From a teen in the U.S.:  i have depressive-like episodes but then i get better and i can’t tell if i have a problem or if i am just sad sometimes.  many nights i will end up crying about something and then i feel really bad about my life or just generally empty but then as i’m thinking about it i think i’m exaggerating and then i try to tell myself not to shut down my feelings and it kind of goes back and forth like that and makes me feel crazy. and a lot of times i will self-diagnose with something like cyclothymia and then i do the “you’re exaggerating” bit again. so basically i just want help to know if i actually have a disorder or if some stuff in my life just kinda sucks.

The teen years are really, really hard for a lot of kids. Hormones are shifting. The social scene is often horrendous. Then there is the pressure of school and the regular question from adults of “what are you going to do when you graduate?” Mood shifts are common. Anxiety is common. Wanting life to be different is common. Feeling overwhelmed and down is common. None of which makes it feel any better. Read the description of cyclothymia and most teens would say,”Yup. That’s me.”

But just because your feelings are common during the teen years doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t something wrong. Too often a teen’s feelings are dismissed as just hormones.

If these feelings get in the way of having friendships or if your grades are dropping and you feel so bad you spend most of your time feeling upset or staying in bed, by all means get an evaluation. The place to start is with your medical doctor. Sometimes there is an underlying medical reason for mood shifts.

Also look at your habits. If you aren’t getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night, that may be the root of your problems. Are you eating right? Getting outside every day? If not, start.  Still not feeling better? Then go see a mental health counselor for an assessment. If nothing is outside the realm of normal, you’ll at least have peace of mind. If something more serious is going on, you’ll get some direction about what to do to get some help. In either case, a counselor can give you some practical advice and some emotional support as you navigate the challenges of adolescence.

I’m very glad you wrote instead of just sitting with feeling miserable. Now take the next step to get some help so you can enjoy your high school years.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie