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Being a teenager can be difficult. School demands, social pressures and self-imposed expectations can take a toll on young people of both sexes, often causing moodiness and irritability. Historically these symptoms have been chalked up to “hormones,” or “being a teenager,” and been dealt with through discipline, arguments and family strife.
But when are a teenager’s mood swings a sign of a deeper problem?
Parents from all over Douglas County attended a class through Douglas County School District’s Parent University, held at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, to learn more about teenage behavior, marijuana use and borderline personality disorder. Parent University sponsors a class each month for parents and students, addressing various issues affecting young people.
“We have teenagers, and it’s always nice to be informed,” said parent Kym Scearce, who attended the class along with her husband T.D. Schenck. “We’re going to take the information we learned tonight home and share it with our kids.”
Dr. Ron Morley, a child and adolescent psychologist with the Colorado Psychiatry Center, with offices in Centennial, Lakewood and Northglenn, presented the recent class on teenage moodiness, and started his lecture by telling parents the difference between bipolar disorder, depression, and a growingly common diagnosis — borderline personality disorder.
“Bipolar disorder is pretty rare in kids. However, there’s a third disorder that can be confused with bipolar disorder, and that’s borderline personality disorder,” said Morley.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, borderline personality disorder is a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image and behavior. People with borderline personality disorder may experience intense episodes of anger, depression and anxiety that can last from a few hours to days.
Many of the symptoms can be the same in both disorders, but the difference, according to Morley, is that borderline personality disorder often becomes less severe as the child ages. BPD is more common in young girls, he said, since they often have an unstable sense of self, and about 40 percent of young girls admitted to psychiatric hospitals are diagnosed with BPD.
The good news, according to Morley, is that “60 to 80 percent of adolescents diagnosed with BPD will no longer meet the criteria in two years.”
There are several factors that can contribute to BPD, including genetics, abuse and family environment. Morley recommends that parents who are concerned about their child’s behavior talk to their pediatrician.
Morley also spoke about the effects of marijuana use on a young person’s brain, telling parents that today’s pot is 700 percent more potent than pot they may have encountered 20 years ago. He cautioned them that even though marijuana is legal for adult use in several states, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for young people to use.
“Basically, you’ll have a kid who is currently actively damaging their brain,” said Morley.
Dan McGuyre, father of a teenage girl, said he makes the drive from Castle Rock each month to attend the classes offered by Parent University, and usually brings his daughter along.
“I come to every class. Because I’m a dad of a girl, and it’s always good to be informed. I typically bring her with me and we learn a lot together,” said McGuyre.
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