Teens, Moods and Psychiatric Conditions

I’m a child psychologist and have been in private practice over
twenty-seven years. This latest brief article outlines some things to
watch for in teens when their behavior becomes a problem. This is one
of a series of many articles recently published online about teenagers
and their behaviors…

To continue…

Another cause of erratic moods is the onset of normal physical
changes. Menarche troubles lots of girls, for a while, until their
bodies and psyches adjust. Some girls/women never get used to their
periods. While this is normal, at first and possibly on a cyclical basis, moods may be compromised. Check with a medical doctor for
things like hormone levels if you suspect this to be behind cyclical and more extreme mood swings.
There are physical (probably genetic) conditions that make moods
worse. Some of these are considered to be mental health disorders, while others are thought to be genetic conditions that have mental sequelae. These include Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism in general, Developmental Disorders, psychotic states and sometimes Personality Disorders.
Psychiatric conditions almost always “trash” moods. Major
Depression, Bi-polar Disorder, Mania, Cyclothymia and Dysthymia are terms that describe different characteristics and aspects of mood disorders. Anxiety disorders also make mood management very difficult. While anxiety, per se, is not always considered to be a mood “proper,” it is sufficiently mood like, often painful and both indicative of and
influential over underlying moods. At a clinical level, anxiety presents
in many forms, including the following disorders: Panic Disorder, Phobias,
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
These states require the intervention of a licensed mental health
professional. (Sub-clinical manifestations of anxiety are guilt,
procrastination and other forms of ambivalence, such as the inability to
forgive, or even grief.) The idea is to get down to the cause of behavior problems, either using your own resources, or by enlisting the aid of others. (For a more thorough discussion of anxiety, see How To Diagnose and Treat Your Anxiety, which is linked to the author’s website, below).
To say that teen’s moods vary more than others is probably an
understatement. But to say they are too extreme relative to their internal state is an overstatement, and clinically incorrect. Teenagers react to their environments because they have newly minted perceptual and emotional machinery that are, unfortunately, neither grounded in experience, nor fine-tuned or adjusted to reality. As with most human behavior, emotion-driven behavior runs its course until it hits a wall, then corrects.
Hormones drive dramatic physical expansion in the body, and feelings come along for the ride. During the teen years, bodies and emotions explode, expanding in all directions, until stopped, usually by some form of external limit. Then, especially feelings “re-set;” meaning, adjust to the parameters within which they can safely function without jeopardizing their host. In concrete terms, your teenager will cause you great emotional grief until one or more of three things happen. One, you understand them and they come to feel you are an ally, hence less of an “object” to resist. Two, they get used to themselves and more spontaneously “adjust.” Three, you set limits and boundaries. In all cases, they have to “test drive” their emerging adolescent psyches before they settle down. Be patient.
–Dr. Griggs

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