Watching your teenager cry frequently can be distressing and confusing as a parent. You may be wondering what’s going on and how you can help. There could be many reasons why your teenager is crying, ranging from sadness, stress, hormonal changes, anxiety, and depression.
Teenagers undergo many physical, biological, emotional, and social changes. These can be exciting but also overwhelming and scary. As parents, we are often caught off guard - we know how to deal with a crying toddler but not a crying teenager.
The teenage brain is still 'under construction' and constantly being reshaped. Recent research has shown that the human brain is not mature until the early 20s. The connections that are being established are the links essential for emotional learning and self-regulation. The teenage brain is not developed enough to allow them to regulate their emotions, so events and emotions are perceived and felt more intensely.
Teenagers go through hormonal changes - their brains produce stress, sex, and growth hormones. The production of testosterone increases ten times in teenage boys. Their hormonally regulated body clocks change, keeping them awake into the night and disrupting sleep.
In light of all these changes, some emotional tears are not unusual in the teenage years. However, teenager crying can be a sign of a problem if it happens frequently or for no apparent reason or when crying affects daily activities or becomes uncontrollable. If your teenager is not just sad sometimes but also shows some of the signs below, consider seeking advice from a mental health professional:
According to the National Institute of Health (NIMH), in 2020, "An estimated 4.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 17% of the U.S. population aged 12 to 17."
There may be several different factors that may be contributing to your teenager’s emotional state.
There are various reasons why your teenager may be crying, ranging from minor frustrations to more significant mental health issues. Here are some of the potential causes:
If your teenager frequently cries, it is essential to be there for them, simply acknowledging their feelings and offering support and understanding.
Here are some practical tips to help you support your teenager:
The first question that may come to your mind when your teenager is crying is whether they are depressed. Depression as a condition is not to be confused with feeling depressed, which is a normal state that everyone experiences from time to time. Feelings of depression or sadness can be powerful in their impact but pass relatively quickly. Depression is a mental illness that can last for weeks or even months and be accompanied by a host of other symptoms.
It can be difficult to determine if your teenager is depressed, as symptoms can vary from person to person. Some of the key symptoms of depression are prolonged low periods. These periods typically last for at least two weeks, although they can go on for months. Symptoms such as low self-esteem and a profound lack of motivation are also common during depressive periods.
Some common signs of adolescent depression include:
If your teenager displays several of these symptoms, it may be a sign that they are experiencing depression. However, it’s important not to self-diagnose but instead to seek professional support from a qualified mental health professional to diagnose and treat any potential depression.
Teenagers may turn to alcohol or drugs in an attempt to self-medicate their depression and cope with emotional pain. Sadly, substance abuse only makes things worse. It can also turn into a substance use disorder.
Depression is also a potential symptom of drug or alcohol withdrawal, which can trap people into an addiction to avoid withdrawal symptoms. If your teenage daughter or son struggles with depression and a substance use disorder, it is important that they receive professional medical treatment for both.
Self-harm and suicidal ideation are more extreme and urgent signs of teenage depression.
It is important to remember that self-harm is a way for depressed individuals to cope with emotional pain, difficult feelings, or negative emotions. People who self-harm find it easier to manage physical pain when they feel overwhelmed - it gives them a sense of control over the situation.
Suicidal thoughts are a serious warning sign that someone may be depressed. Expressing the desire to take your own life, or wishing you were dead, is a clear sign that something is very wrong. It can be extremely distressing for a parent to hear this from their child, but it is important to take it seriously while trying not to react in a way that closes them off from communicating with you.
If you are worried that you or a loved one may attempt suicide, please contact a mental health professional immediately, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, or call 911in life-threatening situations.
One of the main risk factors for teen depression is a family history of depression. The Stanford University School of Medicine research suggested that an individual could be two or three times more likely to develop depression if an immediate family member also suffers from it.
In addition, the loss of a family member or friend, peer rejection, bullying, social isolation, and disappointment are all risk factors that can trigger a depressive episode, especially in individuals with a vulnerability or predisposition to depression.
If you believe that your teenager may be experiencing depression or other mental health issues such as substance abuse, mood disorders, or an eating disorder, it is essential to seek professional help.
A mental health professional can assess and diagnose your teenager’s condition and provide effective support and treatment options.
Concerned parents could first speak with their child’s doctor, who will provide advice and put them in contact with specialists in adolescent psychiatry. Some depressed teenagers might prefer to speak with someone else, such as a school counselor, who can provide a safe space to discuss why they feel sad or depressed and also help them seek professional help when they are ready.
Trying to encourage spending time with friends or family can also be a good way to maintain the social bonds and enjoyment that can be lost as a result of depression. Trying to incorporate improved social contact into everyday family life can help reduce some of the symptoms of depression in young people.
Once your teenager agrees to engage in the treatment, there are several ways they can receive help. Treatment facilities can create custom programs tailored to their individual needs and circumstances.
The use of talk therapy can help your teenager understand their condition, as well as cope with it. A mental health professional might suggest something like cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) to treat teen depression. This can address the underlying contributing issues and provide useful strategies for managing depressive episodes.
Family therapy is another type of therapy that can help all the family members understand the teenager’s feelings as well as how to support them. It can also bring to light circumstances which may explain why the teen is depressed, which might be too difficult to speak about otherwise.
Alongside therapy, other kinds of medical care are used to treat depression. Pharmaceutical approaches, such as antidepressant medications, are used to help mitigate some of the symptoms. Antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) must be prescribed by the doctor and taken under medical supervision to ensure the correct dosage and avoid any potential side effects.
The mission of Clearfork Academy is to lead adolescents to a new legacy. We offer a Christ-centered residential treatment program for adolescent boys and girls who are aged 13- 17 years old.
We provide expert help for teenage depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders, as well as substance use treatment. We offer a therapeutic environment for young adults struggling with the physical, mental, social, and spiritual bonds of chemical dependency and mental health issues.
Ours is a structured and supportive environment to include individual, family, and group therapies and evidence-based programming. The whole family joins us for therapeutic activities, so we can provide an all-encompassing approach to achieve successful long-term recovery.
For expert help for your teenager and to find out more, contact us today.
Originally from the Saginaw, Eagle Mountain area, Austin Davis earned a Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Ministry from Lee University in Cleveland, TN and a Master of Arts in Counseling from The Church of God Theological Seminary. He then went on to become a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor in the State of Texas.
Austin’s professional history includes both local church ministry and clinical counseling. At a young age, he began serving youth at the local church in various capacities which led to clinical training and education. Austin gained a vast knowledge of mental health disorders while working in state and public mental health hospitals. This is where he was exposed to almost every type of diagnosis and carries this experience into the daily treatment.
Austin’s longtime passion is Clearfork Academy, a christ-centered residential facility focused on mental health and substance abuse. He finds joy and fulfillment working with “difficult” clients that challenge his heart and clinical skill set. It is his hope and desire that each resident that passes through Clearfork Academy will be one step closer to their created design.
Austin’s greatest pleasures in life are being a husband to his wife, and a father to his growing children. He serves at his local church by playing guitar, speaking and helping with tech arts. Austin also enjoys being physically active, reading, woodworking, and music.