There are times when anger issues can translate into health and conduct problems for teens. Therefore, this usually means teens need anger management treatment.
Teens can be angry. They might yell at their friends, slam doors or burst into curses when their favorite team doesn’t win the championship. It’s perfectly understandable. Adolescence can be a time of stress and strain. Furthermore, the hormonal changes teens experience may make them more vulnerable to emotional wear-and-tear. Often, this anger can be overcome with patient counseling from friends and family members.
Teen Anger Management
Anger tends to kick in when people feel wronged or they sense that someone else is being wronged. As this emotion rises, the body begins to prepare for battle in these symptoms:
- Rapid heart rate
- Slowing down digestion
- Higher respiration rates
- Increasing circulation
People who feel no anger at all might be consistently abused or stepped on. By contrast, people who do feel anger may be able to speak out against those who mean to harm them, and they may stay safer as a result. It’s easy to see why the anger gene has been passed down in human development.
Many express anger verbally, in raised voices or colorful language. Some pace and gesture. Letting that anger out is a healthy way to stop the wrong and move forward. But for people with an anger management problem, the anger rarely ends there.
Signs of a Problem
Anger management issues in teens can manifest in many different ways. Some teens may seem irritable, either with themselves or other people, and they may be prone to snap when they’re asked simple questions. They may simply seem angry all the time, with no real trigger setting off this anger. For these teens, anger management issues may actually be masking teen depression. It’s common for depression to manifest in teens in this way. A study published in the journal Development and Psychopathology found that 80 percent of middle-school students experience depression as a mixture of sadness and anger. These teens may need help for their anger management issue. But they may also need help dealing with the underlying mental health problem.
Teens and Anger
Other teens may demonstrate their anger in violent ways. They may bully or threaten others. Teens might get into frequent verbal and physical altercations with their friends and classmates. In addition, they may commit crimes, such as destruction of property or theft. Furthermore, they may also harm animals, including family pets. When asked to perform a task, they respond with challenges and arguments, and the conversation quickly spins out of control. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), these teens may have “conduct disorder.” This is an umbrella term for mental illness that is characterized by an inability to control impulses and follow rules.
Teens with anger management disorders might also:
- Become easily frustrated
- Escalate from calm to furious in just a moment’s time
- Throw temper tantrums
- Face disciplinary action at school
- Be shunned by their peers
Where Does Anger Come From?
Anyone can grow angry, but there are some teens who are at higher risk for developing an anger-based disorder. Teens who have been subjected to physical or mental abuse during childhood might face an increased risk. They attempt to process what has been done to them and suffer emotional fallout. Teens who are exposed to frequent images of violence through videogames, movies, or television shows may be at higher risk for anger. In addition, kids that are punished for anger may be at higher risk for disorders later in life. They never learned how to express the emotion properly. Hence, the problem tends to grow.
Left untreated, anger can cause a wide variety of health problems. According to an article in the journal Thorax, anger can cause problems linked to uncontrolled stress. This includes a depressed immune system, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome. In adolescents, the article states, uncontrolled anger can lead to asthma-related issues. In addition, anger can directly impact the airways, and make an asthma attack even worse.
Some teens turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their anger and make themselves feel calm. Adding substance abuse into the mix can be disastrous, as the adolescent brain is susceptible to forming an attachment to substances and that attachment can persist into adulthood. Teens may experiment with drugs, causing chemical changes in their brains. Hence they may then be unable to stop taking those drugs even though they know the use is dangerous. It’s a slippery slope.
Anger and Health
Anger also puts great strain on the heart, causing it to work much harder than it should. It has long been linked to heart disease. According to news reports, research suggests that adult men who explode in anger have a greater risk of health problems. They can experience a stroke, and may die at an earlier age than men who do not have issues with anger. Consequently, an anger disorder can cause premature death and a life of dysfunction.
Teens with mild anger management issues may benefit from attending a few sessions with a counselor. In these sessions, they’ll learn the fundamentals of staying calm when under fire. Those skills may prevent them from developing an even more serious issue in the future. Therapists might ask to count to 10, walk around the block or chew gum before responding with anger. They might practice expressing their emotions in ways that aren’t negative or violent. They might also focus on the source of the anger, learning more about why they grow mad and what they can do when anger strikes.
Therapies for Teenage Anger
There are some teens, however, who need more intensive help. For these teens, anger may be an overwhelming problem that merits more than a few anger management basics. For these teens, interventions might involve several types of therapy. Furthermore, clinicians may recommend the use of medications such as antidepressants.
Many therapists teach relaxation skills for anger issues. It’s difficult to yell, scream, and hit when the body and mind are relaxed. There are many techniques teens can use to stay calm and focused when anger begins. One might be encouraged to close their eyes and focus on tensing and releasing specific muscle groups, beginning at the head and working down to the toes. Or, they might be asked to think of a safe place in which they feel happy and calm, and then bring up images from that safe place whenever they feel angry.
Teen Anger and Communication
According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, some teens have never learned true communication. They may not know how to make small talk. Or they may not be able to pick up on subtle cues that indicate that other people are uncomfortable or busy. These teens may be unaware of their behavior. They may become angry when they feel they’ve been rejected.
Other teens benefit from basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. They learn that thoughts can be controlled before an angry impulse can take over. The teen might be asked to identify specific bodily sensations associated with anger. And when those sensations begin, the teen might can use relaxation techniques to stop the impulse from taking over.
Change the Way Teens Think
For some teens, revising anger-related behaviors means changing the way the teen thinks, reacts, and talks. It’s a lot to change, and sometimes, teens need to step away from their lives and focus on these lessons. This is best without being distracted by friends and social obligations. With this kind of help, teens truly can improve and gain control over the anger they feel.
Helping With Healing
There’s no question that living with an angry adolescent is difficult. Over time, as the teen becomes more and more angry, family members may develop their own coping skills. They may avoid provoking the teen and bringing on yet another outburst. When the teen emerges from treatment, families may still not know what to say or do to help the teen continue to manage their anger.
Tips for Teen Anger
These tips from the AACAP may help:
- Pick battles carefully, and let go of minor problems when possible.
- Choose praise over criticism.
- Take a timeout if the teen’s behavior causes parental anger.
- Allow the teen to take timeouts if needed.
- Set limits with enforceable consequences.
A Family Concern
Some families participate in counseling sessions along with the teen. Families that fight, argue, and scream may be rewarding the teen by demonstrating angry behavior. Teens tend to mimic the behavior they see.
In conclusion, if your family is struggling, we are here to help. Please call us today to find out more about our programs.