How to Handle Sociopathic Teenagers
Although no longer a clinical term, sociopath usually refers to people that behave violently and have no remorse. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that children under the age of 18 who display sociopathic types of behaviors have conduct disorder 12. With this disorder, your teenager’s behavior is clearly outside of the normal and acceptable range. Behaviors of conduct disorder may include aggression to people or animals, destruction of property or theft 2. Children with conduct disorder may skip school, start fights, intimidate others or set fires 2. You will likely need some professional guidance and help to handle a teenager with these symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with a neurologist to rule out any biological causes for your teenager’s behavior. Some brain injuries can cause people to behave impulsively, have poor judgment and show no remorse.
Ask your teenager’s school to check for learning disabilities. The school guidance counselor should be able to arrange an assessment of your child with a psychologist. If your teen is having trouble learning, he could be feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, which can lead to acting out and other disturbing behavior.
Encourage any appropriate behavior in your teenager through positive reinforcement. Because your teenager has been acting out, she may be feeling isolated. Listen to your teenager when she talks to help her feel more connected. Although she may seem like she is feeling no remorse, it could be a defense mechanism.
Seek professional counseling. Your teenager may be more willing to share with a neutral third party. A counselor can also use cognitive-behavioral therapy to help change your teenager’s actions. Counseling can be useful to provide social skills training. Your teenager may not know how to problem solve or effectively communicate.
Consider family therapy, which can help everyone learn how to better communicate. The family therapist can also help you better deal with your teenager.
Talk to your doctor about medications. Although no single class of medications helps to treat these behaviors, some mood stabilizers can help reduce aggression and impulsivity.
If you are fearful about your teenager's behaviors, call 911.
- The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV TR; American Psychiatric Association; 2000
- MedlinePlus: Conduct Disorder
- If you are fearful about your teenager's behaviors, call 911.
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