The teenage years are a time of experimentation and pushing boundaries. Hormones and emotions can become overwhelming, often swinging wildly, and both parents and teens can find themselves left feeling baffled by the behavior.
As a parent, you might wonder what happened to that sweet little girl or that affectionate little boy you once held in your arms. You know they’re now under a lot of pressure as a teenager in today’s world, and you might find yourself waiting for the day when the child you used to know returns. But not every teen can just grow out of it on their own — and your teen will grow into a new person, one whose changes you’ll celebrate.
But there will be bumps along that road. How do you know if your teen is experiencing normal shifts or something more, something deeper? As a parent, it‘s important to notice the warning signs that your teen might need some outside help.
Learn the Warning Signs
At first, it can be difficult to determine if your teen is experiencing a temporary problem or if it could be something more dangerous. That’s why it‘s important to be aware of warning signs that indicate they need help. Below are some of the common behaviors that indicate something deeper than normal teen angst — and something that can benefit from treatment — is going on.
When teens injure themselves, it‘s often because they feel unable to handle the emotional pain in their lives. They need resources to deal with negative or painful emotions in a healthy way but might feel like they’re unable to share that with others. Some of the signs that your teen might be engaging in self-harm include:
- Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants — even when the weather is warm
- Having unexplained injuries such as cuts, burns, scratches, or bruises
- Keeping sharp objects with them
- Showing unpredictable changes in behavior
- Distancing themselves from others
The topic of substance abuse covers many different types of drugs, both prescription and illegal, and also includes the use of alcohol and nicotine. When use turns into abuse, it can begin interfering with daily functioning. Some warning signs of substance abuse in teens include:
- Missing school or extracurricular activities
- Failing to turn in homework or doing poorly on tests
- Engaging in secretive behavior
- Getting into trouble, lacking respect for authority, and participating in illegal behavior
- Changing friends or social circles
- Experiencing mood swings and emotional instability
Mental health conditions
Teen behavior is famously unpredictable, but if your child‘s behavior seems extreme, they could be struggling with a mental health condition. One of the most common mental disorders is anxiety, which can include phobias, panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While all of us experience forms of anxiety in our lives, your teen might have a severe anxiety disorder if you notice any of the following signs:
- Emotional changes including irritability, difficulty concentrating, and restlessness
- Difficulty sleeping, going to sleep, or staying asleep
- Changes in social behavior, such as spending more time alone
- Physical changes, such as headaches, fatigue, and shifts in eating habits
How to Seek Help
If you’re concerned about the changes you see in your teen, it may be time to seek treatment. As you begin your search, here are four things to ask a residential treatment program:
- Do you have custom plans? Every teen is different, so a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment isn’t as effective as a personal, tailored approach.
- Do you offer family participation? Getting parents involved and providing counseling resources for the whole family is key in the long-term success of the program.
- Is the program teen-specific? What works for adults is different from what works for children. The program should be designed specifically for teens.
- What are the staff’s credentials? Staff should be licensed professionals and have specific training in working with recovering teens and their families.
At Turning Winds, our program takes a holistic, personalized approach designed to reunite families and guide teens back to the path of success. We know that there are no shortcuts to recovery, and our model is designed to provide long-term results.
If you think your teen may be a candidate, take this simple online test. When you‘re ready to learn more, contact us to see how our unique, specialized approach can help your family navigate the recovery journey.