Teenage Angst: Just Moodiness or More Serious?
When a teenager feels depressed, agitated, isolated, nervous, or angry, the behavior that manifests may look like self-hatred, people pleasing, lying, sarcasm, talking back, dissociating, raging, hitting, or experimenting with substances. In most cases, this acting out behavior is normal, often a teenager’s way of establishing his or her identity, exploring autonomy and dependence. However, if this behavior is ongoing and begins to interfere with family relationships and school activities, it is essential to recognize and address it.
Early treatment of this acting out behavior may avoid more destructive and dangerous symptoms including:
- Drug use
- Increased sexual activity
- Eating disorders
- Anti-social behavior
- Suicidal tendencies
These behaviors may be the result of trauma, which for teenagers is any upset that occurs without the necessary coping skills to calm the nervous system. Adolescence can be a time of dramatic feelings and poorly calibrated responses to ordinary life stresses. This period of accelerated brain growth offers an important window for teenagers to practice the responses they will ultimately develop as adults. Teenagers must learn to navigate the world beyond home independently, to connect with their peers, and to negotiate the boundaries between growth-producing risks and destructive ones.
Christina helps troubled teens and their families:
- Understand that these behaviors are coping mechanisms for a dysregulated nervous system
- Reach out to others for help and re-connect with themselves in order to regulate their emotions
- Reduce and work towards eliminating the need to explore self-sabotaging behaviors
- Learn how the developing brain influences both our minds and our relationships
- Identify, honor, and integrate feelings and images
- Learn skills such as Mindfulness practice that support emotional regulation, calm thinking, and idea processing
- Cultivate a healthier inner experience and social connection to others
- Create a safe and loving environment to encourage expression of difficult feelings
Feeling safe, accepted, and loved are the touchstones for healthy growth that allow teenagers to discover and become who they are among their peers, their families, and in the world. For teenagers in a state of dysregulation, it may be that these touchstones are missing, or were felt to be missing at critical times, and as a result, unhealthy or even destructive coping behaviors developed. The path to feeling good about oneself and being in healthy relationships with parents, siblings, and peers starts with integrating distressing, challenging, or life-threatening events perceived as trauma, and then learning how to process and integrate feelings, thoughts, and decisions in a healthy way.
To schedule an appointment, email Christina at email@example.com or call her at 310-614-9922.