Q: [Teenager] My teenage daughter suffers from these recurring manic episodes that has me thinking it might be beyond puberty and the typical teenage physical and mental changes. How should I approach this and what are some things I should know?
A: Adolescence is a very tumultuous time for both parents and teens. It’s important to look at what a manic episode looks like in teens—because it presents differently than in adults. It will present with symptoms like: unrealistic highs in self-esteem; the ability to go without sleep for days without fatigue; high distractibility; and/or an increase in risk-taking behavior. These manic symptoms are often followed by depressive symptoms such as: frequent crying; increase of complaints about physical ailments; and/or a loss of enjoyment in favorite activities. Manic and depressive symptoms—commonly known as bipolar disorder—must occur every day for one week in order to be considered outside of the normal range of mood changes in adolescence. However, before we diagnosis them, here are a few suggestions for coping with it:
Get to know your teen. Engage them in their favorite activities and get to know who they are outside of the family. Let your child show you what it’s like in their world. Getting to know your teen will give you more information on how they react to situations, which in turn, will help you to determine whether these moods are abnormal for your teen.
Do some self-care. I highly encourage parents to add a self-care regimen. Take some time to breathe before entering a discussion with your teen. If in the middle of a discussion you feel triggered, ask for a few minutes to process what was said and return to the conversation later. This will help you to develop more patience and model healthy ways to manage big feelings.
Look for support. Whether it turns out to be bipolar disorder or just typical teen mood changes, you will need the support of other parents. When you surround yourself with parents who are empathetic about your struggles, it recharges you. Support groups can give you the energy to cope with the mood changes or the support and education you need about a diagnosis. Being in a group doesn’t signify weakness, it’s a human need to feel connected and supported. It is difficult, but patience and empathy will give you the energy to cope with your teen’s moods.
Mercedes Stanley, MSW, is a Family/Parent Coach in Southern California who has been working with families for over six years helping them achieve results in parent-child bonding, decreasing power struggles and developing discipline strategies that foster nurturing relationships. shameproofparenting.com