Been in a bad mood lately? Feeling down in the dumps? Maybe everything in
your life was perfect. Then suddenly you got an unexpected bad grade on a test
and feelings of anxiety, sadness or anger engulfed you like an extreme rogue
wave. Relax. It's okay. In most cases, you can chalk up the bad mood to being a
According to Ronald Fieve, MD, psychopharmacologist and professor of
clinical psychiatry at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, teens
have a lot going against them when it comes to their moods. "During
adolescence, teens cope with tremendous change. The adolescent brain pours out
stress hormones, sex hormones, and growth hormones, which, in turn, influence
In the six months after her parents' divorce, 13-year-old Caroline (not her real name) gained more than 20 pounds. Feeling sad and alone, she consoled herself with food -- and lots of it. Day after day, she was binge eating.
"I remember the night my dad left, I went into the kitchen and devoured a dozen glazed doughnuts and a quart of milk," Caroline said. "Still feeling hungry (but really sad), I took a bag of chips up to my room and ate them in the dark while sitting on my bed, crying."
Along with the influx of raging hormones and body chemistry, teens also have
to deal with both their maturing bodies and their changing environment, says
Dr. Fieve. "Teens undergo bone growth, maturity of the body and sexual
maturity. Adults no longer treat them as kids, even though many teens still
feel like kids. Parents, teachers and employers may expect more out of them,
which only increases the teenager's stress level."
Dr. Fieve says that mood is a dominant aspect of life. "When we're in great
moods, it seems like nothing can go wrong. If something does go wrong, we cope
with it. But what about when our mood goes sour? That's when nothing can go
right. Even positive events -- and people we love -- look dark when we're in an
irritable, sad, or angry mood."
The Difference between a Bad Mood and a Mood Disorder
In his book, Bipolar II, Dr. Fieve explains that mood disorders are a
large group of psychiatric conditions. Abnormal moods and physical disturbances
-- like changes in eating habits, sleep patterns and body motion, either
speeded up or slowed down -- dominate the picture.
While being in a bad mood or feeling low from time to time is normal,major depression needs medical treatment. This medical problem is usually
recurrent, with repeated depressive episodes. "With major depression, a
teenager feels in a depressed mood most of the day with little interest in
normal activities," Fieve says. "The teen might eat too much or too little,
over- or under-sleep, feel fatigued and sluggish, feel hopeless and worthless,
and have other serious symptoms."