When your child experience teen behavior disorders during the teenage years, it can be disconcerting for parents. However, behavioral issues are common among teens and they are a normal part of teenage development. It is natural for them to experience internal worries, which parents should be prepared for. Just teens, parents are learning too as these issues arise, so handling them in a way that keeps communication open is important.
Teens can experience a variety of typical and clinical issues. Being prone to negative thinking can also be common for teens with behavioral problems or emotional issues. They also tend to lose hope when faced with uncertainty. Kids with teen behavior disorders can be very sensitive to real or perceived criticism and even think the people around them dislike or judge them. With so much pressure on teens today, many often feel they're a failure.
A behavioral disorder can make a teen distracted and out of touch with their surroundings. Furthermore, many young adults with behavioral problems struggle with schoolwork and daily chores. Below are some of the most common behavior disorders in teens.
Signs of Teen Behavior Disorders
1. Hyperactivity and attention problems
There's a high prevalence of disruptive behavior disorders among adolescents. Such behavior problems usually occur more among kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and persist into adulthood. However, some teens with hyperactivity, impulse control, or attention problems may have them due to another mental health disorder, depression, anxiety, or learning issues such as dyslexia.
Parenting teenagers with ADHD may be challenging because of their high resistance levels and some defiance. In addition, researchers have found that most parents get highly stressed and reactive when responding to teen ADHD symptoms (Modesto-Lowe et al., 2014). It is important to seek professional help to address mental health problems during the earlier years.
2. Violence or aggression
Impulsive children are more prone to difficulties controlling responses to upset and anger. Kids sometimes engage in fights, confrontations, and bullying. But as they enter adolescence, the severity and frequency of this behavior may increase. They may show aggressiveness in school and at home.
Impulsive teens may make friendships with other teens who are poor decision-makers. This can lead to a higher rate of at-risk behaviors and potential legal infractions.
3. Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Teens with Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD are often irritable, angry, and easily set off. They usually argue with their parents, elders, caregivers, and teachers. They resist requests from authority figures, which makes fitting in school or other formal environments challenging.
Evidence suggests ODD persists into late adolescence, and its trajectories of symptoms persist into young adulthood, despite being considered a childhood disorder. ODD is often associated with conflicts with family members, peer rejection, poor peer relationships, and academic difficulties (Burke et al., 2013).
4. Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Some teens tend to have screaming outbursts and extreme temper tantrums. These teens often react to situations in extreme ways and don't think about the consequences. There's also little to no warning before an outburst occurs, usually lasting less than 30 minutes, for which the teen may be sorry.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder is hugely prevalent, persistent, and severely impairing among adolescents. The core feature of this disorder is impulsive behavior or aggression (McLaughlin et al., 2012).
5. Emotional sensitivity
Young people with a higher level of sensitivity are more likely to be distressed by triggers. They tend to experience emotions more strongly than the average teenager. Some may experience rejection sensitivity disorder due to overreaction to real or perceived criticism. Furthermore, these teens may have difficulties letting emotions pass, so they keep igniting them. They remain emotionally activated whenever they think about the trigger.
Educating, living with, and counseling teens with these types of emotional problems can be challenging. Recognizing, identifying, and describing one's feelings is essential to a teen's emotional development (Telzer et al., 2014).
6. Substance abuse
The number of teens who consume alcohol before they are legally allowed to do so is increasing. In addition, it's not uncommon for 16-year-olds to start drinking socially. While this seems normal teenage behavior, it may also signify a mental health issue.
Getting addicted to vices is easy. Recovery from alcohol or drug addiction can be challenging. Support for the teen and family is important when addressing addictive behaviors.
Teens may turn to alcohol early on to cope with life stressors. Contributing factors include domestic violence, parental divorce, abuse, or peer pressure. A great way to prevent alcohol abuse and drug use is to discuss it at home. When bringing up this issue, avoid being accusatory and talk about natural consequences
Teens can take alcohol without their parent's knowledge. Peer pressure may cause teens to say yes to alcohol or drugs because they feel uncool if they don't. They believe that refusing their peers will negatively impact their social life. Ensure your children know how to say no when offered alcohol or drugs.
7. Mood swings
Teenagers often experience mood swings characterized by happy moments interspersed with cranky periods. Some can be irritated by anything and throw endless tirades about unfair things. When teens experience mood lability, families often walk on eggshells, not to set them off. Often, these mood disorders are signs of depression.
A study highlighted the interaction between emotional reactivity and influences from the social environment during adolescent emotional development. For example, adolescents with mood fluctuations are more likely to experience family stress, inequality in school opportunities, financial concerns, and emotional maltreatment (Green et al., 2021).
When parents discover that their teen has lied to them or has not disclosed everything, they feel devastated. But as teens become more independent, they feel that telling their parents everything seems unnecessary. Furthermore, a teen may lie to prevent punishment or judgment. But this could become a compulsive habit if not addressed.
It is essential to encourage your children to be honest. Show them the importance of telling the truth by being a role model or setting an example. Continual open dialogues with your kids are necessary, so they'll feel comfortable sharing anything.
When teens perceive their parents as truthful, including their mistakes, they emulate them. So, don't be judgmental. When you always point out your teen's every flaw or error, they will start to feel you won't approve of their actions and stop sharing or communicating.
Teenagers tend to be rebellious. Teens may not always do what their parents tell them. It is a normal developmental stage to want to be autonomous. They may also want to see how far they can go or what they can get away with. Teenagers who argue and refuse to obey rules should not be punished physically or treated in an authoritative manner, as doing so will only make them more resistant.
These teens need limits and guidance to stay on track and in control. Create very clear rules instead of clear consequences. Make your teenager realize that you're serious about the outlined plan, and let them know the boundaries.
Including them in the setting of rules and punishments is a good idea. Then they have ownership of the outcomes and feel empowered by being part of the process Increasing independence is a normal part of growing up for your teenager. It's part of the process of leaving home.
Addressing a Teen's Behavior Problems
The first step to helping teens face behavioral challenges is seeking professional help. A mental health professional or adolescent psychiatrist will help correct emotional disorders and any underlying mental health conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder.
In addition, family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are some of the best ways to address teen behavior issues. Connection and communication can go a long way in supporting teen behavior and the family system.
Burke, J. D., Rowe, R., & Boylan, K. (2013). Functional outcomes of child and adolescent oppositional defiant disorder symptoms in young adult men. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(3), 264–272. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12150
Green, K. H., van de Groep, S., Sweijen, S. W., Becht, A. I., Buijzen, M., de Leeuw, R. N. H., Remmerswaal, D., van der Zanden, R., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Crone, E. A. (2021). Mood and emotional reactivity of adolescents during the COVID-19 pandemic: short-term and long-term effects and the impact of social and socioeconomic stressors. Scientific Reports, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-90851-x
McLaughlin, K. A., Green, J. G., Hwang, I., Sampson, N. A., Zaslavsky, A. M., & Kessler, R. C. (2012). Intermittent Explosive Disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement. Archives of General Psychiatry, 69(11). https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2012.592
Modesto-Lowe, V., Chaplin, M., Godsay, V., & Soovajian, V. (2014). Parenting Teens With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Clinical Pediatrics, 53(10), 943–948. https://doi.org/10.1177/0009922814540984
Telzer, E. H., Qu, Y., Goldenberg, D., Fuligni, A. J., GalvÃ¡n, A., & Lieberman, M. D. (2014). Adolescentsâ€TM emotional competence is associated with parentsâ€TM neural sensitivity to emotions. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00558
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