Slammed doors and angry outbursts may be just typical behavior that goes along with the highly combustible teenage years. Teens are transitioning from being completely dependent on parents as children toward the autonomy found in adulthood. This is a developmental phase fraught with supercharged emotions, including acting out in anger.
But when does “typical” teenage moodiness and anger become deeply concerning?
When a teen begins to display increasingly aggressive, hostile, even violent behavior towards others there may be deeper emotional issues involved. These angry expressions may be symptoms of a mental health issue that should be addressed by the family physician first, and then possibly a psychotherapist. At the very least, angry or violent outbursts will land the teen in a heap of trouble and needs to be addressed as early as possible. The social landscape today leaves little room for angry or aggressive behaviors to be exhibited at school, in the workplace, or anywhere.
Anger, however, isn’t always expressed through outward behaviors. Some teens may use passive aggressive methods to express anger. These might include ignoring a parent entirely or being disengaged when a parent attempts to chat. A test of wills often gets set up when a teen is feeling hostile or angry with a parent, with the teen resisting any cooperation or negotiation when a parent attempts to reason with them.
Adolescents who seem to be unequipped in managing their frustrations and anger may benefit from acquiring specific anger copings skills for teens, which can be taught through individual and family therapy sessions. These coping strategies may be all that are needed to help the teen learn to navigate their impulsive tendencies toward expressing frustration, and channel them in a socially appropriate manner.
WHY ARE TEENS ANGRY?
Adolescence is a time for transition. Teens are in that limbo space between childhood and becoming an autonomous adult, leading them to have conflicting feelings about things that were once set in stone. Now, as a teen, the idea of going on a family vacation isn’t as desirable as it was in younger years. This sets up a type of inner confusion or turmoil as the teen struggles to find his or her new way of relating to his parents. They desire to achieve some sense of independence and autonomy, but in many ways are not yet emotionally mature enough to manage the various circumstances that can emerge in daily life.
When a parent attempts to intervene, to provide some boundaries or guidance for the teen, they may be met with an angry response. This push and pull as the teen attempts to become more independent can be destabilizing during the adolescent years. Teens feel they are owed a certain amount of independence and freedom, but parents are all too aware of what too free of a rein can lead to. Parents attempt to assert some control, which can result in an angry or verbally rude teen.
It is important, however, to understand that as parents it is essential that poor anger management issues are not being displayed for kids and teens to emulate. Kids model their parents’ behavior, so if their parent is verbally abusive, or yells and screams routinely, then it is understandable that their adolescent may mimic these dysfunctional communication styles.
Hormones that fluctuate wildly in adolescence may be another source of the emotional outbursts. Puberty can cause the teen to experience a roller coaster of emotions, including a short temper. Another possible explanation for teen anger is a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety disorder. Mood swings, extreme irritability, and angry outbursts when combined with other symptoms associated with a mental health disorder should be evaluated by a mental health professional.