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Is it a Behavioral Issue or a Cry for Help?

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

Adolescence is a difficult time. Teens go through many physical and mental changes that can complicate their thoughts and emotions. They may struggle to express themselves, and parents may have a hard time understanding them. While some behaviors are a normal part of growing up, others indicate a call for help. By recognizing these signs, parents can open the channel for communication and help resolve the issues.

What Warning Signs Should I Look For?

Because every teen is unique, each expresses their struggles differently. Some try to avoid the things that worry them. Others may try to reinvent themselves to fit in with their peers. Kids who struggle with issues such as bullying, social identity, and peer pressure may turn to drugs or alcohol, or contemplate hurting themselves or others to ease their pain.

The following behaviors may indicate underlying issues that need to be addressed:

  • Sudden, dramatic changes in appearance and/or personality
  • Hanging out with a different peer group
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Skipping classes and poor performance at school
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Violent, reckless behavior
  • Extreme changes in eating or sleeping patterns (binge eating, refusing to eat, insomnia, etc.)
  • Trouble focusing or communicating (jumbled thoughts, strange speech patterns, etc.)
  • Drawing, writing, or talking about suicide

How Can I Help My Teen?

If your teen displays one or more of these behaviors, it’s important to communicate, not confront. Talk openly with your teen and show your love and support. Keep in mind that many teens have trouble relating to their parents and may not take your words to heart. If this is the case, try to recruit another trusted role model to talk to your teen. This can be an older sibling, aunt or uncle, family friend, doctor, teacher, or coach.

When Is It Time to Seek Treatment for My Teen?

If your teen rejected attempts at communication, or if you notice new or worsening warning signs, seek treatment as soon as possible. Your doctor can screen for substance use and other underlying medical conditions. Consider contacting a treatment center that specializes in adolescent recovery or addiction.

There are treatment centers in the U.S. that offer inpatient treatment, counseling, behavioral therapy, and holistic treatment options tailored to teens and young adults. Located in peaceful settings, these programs help teens interact with others experiencing similar issues and build a lasting network of support.

Keep in mind that dangerous behaviors can escalate quickly. If you worry that your teen may take violent action against him/herself or others, seek immediate help from a family doctor, emergency room, mental health facility, or suicide hotline. During this time, make sure someone is supervising your teen. Remove weapons, medications, and other dangerous objects that your teen may use to harm someone.

It takes a combined effort from your teen, friends, family, and a professional treatment center to overcome serious mental health or addiction problems. While treatment takes a lot of time and effort, the payoff is worth it. Personalized treatment programs help countless teens take control of their lives and grow up to be healthy, successful adults. While your teen is in treatment, keep showing your love and support. Every teen has the power to recover, and a professional treatment program gives them the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

Call us today at Evolve. A member of our admissions team is ready to listen!


  1. Suicide Prevention, Children Ages 10 to 19 Years, New York State Department of Health, 30 Nov 2011,
  2. What to Do If Your Teen or Young Adult Has a Problem with Drugs, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA),

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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