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My Teenager Isn’t Depressed, She’s Just Being Dramatic

My Teenager Isn’t Depressed, She’s Just Being Dramatic

By: Janae Webb, MS.Ed – Therapist

 

Drama tends to be a common part of adolescence, particularly for girls. The emotional “ups” and “downs” are a normal part of the hormonal and physical changes of puberty. Drama often is a part of this process because it is a time of new experiences and what may seem like a small matter to a parent may seem like the end of the world to the teenager. A bad grade on an exam, a breakup with a significant other, or not having the same clothes that she sees others wearing can be distressing without effective coping skills to manage these new experiences.

However, you should also be aware that depression, substance abuse and several forms of personality and mental disorders are major risk factors for teen suicide. Ninety percent of individuals who die by suicide display one or more of these risk factors. So, if your teen shows any signs of depression, it is a wise choice to keep a close eye on her.

So, how can a parent tell the difference between normal moodiness and something more serious? There are several things to keep in mind:

  • Family history of mental health concerns
  • Episodes of persistent sadness or isolation that last for more than a few days
  • Loss of motivation or interest in her favorite things
  • Painful thought patterns that can result in a sense of hopelessness and/or a negative self-concept
  • Physical symptoms like trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, or shortness of breath

These symptoms often manifest in three stages:

Stage One: Difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from friends, thrill-seeking behavior and poor academic performance. If you see these symptoms, encourage your daughter to talk openly and honestly with you. Tell her you’re concerned about what you see and want her to avoid further difficulties. See specific suggestions below.

Stage Two: Aggressiveness, rapid mood swings, losing friends, mild rebellion and sudden changes in personality. If you see a pattern like this, seek help immediately from a trusted youth pastor or counselor.

Stage Three: Obvious rebellion, severe depression, and fatigue giving away prized possessions, expressions of hopelessness, and suicidal threats or attempts. These symptoms mean trouble. Get professional help right away. If your daughter is clinically depressed, she cannot pull herself out of it. She may need to be evaluated for hospitalization. Medication may also be necessary.

When discussing your concerns with your teenager, consider the following important suggestions to limit tension and make the conversation more productive:

• Speak in a calm tone of voice.
• Express concern about specific behaviors and start with the word “I,” such as “I can’t help but notice that you haven’t been eating much at dinner and your stomach aches have been getting worse.” Then, be prepared to listen.
• Try not to interrupt the other person.
• Avoid sarcasm, threats and yelling.
• Avoid personal attacks and demeaning words.
• Try not to use words “always” or “never.”
• Deal with the now, not the past.
• Do not try to get the last word.
• If things get too heated, take a break and come back to the discussion later.

• Parents: Remember what it was like to be a teen.
• Acknowledge that you are in this together

As her parent, you have taught her values, beliefs, and guidelines and you are in the best position to notice when she is acting out of character. Trust your gut and do not let pride or denial get in the way of addressing a serious problem with your teen.

References:

Adolescent Moodiness vs. Depression (2015). Retrieved June 9, 2017, from http://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-q-and-a/parenting/adolescent-moodiness-vs-depression

Normal teenage behavior vs. early warning signs of mental illness. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2017, from http://www.asmfmh.org/resources/publications/normal-teenage-behaviour-vs-early-warning-signs-of-mental-illness/