Adolescents are known for having quickly-changing moods. She's happy one minute, crying the next. He withdraws to his room at home, but seems to engage with friends. Adolescence can be a stressful time for young people and parents alike. You used to be able to predict what would set your child off, but now it may seem like a stranger is living under your roof. Does my child need counseling? Are these symptoms of a mental health issue?
Many of these changes are considered normal and developmentally appropriate. Adolescents are testing the boundaries of their emerging independence and often focus an increased amount of energy on their social relationships, not to mention the wave of hormonal changes they are going through. Although your adolescent may seem like a mystery to you, you actually have more knowledge and familiarity with your teen than anyone else. If your child begins to show signs of depression, anxiety or another mental health issue, you may be the first to see the signs.
Only a trained professional is qualified to make a diagnosis, however there are signs you might observe that could indicate a need for an evaluation by a professional. Some of these signs are normal to a certain degree. For example, who doesn't feel irritable sometimes or have a bad night of sleep now and then? When these problems interfere with an individual's ability to maintain relationships, perform academically, and attend to daily self-care needs, there may be cause for concern.
*If you learn that your child has expressed thoughts of harming him/herself, or has acted on these thoughts, it is important to seek intervention immediately, either through a mental health professional or emergency services such as a local crisis team or law enforcement, if the risk is imminent.
If you observe significant changes in your adolescent's mood or behavior, don't be afraid to . Let your child know that you are worried about him/her, and that you would like to communicate about what's going on. I suggest this, knowing that adolescents may not communicate as openly as we would like. However the most important part is that they know you are willing to listen, even if they don't immediately open up.
Family therapy can be a resource for increasing communication and increasing your knowledge of ways to support your adolescent. If you are concerned that your child may be experiencing depression, anxiety, or other emotional challenges, I suggest contacting a mental health professional to request an evaluation and recommendations.
Simone D'Amore is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in Beaverton, Oregon.