Teens are notoriously "moody." But what does this really mean and what can you do about feeling great one minute then irritated or down the next?
What's Going on?
The Guide to Teen Health explains,
"What we now know is that the teen brain is changing rapidly once puberty hits. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is where more complicated behaviors are regulated – more complex decision making, expressing one's personality, guiding one's social interactions. This area of the brain has a bit of a renaissance during adolescence. Connections between these brain cells occur at high rates again after being relatively stable throughout childhood. Teen brains also grow more white matter in certain areas of the brain during this time, in the frontal lobe and the parietal lobe. These areas of the brain deal with many different processes, including reasoning, judgment, impulse control."
Combined with the surging hormones that accompany puberty, the result can be an increase in moodiness. Interestingly, though we hear a lot about testosterone and estrogen, but these aren't the only hormones that kick into overdrive during puberty. Stress-related hormones also increase as well, and it is these that may be most directly related to mood changes.
When is Moodiness a Problem?
Most of the time moodiness is not a concern. But sometimes it can be a sign of a serious problem like depression or bipolar disorder. The only way to know if this is what is going on is to see a health care provider or talk to a counselor. As a basic rule of thumb, that is a good thing to do if you feel like your mood is getting in the way of everyday life, like school, sports, eating and generally enjoying life. Additionally, if you ever consider killing yourself, then it is crucial to talk to a professional.
What You Can Do About Moodiness
On some level there isn't much you can do about regular old moodiness since it is often caused by chemical changes. However, there are some ways to blow off steam without blowing up at everyone around you. Here are some tips:
- Stay active. If you are involved in a sport or other activity then you will be forced to be focused on that.
- Stay busy. One of the worst things for moodiness is boredom.
- Though it can be hard to do in the moment, try to take a deep breath before you snap at a family member for asking a simple question. Or if silence is your things, practice responding with more than an eye roll to something that irritates you.
- Keep a journal. If you are feeling moody write down your experiences.
- Know your triggers. Sometimes moodiness hits for no reason. Other times it is the result of being over worked or over tired or not having enough space or privacy from family members.
- Identify someone you can talk to when you are feeling down or exasperated or angry. Maybe this is a friend, or sibling, or parent. And maybe it is a professional.
Special Concerns for GLBT Teens
GLBT teens go through the same developmental and hormonal changes as any other teen. But if one of the causes of your moodiness is dealing with your sexual orientation or gender identity and you can't talk about this with the people around you, you might find yourself feeling even moodier than you would have otherwise. It is crucial that GLBT and questioning teens find someone they can vent to honestly.
A lot of teens have turned to this website's GLBT teens community forum for that purpose, but talking to a friend, or family member or therapist is also a great idea.
Though there are plenty of moody adults, most people don't feel moody in the same way that they did as teens once they are out of adolescence. Remember if you have persistant feelings of sadness, anger or anxiety, then it is vital to seek professional help!