Teen Anger Issues: 3 Warning Signs

Teen Anger Issues: 3 Warning Signs

May 27, 2022

Everyone, regardless of age, experiences anger now and then. For parents of teens, outbursts of anger and frustration may seem like a daily occurrence. As children grow, they strive for independence, a process that often involves pushing boundaries and parental patience. Although teen anger issues and frustration are a normal part of their journey towards adulthood, frequent or intensifying episodes of anger may suggest a more profound problem that requires help at a teen-focused treatment program like Hillcrest in Los Angeles. 


What Does “Normal” Teen Anger Look Like?

Part of normal teenage growth is the desire to “grow.” As teens progress towards adulthood, it is natural to want less and less parental support and input. You may find that your teen wants to figure things out on their own and “do their own thing .” Often this means they ignore your advice and express frustration when you try to help them understand why something may or may not work well. Occasionally, this frustration takes the form of anger, verbal outbursts, or other aggressive behaviors. Teens are more likely to seek advice from their friends. Unfortunately, due to similar age and developmental progress, peers’ advice is not always the most beneficial, safest, or valuable.


If your teen expresses anger and frustration when you try to offer advice or suggest they spend more time at home with other family members, this is a normal part of development. Teens who engage in arguments about adult topics, a perceived lack of freedom, moral values, or other issues that seem out of the norm for day-to-day teenage conversation are often trying to learn more about their personal values and where they stand on certain subjects. Because you are a parent, you are a safe person to have heated discussions with and a safe sounding board they can use to learn more about healthy ways to express their feelings. 


Arguments and anger are a natural part of human development, especially for teens. Often the anger they express at specific situations or circumstances dissipates after a brief time. However, if your teen’s anger persists or their outbursts become aggressive or violent, it is important to consider seeking help. 


Warning Signs of Teen Anger Issues

A certain level of angst and rebellion is part of teen growth. Everyone goes to a phase where they want to do the things their friends do and forge their own path, for better or worse. However, some indications of teen anger indicate the possibility of deeper problems. Below are a few potential warning signs to watch for. 


Increased isolation 

It is not uncommon for teens to retreat to a private space occasionally. They often do so to complete homework assignments, play video games, or spend time communicating with friends on various social media platforms. In most cases, this happens as your teen continues to participate in hobbies, activities, and other pastimes they enjoy. However, if you notice your teen beginning to shy away from their social circles or avoiding spending time participating in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed, it could be a red flag of something more concerning. 

When teens stop communicating with peers and family members entirely, it is a sign of extreme social isolation, which is a notable cry for help. 


Sudden or Abnormal Decline in Academic Achievements

Academic challenges are common for many teens. During these years, many decide what the course of the next few years will look like in terms of ongoing academics and higher education pursuits. Slips, stumbles, and setbacks are common on the path to these future goals, but for many teens, such moments are minor deviations from their overall plan. In a short time, they begin to apply the same energy to academics and future goals as before. 


If you notice your teen is experiencing a significant and dramatic decline in academic performance, it may be beneficial to determine the root cause of these changes. It could be a red flag for an underlying mental health condition or issues with anger management. An additional concern might be if your teen has been an active member of particular groups such as athletic teams, theater groups, bands, choral groups, church groups, or other volunteer organizations, and they suddenly begin to remove themselves from these groups. 


Substance use, defiance, and rebellion

To some extent, defiance and rebellion are typical, healthy aspects of teen behavior. Part of growing is wanting to determine one’s place in society. To do this, teens will often tread a little outside the rules and push back against parental (and adult) authority. Sometimes these phases of rebellion lead to getting in trouble in school or the community. The desire to spread one’s wings and forge ahead without parental supervision can take the form of angry outbursts towards parents and loved ones. Despite the frustration, this may bring for their parents, these are all relatively standard parts of the growth and development process. 


Teenage rebellion and anger become a concern when the behavior becomes extreme. To clarify, extreme in this case means behavior such as breaking laws, getting detention or suspensions from school, or acting out violently and aggressively towards adults and peers. Extremely defiant or rebellious behavior can threaten their ability to achieve previously sought-after hopes and dreams for their future. This behavior may also seem out of control and sometimes progress to harming others. When these types of behavior become more of the norm instead of occasional, it may be beneficial to speak with a mental health counselor or school social worker about how angry behavior impacts your child at home, in school, and out in the community. 


Another behavior that often follows angry, defiant outbursts is substance use. Teens who struggle with anger may turn to drugs and alcohol to reduce other substances, including prescription medications, over-the-counter cold medications, household cleaning products, and aerosol sprays. Excessive or frequent use of alcohol and drugs can lead to legal issues and problems socially and at school. It can also lead to mental health concerns around addiction, depression, and anxiety. Sometimes these mental health issues will manifest in violent and rebellious ways should the teen adopt an “I don’t care anymore” attitude. 


Tips for Helping Your Teen Manage Their Anger

If you are concerned your teen is struggling to manage their anger in a healthy way, there may be strategies you can use to help. It is challenging to develop and implement anger management tools spontaneously, so a little advanced planning can help your teen significantly when they are faced with a triggering situation that typically results in an angry outburst. Below are just a few anger management tips you may consider. 


Be a role model

Although many teens won’t admit it, they look up to parents and guardians as role models and inspiration throughout their teen years. They will watch your actions and reactions to life events and mirror many of your responses. You can help your teen manage their anger by managing yours safely and effectively. By using beneficial stress reduction tools to manage your anger triggers, you teach your teen how they can do the same. 


Avoid power struggles

When your teen lashes out or seemingly wants to argue, it may be easy to participate. These power struggles between teens and parents do not help anyone effectively manage anger. In fact, they often end with both parties (teens and adults) saying or behaving in ways they may regret down the road. It Is important to disengage from power struggles and set clear expectations for your teen. 


Encourage open communication

Teens often struggle to communicate emotions effectively. This is even more true when emotions are frustration and anger. It is crucial to help your teen adequately and accurately express their feelings to keep emotions from boiling up and boiling over. There are many ways to express emotions. One of the most common is journaling. 


Allow your teen space to calm down

Anger is a powerful emotion that can overwhelm the mind and prevent someone from acting rationally. Fortunately, most anger is also generally short-lived, and time makes the red hot emotions of the moment fade. Allowing your teen time and space can let the intense emotions and angry behavior burn out.


Develop rules and consequences

Inevitably, there will be an angry outburst of effects of an angry moment (outside the home) that lead to broken rules. Rather than attempting to develop consequences for harmful actions “on the spot,” when everyone is frustrated, decide on ground rules early. Also, determine outcomes that apply to those rules being broken. This way, your teen has a clear understanding of how actions will affect them. 


If your teen continues to struggle with anger and anger management, it may be time to consider help at a teen treatment center like Hillcrest. When anger persists to the point where it has a harmful impact or is disruptive to your teen’s overall health and well-being, seeking outside help is the first step towards recovery. As part of a therapy program for anger, your teen will learn how to express anger and frustrations in a healthy, appropriate way. They will also learn more about the complex emotions and triggering situations that lead to feelings of anger. 


During treatment at Hillcrest, our providers will teach your teen about coping skills they can use to manage their anger after treatment ends. Practicing coping skills and learning how to process emotions more constructively can help your teen take control of their feelings and behaviors. Remember, it is not possible to eliminate anger altogether, but with help, your teen can learn to manage the life events that lead to anger effectively. To learn more about anger management treatment at Hillcrest, contact a member of our admissions team today