Teenagers, Emotions and Moods
Wikipedia has the common definition:
"A mood is a relatively long lasting emotional state.
Moods differ from simple emotions in that they are less
specific, less intense, and less likely to be triggered by
a particular stimulus or event."
Being more global, moods can mask feelings, which are
sometimes more intense and often more fleeting. Feelings
tend to come and go with greater rapidity and more visibility.
Either feelings or moods can be a problem for teens. My use
of the term mood can be understood to reflect feelings that are
both short and long term, embedded in or that occur separately
from specific moods. I define these terms this way because
with teenagers, feelings quickly become emotions, which
precipitate out moods--but all this can occur more rapidly than
in non-teen groups, hence they sometimes all start to look alike.
Parents have to deal with their teenager's moods, because
we all know teenagers have exaggerated moods. This is a nice
way to say sometimes teenager's moods are more intense than in "normal" people. The word "drama" comes to mind.
For all of us, at times, moods trample reasoning and compromise
behavior. When is a teen's mood out of the ordinary? The
answer depends upon the parent's judgment, just as much as the
teenager's experience. Normally, a little fluctuation of mood
happens to all of us. In teens, the range of ups and downs is
slightly extended; that is, they sometimes are a little more "up"
and sometimes they are a little more "down." But ups and downs,
even if a little expanded in range, do not normally undermine
function. Usually, this is your teenager's way of getting your
attention, expressing feeling misunderstood, expressing
misunderstood feelings, etc. While slightly unstable moods
make dealing with teens more challenging, eventually the moods
subside, and "normal" functioning prevails. If this is the
case, your teenager's moods are fine.
When teenager's moods deteriorate and stay that way, its
time for intervention.
Mood destabilization is a sign of
pathology, which can be caused by many things. Teens experiment
a lot at this age, that being another hallmark of individuation.
If in their poor judgment state teens choose to use drugs, lots of
very bad things might happen, the first of which are "flame outs."
You will more than notice big changes in teen behavior, characterized
by emotional volatility. But also beware of sudden withdrawal and
excessive quiet. These signs are equally suspect. The scope of
this article is too narrow to warrant a discussion of teen drug use.
But parents should not overlook this possibility and they should
address it at its first occurrence. The same is true when
considering alcohol use, which is rampant among teens. I consider
alcohol to be a "liquid" drug, but a drug nonetheless. Teenagers
will put up quite an argument to justify their substance ab/use,
debating the merits of smoking pot vs. drinking wine with dinner.
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