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In a Bad Mood?

If you're a teenager and you've been moody lately, don't sweat. Try these tips to deal with the normal changes you're going through.
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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 normal teenager.

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 brain development."

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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."

Blame Your Bad Mood on Adolescence

In a study published in March 2007 in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found that responses to stressful events are exaggerated during the teenage years. This exaggeration occurs because of a hormone response (called THP). In adults, THP reduces anxiety, helping the adult calm down after a stressful event. But in teenagers, the hormone actually increases anxiety. Anxiety and panic disorder, which are twice as likely in girls, first appear at adolescence. Suicide risk increases during the teenage years, too, as does the frequency of major depression.

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