What's Wrong With My Teenage Daughter?


What’s wrong with my teenage daughter?

For the mom who called the clinic last week and explained that something is seriously and suddenly emotionally wrong with your teenage daughter, and then cancelled at the last minute due to another immediate crisis moment at home, here’s what I wanted to tell you:

Your teenage daughter is suddenly changed. She’s angry, moody, distant, and unhappy. She’s not just experiencing routine adolescent moodiness, she is deeply hurting, maybe spiraling into crisis, and she won’t let you in. What could be happening?

  1. She’s in over her head in some way. Maybe her close friend is having a mental health crisis and she’s trying to be a good listener, but she isn’t qualified to function as a therapist for a troubled peer and the problem is too much to bear. Or perhaps 4 honors classes is just too many and she is in a state of perpetual overwhelm, full of insecurity, or believes she will fail (even if she makes good grades). Or she’s the target of relentless bullying by a circle of former friends. Or maybe she is watching a teacher border on the edge of verbally abusing the classroom each day and she’s never seen an authority figure so out of control, but she doesn’t know she’ll be believed if she tells you. Facing circumstances she feels ill equipped to handle can cause your teen to become suddenly moody and distant and spiraling.

  2. A Heavy Secret. Some secrets are just too burdensome. Family secrets. Her own secrets. Secrets kept for friends. A sexual assault at a party. Substance experimentation. Visiting inappropriate corners of the internet.

  3. Her brain is in the midst of a rewire. All teen brains undergo a rewiring process, and often it can affect their moods. But occasionally a teen gets hit hard by the brain rewire, and suddenly she becomes deeply unhappy, a tortured and hurting emotional mess. Your daughter may be having an intense response to normal changes in brain biology that has thrown her into a mental health spiral.

  4. Wrong meds. Your daughter may have developed symptoms and begun treatment, only to hasten into downward spiral. Sometimes teen brains respond unexpectedly negatively to the efforts made to help them. Medication can have opposite effects. If your gut tells you that things got worse when you started a new medication, take this concern to your doctor right away.

  5. Sneaky sneak. Teenagers have defied parents and broken rules since the invention of teenagers. But in today’s world, our teens can get in over their heads fast with their sneaky behavior. Your teen can get on the Internet and make friends with a 43-year-old man who has unthinkable intentions. Or she can purchase illegal drugs with such ease it would shock you. In today’s world, when a teen starts sneaking around, she can get into major crisis quickly.

Here’s the hard truth about the problems your teen daughter is coping with: she may not want to involve you or come to you for help. She may not want to tell you everything. If her change in mood or behavior is severe and you’re scared, look around for the kinds of problems noted above. And find help right away. For your daughter and for yourself.

Posted on April 29, 2019 .