The teenage years are both an exciting and challenging time. You’re watching your child become a young adult and start to grow up right in front of your eyes. However, all of the changes that come along with growing up and becoming a teenager can bring a lot of stress and difficulties.
The process of parenting a teenager can be hard to navigate. It’s not always easy to tell the difference between typical teen issues and stresses and those that come from a more troublesome place. As a parent, it can be even harder to know the difference between when you can handle problems on your own and when it would be better to call on a professional for assistance.
In many cases, therapy for teens can be beneficial. Therapists can help your teen learn everything from strategies to deal with stress to anxiety coping skills. Here are the signs to look out for to know when you need to call for professional help.
Normal vs. Abnormal Teen Behavior
When your child becomes a teenager, one of the main differences you might begin to notice are changes in their behavior. While some changes are likely due to your teen’s current phase in life and typical development, other behaviors can be worrisome and abnormal.
While every individual is different, there are some patterns of behavior you can take into consideration when trying to determine if your teen could benefit from therapy. Here are some areas of your teen’s life to look out for and what normal vs. abnormal behavior looks like in each:
Changes in Sleep Patterns
Some changes in sleep patterns are natural when it comes to the teenage years. Their biological clock is changing, and they often go to bed late at night and then get up late the next day. Your teen might also start sleeping in later on the weekends when they don’t have to get up early for school.
While sleeping in a few hours later than usual is typically expected for teens, regularly staying in bed all day is not normal. If your teen seems to be sleeping too much or sleeping too little (such as showing difficulty falling asleep and not getting enough restful sleep regularly), it could be a cause for concern. There may be underlying issues that a therapist could help discover and treat, such as mental health conditions like depression.
Increased School Stress
The teenage years typically align with the start of high school. The transition from middle school to high school often brings a higher workload. As a result, some stress related to school can be expected. If academic stress starts to have a significant impact on your teen’s daily life, you might want to consider therapy.
Some concerning signs related to school include suffering from disrupted sleep due to school stress and uncontrollable emotions about school, grades or homework. A therapist can help your teen learn anxiety-coping skills to manage worries about school. Complete disinterest in schoolwork and grades or a pattern of not completing assignments can also be cause for concern.
Changes in Mood
One of the stereotypical traits of teenagers in TV shows and movies is moodiness. Some moodiness and irritability can be expected as your teen deals with the normal changes of growing up. However, some indications that your teen’s mood is abnormal include moodiness that gets increasingly worse over time and frustration or irritability that is out of control. In combination with a negative mood, violent behavior is also a serious cause of concern and should be addressed.
As your teen grows up and starts to find their own identity, some defiance can be expected. It’s normal for teenagers to engage in some mild rebellion, such as defying curfew or another household rule now and then. If your teen starts to ignore consequences for broken rules at home, regularly gets in trouble at school and breaks laws outside of the classroom, these are signs of more serious defiance and rebellion. When your teen’s behavior is extreme, therapy may be beneficial for them to learn to act productively and manage their stress in a constructive way.
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Warning Signs to Look Out For
While it’s important to know when your teen’s behavior might be abnormal and when they could benefit from therapy, it’s also essential to know when your teen is displaying warning signs of more severe emotional distress. In some instances, immediate professional help is necessary to get your teen the support they need. Here are some warning signs to look out for that mean you should seek out a therapist or another form of professional help right away:
- Substance Abuse — If you notice signs that your teen has a substance abuse problem with alcohol or drugs, seek professional help to manage the situation. A therapist with expertise in substance abuse can help your teen deal with their struggles.
- Eating Habits — Changes in eating habits or weight can be signs of mental health issues or eating disorders that need to be addressed. Some warning signs to look out for are patterns of not eating at all or eating increased amounts of food. Another concern is if a teen is purging after they eat or making a lot of negative comments about their weight and appearance combined with signs of disordered eating habits. A therapist who has experience helping adolescents with eating disorders can help your teen develop healthy eating behaviors.
- Self-Harm — A teen that is engaging in self-harm behaviors, whether they manifest in the form of cutting or hurting themself in another way, is a teen that needs help from a qualified professional. When left unaddressed, these kinds of behaviors worsen with time.
- Fixation with Death — If your teen seems preoccupied with death, it’s a very serious sign that they might be contemplating suicide. This fixation might show up in the subject matter of essays, poems or artwork created by your teen. It could also be found in the posts they make on social media or the comments they leave online. A teen might also talk a lot about death or dying. If your teen is displaying any of these signs of a fixation with death, it’s imperative that they receive professional help immediately.
Looking for therapy for teens in Pennsylvania?
If you’re looking for options for therapy for teens in Pennsylvania, the counseling team at Native can help. We help our patients deal with eating disorders, academic stress, anxiety and everything in between. We follow an integrated healthcare model that looks at a patient as a whole and helps find the treatment solutions that work best for them. We can help your teen learn anxiety coping skills and other strategies that work best for their lifestyle and future goals while treating them as the unique individual that they are.
Reach out today to find out more about how we can help your teen navigate the challenges they face every day.