If there's a teenager in your home, he or she, at various times, is probably moody, ecstatic, angry, happy and just about every other emotional state you can think of.
The fact that your teen can seem like an entirely different person at various times is fairly easy to explain. The teenage years are a pretty difficult time. Teens face all kinds of pressures. Their bodies are changing, their friendships can be volatile, there are demands at school and the uncertainty of college or career decisions.
It's not an easy time of life and one issue, which can be easy to overlook, is that a teen can face a very real and serious mental health problem -- depression.
Teen depression is more than the moodiness that many teens display in everyday situations. Teen depression is described as prolonged, persistent feelings of sadness and is characterized by a loss of interest in most activities.
It's a problem that not only shuts out the happiness that ought to be part of the teenage years, but can also lead to serious consequences, including suicide. Teen suicide is one of the leading causes of teenage deaths and leads to thousands of hospital visits resulting from suicide attempts.
It's vital for parents to recognize the signs of clinical depression and to get help for their teenager when needed.
There are a number of signs to look for in your teen, some emotional and others behavioral. A depressed teen will often feel sad, perhaps even experiencing crying spells for no apparent reason. The teen may be easily annoyed or angry, and may express feelings of worthlessness or guilt or hopelessness.
The teen's behavior will also be changed, including losing interest in most activities. Your teen may seem lacking in energy, or may be overly active. Sleeping too much or insomnia may occur. There may be a loss of appetite, or suddenly overeating.
One sure sign of teen depression is when the teen's loss of interest and happiness goes on for a period of more than two weeks. This is a time to take action, especially immediate action if a teen starts talking of suicide or makes a suicide attempt.
If your teen is showing signs of depression, talk to your family physician or contact a professional counselor. If you sense the potential of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
"Counseling Corner" is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.