What to do when teenager is out of control

Out-of-Control Teens: Behavior & Treatment

From Normal Teen Behavior to Out-of-Control Teenage Behavior

Behavioral changes are normal in teens, even if they may be confusing to parents. Rolling eyes, one-word responses to open-ended questions, slamming doors, and spending most of their time on their cell phones or social media, are all normal teen behaviors.

However, troubled teen behaviors go beyond normal teenage issues. A troubled or out-of-control teen has behavioral, emotional, or learning issues that amplify and become more intense over time.

They often practice at-risk or out-of-control behaviors which include:

  • Drinking
  • Drug use
  • Self-harm
  • Sex
  • Shoplifting
  • Skipping school
  • Social or video game addiction
  • Spending time with the wrong crowd
  • Violence

They often demonstrate symptoms of mental health problems, including ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar, and/or eating disorders.

Examples of Normal vs. Troubled Teen Behavior

So, how do you know if your teen is exhibiting normal adolescent behavior or is showing signs of out-of-control teenage behavior?

Here are some examples of normal and abnormal teen behaviors that can help you identify a troubled teenager:

  1. Parents of teenagers will tell you that the teen years bring increased arguments and rebellious behaviors. As teens seek independence, they often come in conflict with authority figures in their life. However, out-of-control teens will often escalate arguments, engage in violence at home or at school, and have issues with law enforcement.
  2. Biological changes generally make mood swings a normal behavior for teens. Healthy teens can exhibit irritable behavior and can struggle to manage their emotions. However, sudden anxiety, changes in personality, poor academic performance, chronic sadness or sleep issues could indicate a more major emotional health issue. As with any person, take any discussion of suicide seriously and get help immediately.
  3. Experimenting with alcohol or drugs is often normal in the teen years. Most teens will drink alcohol and smoke a cigarette and many will even try marijuana. However, when alcohol or drug use becomes habitual, it may increase problems at home or with schoolwork and may indicate a substance abuse issue that results in increased risky behaviors.
  4. It can be normal for teens to pull away from their parents and be more influenced by their peer group. However, a sudden change in friends can be a troubling sign, especially if a new group of friends has little regard for boundaries or rules, no responsibility, or encourages negative behavior. Also, spending too much time alone and isolating themselves from their peers is another sign of worrisome behavior.
  5. Most teens keep up with new fashion trends, which can result in a change in their appearance. Some wear attention-seeking clothing and dye their hair. This is all normal. However, when a teen has extreme weight gain or loss, shows evidence of cutting or self-harm, or if the changes in appearance are accompanied by other negative changes in behavior, it can be a sign of a troubled teen.