Understanding adolescent behavior

Adolescence is a time of significant change and development. Teenagers undergo emotional, physical and cognitive transformations that can impact their behavior. It is essential to understand that some degree of rebellion, risk-taking, and temper is normal in adolescence. However, when these behaviors become excessive or interfere with daily functioning, they may indicate the presence of a conduct disorder.

The 5 most common disorders in adolescents

  1. Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest, and hopelessness. Teenagers may also experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, changes in appetite and trouble sleeping.
  2. **Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear and worry that can interfere with daily activities. The most common anxiety disorders in adolescents are generalized anxiety, panic disorder, and social anxiety.
  3. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an adolescent’s ability to concentrate, control impulses and manage hyperactivity. Symptoms of ADHD can include distractibility, forgetfulness, and difficulty completing tasks.
  4. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OPD): OPD is a behavioral disorder that pushes the adolescent to act, to be provocative and to have an angry temperament. Teens with OCD may argue with adults, deliberately break rules, and blame others for their mistakes.
  5. Substance Abuse Disorders: Substance abuse disorders are behavioral disorders that involve the misuse of drugs or alcohol. Teenagers may engage in substance abuse to cope with stress, peer pressure, or emotional issues.

Signs and Symptoms of Each Disorder

It is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of each disorder in order to identify and treat them quickly. Here are some common signs and symptoms of the five most common disorders in teens:


  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm


  • Excessive fear or worry about everyday situations
  • Panic attacks accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, or heart palpitations
  • Avoidance of social situations or other triggers
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Concentration difficulties

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  • Inattention, including difficulty staying focused on tasks or following instructions.
  • Hyperactivity, including fidgeting or restlessness
  • Impulsivity, including interrupting others or acting without thinking
  • Forgetfulness or disorganization
  • Difficulty completing tasks or keeping commitments

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (OPD)

  • Frequent arguments with adults or authority figures
  • Deliberately breaks rules or defies authority
  • Blaming others for mistakes or problems
  • Easily annoyed or angry
  • Refusal to comply with requests or instructions
  • Deliberately annoying or provoking others

Substance Abuse Disorders

  • Behavioral or mood changes, including irritability, mood swings, or depression
  • Increased secrecy or isolation
  • Poor hygiene or neglect of appearance
  • Changes in social groups or activities
  • Decline in school performance or attendance
  • Physical symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or coordination problems

Diagnosis and treatment options

If you suspect your teen is suffering from a behavioral disorder, it is essential to seek professional help. A mental health professional can do a thorough assessment to determine if a disorder is present and recommend treatment options. Treatment options may include medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

For depression and anxiety, medication can be effective in managing symptoms. Therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, can also be helpful in teaching teens coping strategies and addressing underlying issues.

For ADHD, medications can be effective in managing symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity. Behavioral therapy can also be helpful in teaching teens organizational skills and strategies for dealing with impulsivity.

For obsessive-compulsive disorder, family therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective in addressing underlying issues and teaching teens coping strategies to manage their behavior.

For substance abuse disorders, a combination of therapy and medication may be needed. Behavioral therapy can help teens identify triggers and develop coping strategies, while medication can be effective in managing withdrawal symptoms.

How can parents address behavioral issues at home?

Parents play a vital role in solving behavioral problems at home. Here are some strategies parents can use to help their teens:

  • Communicate openly and honestly with your teen and listen to their concerns and feelings.
  • Establish clear rules and consequences for behavior and enforce them consistently.
  • Encourage positive behavior and praise your teen when they make progress.
  • Create a supportive and safe environment for your child to express themselves.
  • Monitor your teen’s activities and social groups and be alert to any changes in behavior or mood.
  • Seek professional help if needed and follow treatment recommendations.

How can schools help students with behavioral problems?

Schools can also play a vital role in solving student behavior problems. Here are some strategies schools can use to help their students:

  • Provide a safe and supportive environment for all students.
  • Provide counseling and mental health services to students who need them.
  • Implement behavior management strategies such as positive reinforcement and consequences for negative behavior.
  • Provide academic support to students who may be struggling academically.
  • Work in partnership with parents and mental health professionals to address behavior issues.

The role of therapy in the treatment of adolescent disorders

Therapy plays a vital role in the treatment of adolescent disorders. It can help teens identify the triggers for their behavior and develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms. It can also be helpful in addressing underlying issues such as trauma or family conflict that may be contributing to behavioral issues.

Therapy can take many forms, including individual therapy, family therapy, and group therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of therapy commonly used to treat adolescent disorders. It involves teaching adolescents coping strategies and addressing negative thought patterns that may be contributing to their behavior.

Resources for parents and educators

Many resources are available for parents and educators who want to learn more about adolescent behavioral issues. Here are some helpful resources:

  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides information on various mental disorders, including those that affect adolescents.
  • The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) provides information on various mental disorders affecting children and adolescents.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information and resources about substance abuse and mental disorders.
  • Local mental health clinics and organizations can offer counseling and support groups for parents and teens.

Prevention and early intervention strategies

Prevention and early intervention are key to solving adolescent behavior problems. Parents and educators can take steps to prevent behavior problems before they arise. Here are some strategies:

  • Foster open communication and a supportive home and school environment.
  • Teach teens coping strategies to manage stress and anxiety.
  • Encourage healthy behaviors such as exercise and good nutrition.
  • Address issues such as bullying and peer pressure before they escalate.
  • Seek professional help if necessary and follow treatment recommendations.


Teenage behavior problems can be difficult for parents and caregivers to deal with. However, early detection and treatment can prevent long-term negative consequences for adolescents. If you think your teen has a behavioral problem, seek professional help. With the right treatment and support, teens can learn to manage their symptoms and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.