The Difference between Typical Teenager Mood Swings and Depression - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 10, 2017

The Difference between Typical Teenager Mood Swings and Depression

The Difference between Typical Teenager Mood Swings and Depression

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Crozer-Keystone Child and Adolescent
Psychiatrist, please call 610-874-5257 or
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Teenagers are known to have occasional bouts of being irritable, unhappy and moody. It comes with the territory of puberty, hormones and pressures at home and school. Because of this, parents can find it difficult to tell the difference between typical teenage ups and downs and depression.

Here’s how you can tell the difference and determine if your teen needs some help.

In many cases, teens struggling with depression will have a noticeable change in their behavior and thinking. They may sleep excessively, their eating habits may change, they may have no motivation or even become withdrawn.

Some emotional changes that may signal depression in teens include:

  • Irritable or annoyed mood
  • Feeling hopeless, empty, worthless, or guilty
  • Frustration or anger, even over small things
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in normal activities they once enjoyed
  • Feelings of sadness and crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Loss of interest in, or conflicts, with friends and family
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Fixating on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or criticism
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • An ongoing sense that life and the future are bleak
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

Behavioral changes that may indicate a teen is depressed include:

  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy and tiredness
  • A decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Frequent complaints of unexplained body aches and headaches
  • Poor performance in school and frequent absences
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Angry outbursts and disruptive or risky behavior
  • Social isolation
  • Neglected appearance
  • Self-harm
  • Making a suicide plan or a suicide attempt

Not all teens struggling with depression will exhibit these signs. If you aren’t sure if your teen is depressed or simply being a “typical” teenager, consider how long the signs you’ve noticed have been present, how severe they are, and how different he or she is acting from their usual self. Some growing pains are expected in teens’ behavior and mood, but dramatic and long-lasting changes in their mood, personality, or behavior are red flags something else is going on.

If symptoms of depression continue or begin to interfere with your teen’s life, talk to a doctor or mental health professional who specializes in working with adolescents.

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy

The Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists at Crozer-Keystone assess children to make thorough diagnoses and develop a comprehensive care plan. Our services are quiet, calming and always confidential.

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