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Troubled Teenagers - How To Identify It?

Written and reviewed by
MBBS, MD - Psychiatry
Psychiatrist, Mumbai  •  15years experience
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I am Dr. Amulya Shetty. I am a consultant psychiatrist. I am practicing currently in Malad, Borivali and Kandivali. Today I am going to be talking about troubled teens- how to identify troubled teens and how parents can help the troubled teens and how to cope up with the problems? Teenagers are very difficult, parenting a teenager is the most difficult thing in the whole parenting area especially when they start changing their behavior, it begins at the age of 12, 13; the behaviour changes, the child who was completely dependent on the parents starts now looking at the parents face, starts having a different thought process, start ignoring the parents so it's difficult for parents to understand the sudden change in the teenagers but it is important because this is the most important stage for a personality is formed for a teenager; so it helps them in the adulthood. So, how do we identify the difference between a normal teenager and a troubled teenager? First, change in appearance. Usually all the teenagers try to change the way they dress, they change the way they behave, they wear different clothes, they try to change the hairstyles.

Why? When do we realize the teen is troubled they start having a lot of self-harming cuts, they start trying talking about suicide, they start suddenly shaving their head; so this indicates this is not just a normal teenager behavior but there is a troubling which is causing the person to behave in a certain way. Second, mood swings. Teenagers are seemingly have increased mood swing, repeated irritability, depressive features and everything up but that also can be just normal teenager. When the mood swings, it's different, it's pathological will be when an adult or a teenager starts throwing a lot of tantrums, throwing a lot of things, gets very abusive verbally and uses a lot of bad words. Then we know this might stem from a different part of teenage trouble, it might be anxiety, it might be bullying in school or it might be even depression. Third, smoking or drinking or using the substance. Most of the teenagers and especially at this time start at least experimenting on drugs like smoking or drinking or even some people try marijuana that is cannabis.

But when they do it on a systemic when it becomes like a habit, when a person starts billing up with peers who are trying to do only substance then we know that the kid, the teenager is going into the substance abuse or substance dependence that is the immediate action that we have to start taking treatment. Fourth, the decline in studies. Once they are 13, 14 there is sudden change in syllabus, the person goes from 10th standard to 11; so there is a lot of decline in studies which happen but a significant amount of decline, for example, a person, a kid who scored around in 9th standard 80-90% suddenly doesn't even clear or flunks in the next exam. We know that there is a significant amount of stress or anxiety or depression which is happening that this is a trigger sign that there is something else going on. So, immediate action has to be taken during that time. Then fifth, changing the peer group. Everybody, especially in teenagers, prefer friends more than parents. They would like to hang out more time with friends, they feel friends advises are more taken more from better than the parents which are a normal teenager which every teenager would do.

But if they are completely shutting off the peer group particularly if they have a certain group of friends and they suddenly switch from a group of friends to somebody else who is negatively influencing them, then we know this is not just a normal teenage behavior but this is something to be alarmed about. So these are things which you know how to identify a troubled teen and some warning signs like if they start talking about suicidal behavior, if you hear about bullying problems in school, if you hear about some abusive language which is being continuously told or in females we also see a lot of sexual inclination to the men more than the normal it has to be, then these are the warning signs which has to be addressed as immediately as possible. Now, how do we treat it and it's easier to tell than done because parenting anything you say to a teenager he is going to take it on the negative side.

The first important thing is communication. The more you start communicating and treating them like an adult, it becomes easier to treat the teenager. You sit with them, have a particular set of timings and then talk to them as their language. If you talk to them like a senior telling them rules and regulations they never gonna listen to the whole complete part. Second, give them their space. Whenever you realize they have done a major mistake or they are not really dealing with the problems they have to, give them their space, let them cool down and let them realize that probably what I am doing is too much. If you started telling them that you are wrong, you are completely, you cannot do this then it becomes very difficult to handle them and they are going to go against you. And third, have particular rules and regulations to be followed. There should be a good schedule you have to follow as a parent.

There are proper timing of food, proper sleep, proper hygiene, proper education everything has to be given at a particular time. There has to be not much of difference like when you doing that and fourth, involved in every activity that is whatever they are doing try to push them into sports, try to push them into any extra-curricular activities and identify every signs and symptoms. If you feel your child is going away, don't shut them off completely and fourth control your anger. Most of the parents when they see a teenager completely behaving differently from what they supposed to be, they get very angry and they show complete anger towards the teenager; that will not solve the issue. We have to control your anger, have a lot of patience and then if you communicate with your teenager they might be able to understand you. So, this is some of the tips you can do for handling a teenager. It's a difficult job but it can be done and things definitely keep improving. Thank you for watching the video. For more information, you can contact


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