Acting out? Angry outbursts?
Withdrawing? Refusals? Self-destructive behavior?
Do any of these sound familiar?
It is a time of intense and rapidly changing emotions. The normal adolescent can be cynical, well-defended, unpredictable, bored, emotional and sure of himself/ herself. Sometimes the chaos that teens must deal with grows to abnormal pro- portions. This can lead to desperate attempts to handle being emotionally overwhelmed, dis-organized, and empty by disturbances in impulse control, self-esteem, anxiety, stress levels, sleep pattern and the use/abuse of drugs or alcohol. All of the above behaviors are attempts to deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed that comes with adolescence.
Developmentally, adolescents must separate themselves from childhood attachments during this time. Self-absorption helps them accomplish this task. The idealization of a teen’s parents decreases. Often, and normally, this leads to a sense of vulnerability and emotional isolation. Teens cope with their vulnerability by self-involvement and close attachments to peers. Despite the pain caused to parents, self-centeredness is an important and functional life task to be accomplished. Adolescent preoccupation helps them separate so they can move forward in the journey to become an individual.
Their vulnerability and emotional isolation disrupts their sense of self and leads them to action. Actions remind them that they do indeed exist. The reality of action provides emotional stimulation to deal with feelings of emptiness, relief from the fear of remaining a child, and a distraction from the intolerable internal tension and conflict raging within them. Attaching to peers helps teens deal with the loss of identity felt by separating from their parents in addition to hormonal changes.
How can we help? Help is completely based on one word—Respect. When these teenagers feel genuinely understood and respected, they become increasingly capable of accepting limits and integrating new coping skills and insights. Respect comes from the belief that teens are truly trying to do the best they can during a difficult period of growth and development. Giving teens empathy and respect while teaching skills and coping methods to manage being overwhelmed will result in teens having more tools and success in self-management for their behavior, feelings, and struggles along with higher self-esteem.
When does an adolescent need help?
When they feel:
- Sad/hopeless for no reason and the feelings don’t go away
- Worthless or guilty often
- Anxious or worried often
- Unexplained fears
- Constantly concerned about physical appearance or problems
- Angry most of the time and crying a lot or overreacting to things
When they experience big changes:
- Feeling life is too hard to handle*
- Falling grades in school
- Losing interest in things
- Unexplained changes in sleeping and eating
- Avoiding friends or family and wanting to be alone
- Daydreaming too much and not completing tasks
- Talk, thoughts or jokes about suicide
- Extreme or rapid weight gain or loss
- Rapid or extreme changes in personality
- Sudden change in friends
When their behavior includes:
- Skipping school
- Using alcohol or other drugs
- Eating large amounts of food then using some method to compensate to avoid weight gain
- Dieting and/or exercising obsessively
- Trouble with the law
- Doing things that could be life threatening
- Troubling behavior that lasts more than 6 weeks*
When they experience:
- Poor concentration
- Inability to make decisions
- Worry about being harmed, or harming others
- Racing thoughts too fast to follow
- Persistent nightmares
- Need to perform certain routines in order to avoid perceived danger
Article of interest: Understanding Teen Depression. Click Here!
If you are interested in any of these services or just have questions, please go to the CONTACT US page or call us at 847-729-3034.