One minute your teenager is kind and sweet; the next he’s snapping at you or picking on his younger sibling. Unpleasant as they are, mood swings are typically a normal part of puberty and usually are simply a sign that your child is growing up. Help your teenager learn to cope with his bad moods by providing a supportive ear and shoulder to lean on.
Why Mood Swings Happen
Everything changes in the teenage years. Your child may make new friends and lose older ones. He’ll probably end up with a few pimples and may grow taller before he grows wider, making him look a little gangly and awkward. He’ll also be struggling to exhibit more independence and may squirm against any rules you establish. All the pressures and changes of the teenage years can wreak havoc on your child’s moods, causing him to be sad one minute and happy the next.
Hormones play a huge role in a teenager’s mood swings. Girls begin to produce more estrogen and progesterone and boys start to produce more testosterone, which lead to the physical changes of puberty and can also trigger mood changes. A 2007 study published in “Nature Neuroscience” suggested that tetrahydropregnanalone, or THP, a chemical usually released by the brain to help a person deal with anxiety, may actually cause anxiety in teenagers as they go through puberty.
Helping Your Teenager Cope
Your teenager may need someone to listen to them as they go through puberty. Keep in mind that person may not be you, as many teenagers begin to want to distance themselves from their parents. Your teenager may want to talk to a cool aunt or uncle, older siblings or cousins, or confide in their friends. Getting enough sleep and exercise can also help a teenager deal with mood swings, according to Kids Health. Encourage your teenager to find new hobbies and activities to participate in as they go through the time of change.
While mood swings may just be a sign of puberty, they can also signal something more serious, such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder or another mental illness. If your teenager is irritable or seems sad for a period of longer than two weeks, or has patterns of extreme highs and lows, with rages or feelings of worthlessness, she may be experiencing depression or bipolar disorder. Get help for your teenager if she refuses to participate in activities she once enjoyed or if her apathy or mood swings seem to go beyond those of a typical teenager. Teenagers who talk of self harm or suicide need help right away, even if you think she may have been joking or trying to get attention.
Getting Professional Help
If your teenager’s moods swings are more serious than those caused by puberty, consider taking him to a counselor or therapist for treatment. Family therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists can make a diagnosis and help your teenager on the path to healing, with tools ranging from talk therapy to medication. Since it is a sensitive topic, give your teenager plenty of input and support. If he dislikes his therapist, odds are likely he will be resistant to treatment, so include your teen in the selection process.