Parents are often blindsided by the changes that occur when their normally happy, easy going child hits puberty. While many kids mature and pass through adolescence without incident – for the most part, others seem to hit puberty like a car crashing into a brick wall. When this happens – that once sweet little girl or kind little boy may seem like a completely different person.
The Blame Game
Consequently, as a parent, if your teenager has suddenly changed into someone you don’t even recognize, you are likely desperate for answers – and you are also probably running through a long list of things you should have done differently. You may be ruminating over being too permissive, too strict, or the idea that you were not home enough. Additionally, you may be blaming your DNA, thinking things like, “he’s just like my father,” or “depression runs in our family – I should have seen this coming.”
Another way parents and guardians attempt to come to terms with this difficult situation is to blame their teen for their own behavior – which is never a good solution and almost always causes conflicts to worsen. Furthermore, blame offers extremely short-term relief – and as it fades, discomfort inevitably returns.
Developmental Depression vs. Atypical Depression
Developmental depression in adolescence is a normal aspect of growing up – and while dealing with a moody, sometimes anxious teen may not be easy, it is not necessarily something to be overly concerned about. Many first time parents are as unsettled by their adolescent’s behavior as their child is by their own realization that life is fragile.
Teens enter into developmental depression due to pondering the realities of death, the vulnerable nature of life itself, and the loss of their own childhood identity. While this loss of innocence often causes internal unrest, it is also signaling a fresh chapter in a teen’s life.
As a new sense of self begins to emerge, the accompanying unrest is normal and necessary. Sifting through uncertainties and insecurities is all part of what allows an adolescent to forge a true sense of self and to develop their own identity as they enter into adulthood. If this process is thwarted, teenagers perpetuate early childhood responses to negative experiences, manifesting in behaviors such as bullying or temper tantrums.
A developmentally depressed teen may experience sadness, mood instability, social anxiety, and loss of interest in some pleasurable activities. They might also experience occasional insomnia, hypersomnia, or fatigue as well as infrequent homicidal or suicidal ideation without intent.
While almost all teens will exhibit some signs of developmental depression, increased levels of emotional distress caused by external forces or circumstances may result in the manifestation of atypical adolescent depression.
Atypical Adolescent Depression
Disruptions to the ordinary progression of development may trigger atypical adolescent depression. These may include:
- Social rejection
- Undiagnosed learning disabilities
- Illness or injury
- Financial hardship
- Parental conflicts
- Changing homes or schools
- Death of a loved one
In contrast to teens who experience developmental depression, where the levels of sadness and melancholy are tolerable, those who are dealing with atypical depression are often overwhelmed with debilitating despair and crushing psychological tension. Uncontrolled and unwelcome waves of frustration, rage, powerlessness, and hopelessness cause negativity, volatile mood swings, or self-destructive obsessions.
Adolescents struggling with atypical depression are engaged in a battle – fighting off destructive insecurities and engaging in defensive tactics like dissociation, denial, and projection. These tactics are both necessary and helpful, but they require a great deal of energy to maintain, often causing these teenagers to feel emotionally exhausted and frequently fatigued.
Signs and symptoms of atypical depression include panic attacks and social isolation, dramatic mood swings, mostly irritated or depressed moods, loss of interest in once enjoyable activities. Additionally, prolonged feelings of indecisiveness and hopelessness accompany persistent homicidal or suicidal ideation.
Signs That Your Teenager Needs Help
Because parents see their children as they are used to seeing them – mostly happy, carefree, and filled with boundless energy – it can be an alarming adjustment to suddenly be living with a sulky, moody teenager. This can be concerning, and may make it difficult to determine whether it’s time to reach out to a professional for help. In other words, not every sullen adolescent is suffering from abnormal emotional turmoil.
While it may be hard to tell if your teens behavior is within the normal range of typical adolescent angst, here we have listed three red flags that demand attention and indicate a need for teen therapy:
- Suicide ideation or attempts
- Chronic substance abuse
Suicide Ideation or Attempts
It is critical to take any suicide threat or attempt seiously. While parents often think their child is “just being dramatic” or trying to garner extra attention, suicide rates are on the rise and all threats or attempts demand professional attention.
Self-harming behaviors like hitting, cutting, or other acts of self-harm are a sign of unbearable pain, psychological imbalance, and emotional upheaval. These actions can become habit-forming and will escalate over time.
Chronic Substance Abuse
While adolescents experiment with alcohol and drugs all too often, a teen who is regularly coming home high or drunk is developing a serious problem. It is imperative to act immediately – especially if you believe your teen is suffering from atypical depression or you have a family history of substance abuse.
What to Do When You Feel Your Teen Needs Help
Parents often feel asking for help for their kids indicates that they are bad parents or have somehow failed. However, it is an act of compassion to seek help for your child, and if your child is suffering from atypical depression, professional adolescent therapy in Minnesota becomes critical.
Options Family & Behavior Services
If you are concerned that your moody adolescent is dealing with more serious mental health issues than the average teen, reach out to the dedicated team at our adolescent therapy center near Burnsville. We are here to offer professional mental health services and adolescent day treatments when you need them most.