Some kids dance through adolescence with little turmoil, while for others, a puberty time bomb goes off and nothing is the same. Parents, teachers, and the teens themselves agonize over what must have gone wrong, blaming each other, thinking of things they should have done differently, or even declaring it is genetic, just like fill-in-family-member-here.
What is normal teen adjustment angst, and how do you know when to seek professional help?
Adolescence is often encompassing fear or grief as the sudden awareness of the fragilities of life bloom. The reality of mortality of themselves and their loved ones can darken their outlook, and be expressed in a variety of unhealthy behaviors. But this developmental depression can also signal a new chapter in a teen’s life where a budding sense of self begins to emerge. Issues of defining self-identity and wrestling with the need for separation from parents and a desire to become independent. If this doesn’t happen, they may remain mired in outdated negative early childhood behaviors.
Atypical depression may overwhelm teens with crushing despair, rage, hopelessness, and powerlessness which can give way to mood swings and destructive obsessions. This psychic battle is exhausting and may appear as loss of interest, social isolation, and extreme fatigue. Red flags for when your teenager needs professional help are self harming behaviors, chronic substance abuse, and thoughts and/or attempts at suicide.
Getting help for your child is an act of strength, responsibility, and compassion.