Teens are notorious for frequent mood swings and bouts of irritability. Moodiness in teens is often a normal part of adolescent development. Teens deal with constant and rapid change, social pressure and issues related to identity, so it's no surprise that they feel moody more often than not. Garden-variety moodiness isn't always a cause for concern and doesn't usually require professional intervention. But since extreme moodiness can present a bigger problem, it's important for parents to learn to tell the difference.
Causes of Moodiness
Everyone struggles with bouts of moodiness from time to time. But teens often experience more frequent moodiness due to a number of biological, psychological and social changes that can make their lives feel like a nonstop roller-coaster. Moodiness may be the result of hormonal changes that begin during puberty, with the beginning of sex hormone production. Boys produce testosterone and girls make estrogen, which cause both physical and emotional changes, according to KidsHealth.org. In addition, teens deal with peer pressure to fit in, academic pressure to succeed and other types of stress, such those related to family issues and relationships. All of these factors can play a significant role in both 'normal' and extreme moodiness in teens.
Difference From 'Normal' Moodiness
Garden-variety teen moodiness can manifest differently depending on the teen. Some teens may experience dramatic mood swings that range from feelings of sadness and frequent tearfulness to feelings of anger or short-temperedness. Others may not display many overt signs but may feel inner sadness or irritability and withdraw from contact with family and loved ones. Parents should be alert to the duration, severity and types of problems in functioning when trying to distinguish between normal moodiness and extreme moodiness. In an article for the Harvard Mental Health Letter, Dr. Michael Miller says that noticeable and dramatic changes in these factors may indicate a more serious issue like depression.
About Extreme Moodiness
Extreme moodiness usually involves changes that last longer, seem more severe and affect other areas of functioning, such as academics or behavior. Adolescent angst is a term that is frequently used to describe extreme moodiness combined with feelings of anxiety and depression. Adolescent angst can become a more serious concern when teens engage in certain types of behaviors, says registered nurse Mary E. Muscari in an article for the Associated Counselors and Therapists website. For example, teens who exhibit signs of extreme moodiness might also decide to completely avoid socialization, feel worthless or hopeless, complain frequently of boredom, engage in self-destructive behaviors or join gangs.
What Parents Can Do
Parents can help teens with extreme moodiness by first staying alert to and educated about the possible causes and signs of this problem. But it's also important to consult a qualified mental health professional if you feel that your teen's emotions and behavior are straying outside of the zone of what's considered 'normal' for average teens. Talk to your teen and show your concern. Let her know that you are available to talk. But don't try to handle the problem on your own or attempt to self-diagnose your child. Seek the assistance of a professional psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health counselor or clinical social worker who specializes in treating children and adolescents.