My Teenager Isn’t Depressed, They’re Just Being Dramatic

Drama can be a common part of adolescence. The emotional “ups” and “downs” are a normal part of the hormonal and physical changes of puberty. Drama is a natural part of this process because it is a time of new experiences and challenges. It is important to be aware of the difference between normal teenage growing pains and situations that can be overwhelming to a teenager. Bad grades, homework or a break up, may be challenging but teens may find the ability to cope and learn more about themselves.  Other situation like bullying, can be extremely distressing.  Without support and effective coping skills, teens may find it difficult to manage these experiences.

Social factors have a big influence on teens and how they see themselves and are able to cope with challenges.  Unfortunately, our kids are experiencing many high risk responses to the social, emotional and mental challenges they are facing.  This includes suicide, self-harm, and substance use, to name a few.  So, how can a parent tell the difference between normal moodiness and something more serious?

Here is a list of behaviors that may indicate a more serious problem

  • Episodes of persistent sadness or isolation that last for more than a few days
  • Loss of motivation or interest in his/her favorite things
  • Painful thought patterns that can result in a sense of hopelessness or severe anxiety
  • Physical symptoms like trouble sleeping, changes in appetite
  • Not attending school
  • Self harm behaviors
  • Talking about suicide


Behaviors to watch for:

Difficulty concentrating, withdrawing from friends, risky behaviors and poor academic performance. If you see these symptoms, encourage your teen to talk openly and honestly with you or another trusted adult.

Aggressiveness, rapid mood swings, losing friends, mild rebellion and sudden changes in personality. If you see a pattern like this, seek help immediately from a mental health professional.

Severe depression, and anxiety, fatigue giving away prized possessions, expressions of hopelessness, and suicidal threats or attempts. If you see these behaviors, reach out to professional help right away, they may need to be evaluated for a residential or day treatment level of care.

When discussing your concerns with your teenager, consider the following important suggestions to limit tension and make the conversation more productive:

  • Remember what it was like to be a teen
  • Express concern about specific behaviors and start with the word “I,” such as “I can’t help but notice that you haven’t been eating much at dinner and your stomach aches have been getting worse.” Then, be prepared to listen.
  • Listen, do not interrupt.
  • Do not to use words “always” or “never.”
  • Deal with the now, not the past.
  • Acknowledge that you are in this together and that they can count on you to help

As a parent, you are not alone.  Do not hesitate to reach out for help if you think that your child may be at risk.  There are many qualified and caring professionals that are happy to give their time and efforts to answer questions and guide parents to solutions.  Parenting is not a one size fits all.  Together we can help these amazing teens grow up happy and successful.