The teen years are difficult for many adolescents as they grapple with rapid growth and the emotional swings that come with it. Normal teen behavior might be governed by intense feelings of anger and frustration they struggle to leave their childhood years behind and enter adulthood. Although parents of normal teens need to brace themselves for some turmoil, it's wise to recognize when behavior becomes so disturbing that professional help is needed.
A continuum of disturbing behaviors includes lying, theft and academic difficulties that range from the normal experience of most teens to more extreme cases where the bad behavior is severe and chronic. Most parents can expect their teens to have lapses in truthfulness every so often, but if you feel your child rarely tells the truth to you anymore, he might have a serious problem. Other disturbing behaviors that need attention if they occur repeatedly include smoking, drinking and unprotected sex.
Self-inflicted injury might include hair-pulling, burning and cutting. Psychologically damaged youngsters engage in self-mutilation for a variety of reasons and need professional help. They are usually suffering from a form of depression. Other risky behaviors that result in self-harm are eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, although the intent to harm oneself is less overt. Some withdrawn teens might become suicidal -- some depressed teens find each other and form suicide pacts. Drunken driving and promiscuity are examples of disturbing behaviors that teens might not recognize as self-destructive.
Some youngsters who had previously been social, personable and compliant seem to change overnight into surly creatures oozing rudeness and disrespect. While milder forms of oppositional behavior are normal, teens who are constantly defiant and disobedient need attention. Teens who initiate physical fights and who are aggressive with younger siblings are also cause for concern. Bullying behavior, whether at school or online through social media sites, should also be taken seriously.
Many teens might cut a class or two, but habitual truancy is cause for concern. Other extreme behavior includes running away from home and living on the streets. Some teens might join gangs and engage in acts of vandalism and robbery. Criminal behavior such as setting fires or hurting animals might be a cry for help and are definitely cause for concern. Any use of weapons and all aggressive behavior is also beyond the norm. Drug abuse and dealing drugs can be life-threatening and must be dealt with immediately.