Young girl with depression looking out the window.

Normal Teenage Behavior or Mental Health Issues

Normal teenage behavior or signs of mental health issues?

Teens are in a constant state of change. Their brains are developing. Their bodies are transforming and their hormones are surging. They are also trying to find themselves and navigate the complexities of life.

It’s not surprising, then, that they may exhibit behaviors that are undesirable, such as isolating, lashing out or engaging in risk taking. As a parent or guardian, it can be difficult to determine if these behaviors are just a normal part of adolescence or if they indicate a mental health issue.

Mental illness during adolescence is common, and it is often the time when symptoms of anxiety, depression and other conditions first emerge. It is essential for parents and guardians to understand the signs and symptoms of mental illness in teens so that they can seek professional help when necessary.

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As a result of brain development and life transitions, teenagers may exhibit undesirable behaviors. Parents and guardians often have trouble distinguishing “normal” teenage behavior from more concerning mental health issues.

Typical Teenage Behavior

Growing up is hard, and for teens the pressure can be even more intense. They are still learning how to manage many aspects of their life including responsibilities, emotions and relationships. It is not uncommon for teens to obsess over their appearance, stay up late or find fault with the adults in their life. It is also normal for them to push back against rules, experiment with drugs or alcohol or withhold information.

If your teen is showing consistent signs of negative behavior, it is important to keep an eye on them to determine if professional help is needed.

Signs of Mental Illness to Watch Out For

It can be challenging to determine when undesirable behavior is an indication of a mental health issue. If your teen exhibits the following behaviors, talk to them about what they are experiencing or enlist a trusted adult to take on the task.
Among the behaviors that parents and guardians should look out for include:

  • Avoiding friends and social life
  • Losing interest in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Excessive sleeping, or difficulty sleeping/insomnia
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Intense moodiness
  • Marked impulsivity
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Actions of self-harm, including cutting, picking, burning, biting, or hair pulling
  • Engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking, taking drugs or drinking alcohol
  • Suicidal ideation

Seeking Professional Help

If you suspect that your teen may be experiencing a mental health issue, seek professional help as soon as possible. Mental health disorders can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, and early intervention can make a significant difference in their recovery.

It can be challenging for parents and guardians to determine if their teen’s behavior is simply a phase or indicative of a mental health disorder. A qualified mental health professional can conduct an assessment and provide an accurate diagnosis.


About Camino a Casa

Casa Pacifica is the largest non-profit provider of children’s and adolescent mental health services in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. The agency’s Camino a Casa program, available to clients with private insurance, provides behavioral health care to youth ages 12-17 who struggle with emotional dysregulation and high-risk behaviors that jeopardize their safety at home, school and/or community.  

Intensive short-term residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and in-home behavioral health services comprise Camino a Casa’s full continuum of adolescent mental health care. 

Camino a Casa specializes in mental health treatment for youth ages 12-18 including residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and in-home behavioral services. Contact us today at 805-366-4000 to learn more about our therapeutic programs specifically for adolescents.

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