Growing up is difficult for everyone involved — children, parents, and teachers. Growing pains really seem to peak during the adolescent years. Teens are testing boundaries and clawing for independence while, at the same time, seeking approval and guidance (whether they acknowledge it or not) from their parents and teachers. If that’s not enough, the adolescent is also going through some of the most dramatic physical and hormonal changes that they’ll ever experience. With all of this internal chaos going on, it’s no wonder that teens tend to be emotional and often, irritable. It’s easy to see why some anger and parent-child conflict during the adolescent years is perfectly normal. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adolescents have experienced an “anger attack” involving threats of violence, engaging in violence, or destroying property. While this may be a scary finding, these anger attacks are common enough that one incident, depending on the severity, may not warrant counseling.
There is a point, however, where angry outbursts go beyond normal growing pains. There are a number of factors that commonly trigger extended periods of frustration, anger, and anxiety. These added pressures, when combined with the already difficult emotional and hormonal changes that are taking place, can lead to more serious problems, like adolescent depression. If your teenage son or daughter seems to be in a constant state of anger or frustration, it’s a good idea to consider the deeper roots of these emotions.
Teenagers’ self-esteem is often fragile, and a small setback can have a considerable impact on an adolescent’s self-worth. When teens are down on themselves and hurt and anger begin to build, they may react with emotional outbursts and acts of defiance.
Teens who experience bullying can often experience feelings of social isolation, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, and fear. Since many teens do not have the coping skills to deal with these feelings, some will lash out with anger and emotional outbursts.
UNRESOLVED FAMILY CONFLICT
Divorce, abuse, or issues stemming from adoption can be extremely difficult to deal with. Angry outbursts and acts of defiance, while unhealthy, are used by some teens as coping mechanisms in situations where they feel powerless.
Anger is one of the stages of grief, and it’s only natural for a teen who has lost a friend or family member to feel some anger. Some teens, however, experience difficulties moving past this stage, especially when it is a traumatic loss of someone very close.
DEVELOPMENTAL OR NEUROLOGICAL ISSUE
Teens who have neuro-developmental issues (ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder) can suffer from social skill deficits, a lack of self control, or difficulties managing emotions, especially anger.
Teens and adults display signs and symptoms of depression very differently. An adult who is depressed will likely appear sad. However, teen depression is much more prone to emotional outbursts, frustration, and hostility.
Some teens who seem defiant or experience emotional outbursts are actually struggling with anxiety. There is a common misconception that anxiety and depression are “adult” problems. However, both are quite common in adolescents.
As children transition into their teenage years, they experience increased pressure to perform well in school, get into college, perform athletically, etc. In addition to this increased pressure, they are also experiencing changes that can cause inner turmoil. Irritability and anger are natural reactions to this increased stress. Not only do teens need to be taught that this anger is natural, they also need to be taught healthy coping mechanisms now, before they reach adulthood. They need to learn to cope with the anger so that it doesn’t consume them and dictate their behavior.