teen. You are not alone, being the parent of a teen is as challenging as being a teen. There are many unknowns, and every adolescent is different. Talk about your fears with someone you can trust and start exploring options for you and your family.