Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
Teens act out. It's part of life. It's a ritual of growing up. If yours never did, not even speaking back to you, maybe there's something you don't know or that kid is a bit too passive and may rebel later. Or maybe there are so many other problems in the family that your teen is trying hard to keep things stable. But, there are legitimate exceptions, such as one "perfect" teen I know who excels at everything and is too busy doing well and having fun to be a pain.
So why are so many teens labeled Bipolar, ADHD, Depressed and more? I'll answer my own question. Because parents and doctors often want an excuse in the form of a diagnosis and to medicate the problem away.
Now, there are, of course, really disturbed teenagers who have mood swings and depressions beyond what any situation would dictate, truly troubling to the teen and not a product of that teen's desire to try out life outside of parental dictates. Teens who self-abuse, such as cutters, anorexics, bulimics, and more than briefly experimental alcohol and "weed" users or worse, need professional help ASAP. Teens who have a history of involuntary hyperactivity, impulsivity, and short attention span may, indeed, benefit from medication along with practice and relaxation exercises.
Just don't be too quick to diagnose an "illness," when your teen is moody, testing limits, or antsy and flighty. Some of that is so expected and normal and provides teachable moments and opportunities for learning through good discussions, positive attention (such as doing constructive activities with your teens), training to refocus attention, logical consequences, and assertive discipline. For example, it is far better to require the teen to do home service, such as chores, cooking, entertaining younger siblings, even playing games with parents, rather than simply taking the phone and computer (though such actions can be appropriate, too). It is better to require reimbursement for damaged property, earning money with work, rather than just grounding alone. You're willing to spend tiime helping your teen improve and to reinforce those improvements. You're not mad. You're challenged.
Published in Self Help Now: A community blog