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Teen Girls' Health

What's Normal, What's Not

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By Jennifer Ashton, M.D., Ob-Gyn with Christine Larson
WebMD Feature by “The Body Scoop for Girls”


Everyday “blues” are like the common cold—everybody gets them, and you’ll shake them sooner or later, especially if your sadness comes from something specific, like breaking up with your boyfriend or fighting with your BFF.

Adult Stress Events

  • Getting married
  • Starting a job
  • Moving
  • Having a baby
  • Death of a spouse, child, or parent
  • Getting divorced

Major Stress Events for Teens

  • Changing schools
  • Breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend
  • Going to college
  • Death of a parent, sibling, or friend
  • Experiencing a major illness or accident
  • Divorce of parents
  • Major rejection by a best friend or peer group

Clinical depression, on the other hand, is a major disease and often won’t just go away on its own.

So how do you know the difference? One way is to look at your life. Major stress events often lead to some degree of sadness, anger, or unhappiness. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little off if you’ve had a big fight with your best friend or if your parents are getting divorced.

That’s why doctors want to know what’s going on in your life, especially if you’re showing signs of depression. If you were an adult and told a doctor you were feeling down, the first thing he or she would do is look at the list of major life stress events.

Not all these things are bad! Getting married, starting a new job, having a baby—these are all pretty exciting in a good way. But any big life change can throw you off. When adults experience one of these events, their doctors wouldn’t be surprised or alarmed to hear that they’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, sad, or anxious.

But guess what? There’s no official list for teens!

Still, you get the point: Adolescence can be seriously stressful.

Everybody deals with stress like this in different ways. Some teens slam doors or scream at their parents or cry for days. Others shut themselves up in their rooms. Any of this can potentially be normal, but occasionally reactions veer off track into extreme behaviors that aren’t considered normal—like smashing a vase or breaking a window with a baseball bat. Extreme reactions hint that something’s not quite right.

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