My teen daughter has been lashing out recently. She yells and screams whenever I tell her to do anything, she makes sarcastic comments to her brother, calls her little sister names, and is just plain defiant toward her father. Yesterday she threw her phone on the floor and the screen cracked. The school hasn’t mentioned any behavioral issues but her grades just came out and she’s failing two classes. But sometimes she just seems so…down. Could all this anger mean she’s really depressed?
Dear Concerned Mom,
Yes anger in children and teens is a sign of depression!
Most parents think signs of depression are tearfulness, sadness, being unmotivated, down mood, sleep too much, and not interested in doing fun things. These are all true. But in children and teens, anger is also a very common sign of depression.
You may have noticed when you get sad or down you also get irritable, which is like a low-lying anger. Things might get you cranky, or on edge, but you typically can control your emotions so you are not name calling or throwing phones. This is because you’re an adult, and you have developed the ability to handle your emotions (most of the time anyway, right!).
Your child is struggling to evolve in her ability to cope with the stress of life. So her irritability is turning into lashing out.
Remember, anger is a form of communication. So two questions to ask yourself when your child lashes out is “What is she trying to tell me? What is it my daughter needs me to know?” Perhaps she’s communicating her frustration when she threw her phone. When she’s defiant toward her father maybe she’s trying to assert her own independence.
Finding out through some brainstorming on your own about the reason behind the anger can be a great start to solving the anger.
There are a few anger behaviors that need to addressed immediately by a mental health professionals including if your child is being aggressive to another person, if her aggression toward objects escalates, or if she turns her anger on herself and starts self-injurying. A professional can help your daughter with coping skills and help you with how to respond to your teen’s behaviors.
Please comment below: Do you have an angry kid that also seems down? What did you notice about what s/he was trying to communicate?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.