So is my teen giving me attitude or is she depressed?
To answer that let’s first talk about the symptoms of depression. Depression is most easily recognized by the following signs and symptoms:
- down mood
- lethargic or slow movements
- difficulty concentrating
- sleep too much or too little
- not interested in doing fun things like she used to
Believe it or not, in children and teens, irritability is one of the more common signs of depression.
Irritability in teens looks like:
- Lashing out, including screaming and yelling
- Defiant attitude or talking back
- Name calling or being mean to younger siblings
- Throwing things
- Giving you the “cold shoulder”
- Bringing up the past wrongs
These signs, in combination with the other depression signs in the list above, could mean your child is not giving off “teen attitude.” She may be exhibiting signs of depression.
While it’s easy to attribute your child’s irritability to attitude and disrespect, take a step back and consider the whole picture here. Has she been exhibiting signs of depression as well?
This is an important step for you to do because the way you would address your teen’s irritable attitude is different than how you would treat her irritable depression.
How can I help my kid with her irritability?
Irritability and anger is a form of communication. So if you teen is depressed there can be some benefits to a child who yells at you (as opposed to one who isolates, shuts down, and won’t talk).
So two questions to ask yourself when your teen lashes out and you’re unsure how to respond: “What is she trying to tell me? What is it my daughter needs me to know?” Maybe she feels a lack of control in her life, or feels frustrated and has no confidence in herself. When you start listening to her, the answer may surprise you. It’s often at this point you start to scratch the surface and see that there may be more behind the anger than simply attitude.
Finding the reason behind the anger can be a great start to solving the anger. And if you start solving the anger, that may help to start resolving any underlying depression.
Bottom line: There are a few anger/depression behaviors that need to addressed immediately by a medical or mental health professional. If your child is aggressive toward others, a danger to herself (including self-harm or suicidal thoughts or behaviors) call your child’s doctor, therapist, 911, or suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. A professional can help your daughter with coping skills and help you with how to respond to your child’s behaviors.
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.