Teenage Emotions: Understanding and Coping With Unexplained Sadness
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Feeling sad for no apparent reason can be a lonely, frustrating experience. What makes matters worse is when caring, well-intentioned people ask you, “What’s wrong?” and you genuinely don’t have a clue!

Even though feelings are not facts, they are still real and valid, and there are always reasons for them, even if you’re not sure what they are. Sadness can feel particularly potent because of its tendency to invade your thoughts, influence your behaviors, and impact your energy level and ability to think.

Teens, like people of any age, may experience unexplained sadness for various reasons. The most important thing to know is that even if it feels like there’s no end in sight, there are resources that can help you cope with sadness.

Why am I feeling sad for no reason?

Though the exact causes of your sadness may be hard to pinpoint, there are several issues that could potentially explain it. Some of them are ordinary parts of life, like hormonal fluctuations. Other underlying problems like malnutrition, lack of sleep, medication side effects and substance can bring your mood down as well. It could also be a result of the interactions you’ve had lately — being around negative people and stress in general can result in feelings of sadness. 

Mental health conditions often start to present during teen years, though a combination of genetics and life events are usually present to bring them. Women and girls with ADHD may experience more difficulties with emotional dysregulation, and having anxiety in certain situations can leave you feeling sad later on. Of course, the mental health disorder most commonly associated with sadness is depression.

How depression can make you feel sad for no reason

Before you start to worry about depression, make sure you’ve ruled out any other medical or nutritional issues that can cause sadness. Depression can feel like a lingering sadness that hangs around long after you’ve forgotten about your initial reasons. If you’ve felt empty, hopeless or extra irritable lately, that could be another depression symptom. Depression looks a little different for everyone, but it has a way of creeping into almost every part of your life. You could find yourself sleeping in class when you actually want to be paying attention, or having a stomachache when you’re eating regularly.

There are a lot of theories about what causes depression, but none have been confirmed. If you have family members with mental health conditions, you may need more support with learning emotional regulation. Some life issues that can bring out mental health symptoms like general sadness include bullying, high performance expectations, poverty, medical conditions, and forms of hate like racism and sexism. Traumatic events in childhood can cause sadness later in life, and it can also be as simple as lacking adequate support. 

Symptoms of depression can include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Lethargy, low energy or lack of interest in engaging in activities
  • Changes in appetite, eating either more or less than usual
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty paying attention or remembering things
  • Using technology, games, reading or other methods to escape
  • Perfectionism or control issues
  • Withdrawal from friends and family or isolation
  • Unexplained aches and pains

You’re not the only one feeling sad for no reason

We’re in the middle of an adolescent mental health crisis of pretty epic proportions. Almost 3 in 5 (57%) of U.S. teen girls felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, which is double the amount for boys. More than half (52%) of LGBQ+ students reported recently experiencing poor mental health. 

Teens with depression may have difficulty in school and/or relationships, and may even experience thoughts of suicide. If you’re feeling isolated or alone, know that there are other people your age feeling the same way. You probably know some of them and you don’t even realize it.

How Lightfully can help

If you think you might be dealing with depression, don’t lose hope. We’ve helped teens like you successfully manage their depressive symptoms and get back to school and the things they enjoy, feeling brighter and better than before.

We’ll create a personalized treatment plan with approaches that are backed by real evidence. Our treatments are focused on supporting life processes: You’ll get insights about your emotions, thoughts, relationships and behaviors and learn some effective skills for managing them. The work you do here isn’t based on your negative symptoms, but skills that can promote wellness long into the future.

Here are four reasons why Lightfully programs are great for teens:

  • Process-based therapy (PBT) — You’re a person, not a diagnosis. We treat our clients like humans with full and multifaceted lives. You’ll get a personalized treatment plan created just for you.
  • Wholehearted treatment — We believe in authenticity for all. You get to be your wholehearted self at Lightfully. Our therapists create a safe environment for you to explore your emotions and feelings while developing genuine connections.
  • Safe & Sound — Each one of our programs includes emotional regulation techniques that you’ll practice and personalize. For instance, you’ll try different mindfulness exercises, ways to self-soothe and relaxation practices that help you work with your feelings more intentionally. We’ll help you figure out what works best for you.
  • Peer support — Treatment at Lightfully gives you a unique opportunity to get support from people your age who are as serious about good mental health as you are. For many Lightfully teens, peer support groups lead to powerful insights and great friendships.

Our programs go a bit deeper than regular outpatient therapy. What we offer is called structured outpatient, so you can stay at home and come in for treatment during the day. For those who need support around the clock, we also have Residential Treatment. Don’t worry about falling behind with academics — we have certified teachers here to help you!

If you don’t know why you’re feeling sad, we commend you for seeking help, and we’d like to reassure you that treatment can be effective. Make an appointment to see a therapist soon.

If you ever need a higher level of treatment, we’re here for you. Getting in touch with our Admission Concierge Team is the first step. It gets brighter from here.

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