While depression or anger can strike anyone, depression and anger in girls can have its own unique problems. Girls are by nature more emotional. As such, when they feel something, they feel it deeply. This can make emotions such as depression or anger seem far worse than they actually are.
Depression and anger in young women can lead to irrational or even explosive behavior depending on the source of the emotion. Reactions to negative events in the family, bullying, or trauma are just a few ways these emotional responses can become more prominent in a young woman.
When left untreated, depression and anger can lead to uncontrollable mood swings and acting out. Young ladies and girls showing signs of depression and anger need to be evaluated by medical professionals. In order to help girls with depression and anger, you must first determine if the emotional responses are related to mental health issues, behavioral disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mental Health Issues
The mental health of girls and young women is something that has become a major concern in the United States. Studies show that almost one-quarter of teenage girls show symptoms of depression and more than two-thirds of all teenagers taking anti-depressants are girls.
Most girls won’t freely volunteer how they are feeling to a parent or authority figure. It is incumbent upon the adults around our girls to pay attention to their behavior for signs of dysfunction. If you are concerned that your teenage girl or young lady may be depressed, here are the signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Persistent sad or empty mood
- Restlessness, irritability
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling slowed down
- Decreased appetite and weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Thoughts of dying or suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (stomach aches, headaches, digestive issues)
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, talk with your young lady. Find out what may be happening to make her feel restless, unsettled, or depressed. While she may have depression, there are other mental health issues that can have depression as a feature, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.
Anxiety with depression has become a common diagnosis in teens across America. Pressures on teens to perform both academically and athletically has created a generation of anxious kids who only know that they absolutely must succeed to get the approval of their parents and other adults in their lives.
By mid-adolescence, girls are twice as likely to develop mood disorders as boys. This could be because girls develop emotional management faster than boys. Girls are more sensitive to emotional stimuli, making them at higher risk for anxiety disorders. Because anxiety can exist with depression, as well as anger, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- restlessness or feeling on edge
- easily fatigued
- difficulty concentrating
- always tense
- sleep disturbances
You can see that many of the symptoms of anxiety mimic those of depression. That is why it is absolutely essential that your teen girl be evaluated by a medical professional. Don’t try to fix this yourself – if your girl is dealing with depression and anxiety, she needs professional help, possibly medication.
You also need to be aware of how bipolar disorder can mimic both depression and anger in young girls. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness typified with extreme mood swings, from manic and energetic, to despondent and sluggish. When this affects a teenage girl, it can wreak havoc. A young girl could cycle through the phases as frequently as every few days, or every few weeks or months. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Increased energy
- Inability to focus
- Rapid or unrelenting talking
- Problems sleeping (insomnia)
- Increased irritability, disproportionate anger
- Inflated self-image
- Risk taking and impulsive behaviors
Because this mental illness comes in cycles, it can be difficult to differentiate between bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Bipolar depression can look like chronic depression or situational depression. Anger during a manic stage can look like a personality disorder. Because of that, it is important to understand what behavioral disorders look like.
There are multiple behavioral disorders that have features of depression and anger. Some of the more common are emotional behavioral disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, narcissism, and borderline personality disorder.
An emotional behavioral disorder affects a girl’s ability to be happy, control her emotions, and focus in school. “According to Gallaudet University, symptoms of an emotional behavioral disorder include the following”:
- Inappropriate actions or emotions under normal circumstances
- Learning difficulties not caused by another health factor
- Difficulty with interpersonal relationships
- A general feeling of depression
- Feelings of fear and anxiety
Emotional behavior disorders need to be diagnosed by a medical professional so that your daughter or young lady can get appropriate treatment. This is one of the milder of the behavioral disorders that can include depression and anger.
Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by hostile, petulant, and obstinate attitudes in kids. Girls with ODD can be spiteful or hurtful on purpose, and they direct their negative attitude toward authority figures. The symptoms vary, but the common thread is opposition to authority. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are the signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Often and easily loses temper
- Is frequently touchy and easily annoyed by others
- Is often angry and resentful
- Often argues with people in authority
- Actively defies or refuses to comply with rules
- Deliberately annoys or upsets people
- Blames others for her mistakes or misbehavior
- Is often spiteful or vindictive
The type of anger demonstrated in ODD will seem over the top and beyond the anger a normal girl might display. There is also the specific reaction to persons in authority. This out of control behavior can also be a sign of narcissism.
Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a hyper-inflated sense of self. The girl or young lady will seem like nothing is important other than herself. Narcissists are famously difficult to deal with, as they often cannot be reasoned with and are prone to fits of anger or depression in the extreme. The Mayo Clinic website lists these possible signs and symptoms:
- Unbridled Arrogance
- Belief that she is special and more important than others
- Fantasies about power, success and attractiveness
- Failure to recognize others’ needs and feelings
- Exaggeration of her achievements or talents
- Expectation of constant praise and admiration
- Unreasonable expectations of favors and advantages
- Envy of others or belief that others envy her
Girls with narcissistic personality disorder will have the tendency to get very angry, very easily, especially if they think they’ve been slighted in some way. They can also easily slip into a state of depression if they think they aren’t getting the attention they deserve. In this way, narcissistic personality disorder is similar to borderline personality disorder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Borderline personality disorder is “a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feel about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life. It includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and a pattern of unstable relationships.”
Girls with BPD have an intense fear of abandonment or uncertainty, and may not like being alone. Girls with BPD can show inappropriate anger, irresponsibility and frequent mood swings that can push people away, even though they want loving and enduring relationships. BPD symptoms to watch out for include the following:
- Frequent, intense displays of anger
- Impulsive and risky behavior
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Unstable or fragile self-image
- Unstable and intense relationships
- Up and down moods
- Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury
- Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
- Stress-related paranoia that comes and goes
Each of these behavioral disorders can be responsible for depression and anger seen in girls. Since most parents aren’t practicing mental health professionals, if you are concerned about your daughter’s behavior, get in touch with your family doctor or a family therapist to help you sort out your girl’s issues. You might be surprised to learn that it isn’t behavioral at all, but rather post-traumatic stress disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Many people hear post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and think of war veterans, victims of assault, or physical abuse. While these are certainly common sources of PTSD, there are many events that can cause the disorder – and depression and anger are two of the most common symptoms of PTSD:
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Negative thoughts about herself
- Always being on guard
- Difficulty experiencing positive emotions
- Self-destructive behavior
- Trouble sleeping or concentrating
- Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems, including not remembering the traumatic event
- Difficulty maintaining relationships
- Feeling detached from family and friends
- Lack of interest in activities
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
- Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
- Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
- Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to triggers reminding her of the event
If you are considering PTSD as a potential source of your daughter’s depression and anger, talk to her. Find out what’s been happening in her life lately. Ask her if recent events have been bothering her – many people who were nowhere near New York City, The Pentagon, or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, still suffered PTSD from the attacks on 9/11.
It would also be wise to check your daughter’s social media feeds to see if she has been subjected to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is one of the most prevalent sources of depression and anger in girls. Reading her social media feeds will give you insight not only into possible cyberbullying, but also any recent events with friends that might have been traumatic.
Regardless of the source of your girl’s depression and anger, treatment is not a choice. Without treatment, she could devolve emotionally and start considering suicide.
When you are ready to consider treatment for your girl, there are multiple options:
- Psychotherapy and medication
- Outpatient Treatment
- Intensive Inpatient Treatment
- Inpatient Facility – full-time, live in treatment
The first stop is your family doctor. Any family physician is capable of recognizing the signs and symptoms of mood disorders, behavioral disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The doctor can interview your daughter and find out what her triggers are and where those triggers may originate from.
If your daughter has a mood disorder, such as depression, psychotherapy will be part of the treatment plan. If the disorder is severe, medication can be added to the plan. While some young patients can go on the medication temporarily, others will have to remain on medication for the rest of their lives.
In outpatient therapy, your family doctor can recommend a local therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Family doctors can prescribe anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications the same as a psychiatrist, so you can have your doctor prescribe medications and have your daughter see a therapist or counselor.
If your daughter is showing signs of suicidal ideation, intensive inpatient therapy may be required for a short time. This is when your daughter would be hospitalized in a psychiatric floor of a hospital. The doctors would find the right combination of medications to stabilize her moods and get her connected with a therapist or other mental health professional for outpatient care.