Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 25th, 2018, 0 Comments

How Much Moodiness is Normal?

Most teens are moody. Everyone knows that. But how much moodiness is normal?

New data released by the CDC last week show that teen depression – which has been increasing for a decade – is continuing to rise. In the past year, 31.5% of high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row. Yet, we parents are often painfully slow to acknowledge the warning signs of depression in our teens – especially when compared to the attention we give other disease symptoms.

Part of our hesitation can be explained by the fact that teen depression is a relatively new diagnosis. Until the 1980’s psychiatrists didn’t think that adolescent brains were mature enough for an adult illness like depression. Plus until the mid-80’s there were no safe, effective drugs to treat depression in teens. So historically speaking, doctors were reluctant to diagnose the illness in teens and quick to dismiss teen moodiness as part of normal adolescent development.

But we parents can also hesitate to acknowledge the warning signs because none of us would choose for our teen to have depression. Given the choice between, “My teen is a moody kid” and “My teen has a potentially life-threatening illness” we’ll pick the first. The second is too scary.

Try This
How much moodiness is normal and how much is a sign of depression? With teen depression on the rise, more parents are asking themselves this question.

To monitor your teen for signs of depression, look for changes in three main areas:

Changes in Mood
Feeling sad or low
Feeling nothing or a lack of enjoyment in formerly pleasurable activities

Changes in Physical Symptoms
An increase or decrease in appetite, leading to a change in weight
Sleeplessness or not being able to get out of bed in the morning
Not being able to focus or concentrate
Having little or no energy
Feelings of agitation or restlessness, sometimes relieved by self-medication via drugs, alcohol, or self-harm

Changes in Self-Attitude
A loss of confidence or self-esteem
Feelings of worthlessness

Note: Although most people have experienced one or more of these symptoms in their lives, to diagnose depression, psychiatrists look for a cluster of symptoms that last for at least two weeks, interfering with a person’s functioning socially, academically, or emotionally.

(Karen Swartz, psychiatrist and director of clinical programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center)

Bottom Line
Adolescent depression is a common illness among teens that is often not recognized. There are effective, safe therapies and medications to treat it. But if left untreated, depression can have dire consequences.

So be on the lookout for warning signs in your teen. When you ask them how they’re doing, also ask them how they’re feeling. Get help if worrisome symptoms persist. And be sure that your teen knows that if they’re concerned about themself or a friend, they can talk to you about it.

Selected Sources and Resources
The Rise of Teen Depression by Joe Sugarman in Johns Hopkins Health Review; Fall/Winter 2017
Youth Risk Behavior Survey: Data Summary & Trends Report 2007-2017

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