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What Causes Irrational Mood Swings in Teenagers?

By Aubri John ; Updated August 14, 2017

Determining normal teenage behavior is often a daunting parental task because teenagers deal with rapid developmental changes causing mood swings, odd behavior and emotional confusion. The teenage years are a time of turmoil and stress for some. Puberty and hormonal changes are primary contributors to adolescent angst, according to the Children Youth and Women's Health Service. Parental intervention and understanding is often required to manage the changes teens experience without causing too much damage. It is important to recognize that in addition to biological causes, external factors also play a role in this process.

Hormonal Changes

Puberty is a significant time of change in the life of a teen. Teens Health from Nemours notes that the beginning of puberty starts the process of hormone change with an increase in sex hormones for both girls and boys. In many teens, emotional changes in the form of mood swings often make the teen feel out of control and observers put on edge because the teen may behave irrationally. The involuntary changes the body makes during this time such as height, weight and sexual organ development further causes discomfort and confusion for the teen. The added pressure of appearing different from peers can further make a teen feel disconnected and uncomfortable with the transitions. Parental understanding and involvement during this time can help a teen recognize the normal process of change and also help the teen have an outlet for support while trying to understand the various changes the body endures.

Experimentation with Drugs

Extremes in mood during the teenage years can signify the existence of drug experimentation or a detrimental substance abuse problem. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, several drugs teens may experiment with cause irrational mood swings such as hallucinogens, marijuana and cocaine. Alcohol is another substance that can induce irrational mood swings from using high doses or when used on a regular basis, according to Teens Health from Nemours. Experimentation with substances also runs the risk of the teen becoming addicted, which has an additional set of symptoms impacting extremes in mood, irrational behaviors and teen health.

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Mental Health Disorders

Intense extremes in mood during the teen years suggests a potential mental health disturbance such as depression or early-onset bipolar disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health explains that bipolar disorder is not the typical ups and downs a teen goes through, rather it is extremes in mood characterized by intense happiness, silly behavior and trouble staying focused. On the other hand, intense sadness, lethargy and thoughts about suicide may exist. In a depressive state, not characterized by the extremes of bipolar disorder but of an existing depressive disorder, symptoms may include quick temper, apathy and isolation, the Mayo Clinic notes. In the event of extremes in mood not otherwise explained by puberty or substance abuse, professional intervention is required for further evaluation and treatment.

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