Adolescent Boy

Anger is a normal emotion, and your teenager’s intense mood swings may be a daily occurrence in your home. But when does typical anger turn problematic, and when does your child’s behavior warrant the need for additional intervention? Here are some key signs.


Any evidence of cutting, burning, hitting, or otherwise intentionally hurting oneself is a serious red flag. While self-harm does not always indicate suicidal thoughts, it typically represents an inability to cope with emotional pain or regulate impulses.

People self-harm for many different reasons. In some cases, it’s because physical pain provides a sense of relief or distorted comfort. Other times, it serves as a distorted form of self-punishment or a way to regulate uncomfortable emotions.1


While some irritation and defiance are typical, violence and aggression represent a deeper problem. For example, slamming a door or cursing out of spite may be expected, but it is not appropriate for your child to destroy property or assault others.

Frequent physical fights, issues with law enforcement, or dangerous threats toward others all indicate the need for immediate intervention. These behaviors may suggest the presence of a mental health condition or substance use disorder. However, they also often result from a history of trauma.

Substance Abuse

Substance use represents an ongoing problem in modern society. Over half of teenagers try alcohol, and about a third experiment with cigarettes or marijuana.2 However, ongoing substance use or the use of harder drugs often progresses and affects school performance, relationships, and other crucial areas of a child’s development.

Although some adults dismiss experimentation as a phase, many teenagers can and do struggle with addiction. Therefore, early intervention and treatment can be crucial for helping a teenager learn alternative coping skills.


Most teenagers prefer their peer groups and withdraw from their families during this time, but if your teenager often isolates and avoids the company of others, it could be a behavioral red flag.

Socialization is a critical component of child development. Subsequently, isolation may coincide with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, substance use, and eating disorders.


Anger can trigger impulsive behavior like making idle threats, skipping school, overeating, substance use, promiscuity, or driving recklessly. Any of these behaviors can result in detrimental consequences for teenagers and their loved ones.

Impulse control doesn’t come naturally for everyone, and teenage brains are still developing. If your child overreacts to anger, they may need support in learning how to pause, assess, and reflect on how they respond.

Final Thoughts

Anger itself is just a fleeting emotion, but teenagers must learn how to identify and cope with it. As a parent, you can play a critical role in modeling healthy coping skills and appropriate reactions to stress.

That said, it’s crucial for your child to get help for intense anger or maladaptive behaviors. Therapy can address complex and intense emotions, and it also teaches teenagers healthier ways to manage their distress. Contact us today to learn more.



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