It is completely normal to have emotional ups and downs in life. We all have our good days and our bad days. However, you have probably noticed that since hitting puberty your teenager seems to be having more frequent and extreme ups and downs. Adolescence can be a tricky time. Teenagers are dealing with changes in their body, their friendships, their school demands, and their increasing independence from you. It can feel that your young person seems to go from feeling frustrated to feeling sad to feeling overjoyed in a matter of minutes. Often these mood changes seem to come from nowhere and can certainly be confronting for parents to deal with.
Why do teenagers experience mood swings?
The research says that mood swings can occur for a number of different reasons. Firstly, when your teenager hit puberty they started producing sex hormones. That is, estrogen and progesterone in girls and testosterone in boys. This means that increased feelings of irritability, sadness, and frequent frustration can be related to chemical changes in their bodies. Your teenager's brain is also going through a major change, as it rewires itself to become a functioning adult. Often the last part of the brain to develop is the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain helps your young person control their emotions, manage their impulses, and consider the consequences of their actions. This part of the brain is the last section to develop! So while your teenager may be starting to look more and more like an adult, at times their abilities to manage their strong emotions is more like that of a younger child.
On top of all that physical change, your teenager is having to deal with a range of new pressures. They might be starting high school, making new friends, having to complete more complicated assessment tasks, or they might be starting a new job. Often they are also developing their identity, which can involve wanting to be accepted by their friends while also becoming more independent from their parents. All of these competing demands can be very overwhelming for your young person.
When are mood changes more serious than a mood swing?
While mood swings are to be expected in teenagers, sometimes it may feel like there is something more serious going on. Depression is the most common mental health problem treated in young people. Some signs of depression can include:
When should I seek help?
You might consider seeking help for your young person if these signs are:
This article was written by Jessica Murray. Jessica is a Clinical Psychologist working at Lifespan Health. Jessica works primarily with young people across a range of presentations.