If you’re asking yourself, “does my teenager have anger issues?” you probably already know the answer to that question. The good news is that there is help for angry teens available to parents and caregivers.
There is a strong connection between addiction and anger. Your teen may get angry when you confront them about their addiction. They may get angry at themselves for not being able to stop their substance abuse on their own. And in some cases, anger and addiction can create a dangerous cycle as your teen turns to drugs or alcohol to help them deal with their feelings of anger.
Whatever the root cause of your teen’s anger management issues, it is important to recognize that this is a co-occurring mental health disorder that must be treated simultaneously with their addiction. Their anger issues won’t go away just because they stop using drugs and alcohol – and their anger may even contribute to relapse if left untreated.
As a parent, it may be difficult to determine whether your son or daughter has serious anger management issues. After all, it’s not unusual for a teenager to occasionally express their emotions by slamming a door or raising their voice. But teens who regularly lose their temper, especially over seemingly minor things, may have anger management issues that could contribute to substance abuse. If they dwell on past incidents, such as being teased or embarrassed, and continue to get angry well after the fact, that is another indication that they may need your help.
Other signs that your teen may have anger issues include:
Anger issues are often rooted in trauma. Children who grow up in a hostile, aggressive home environment are more likely to have tendencies of anger and violence. According to a recent study, children who witness angry behavior between their parents are likely to experience substance abuse and other problems, including rebellious behavior, academic struggles, anxiety, and depression. They may have low self-esteem and behave awkwardly in social situations.
Anger, aggression, and irritability are common reasons for mental health referrals. Parents and guardians should not be upset that they have to seek help, because getting help for your child’s anger is the first step in the right direction. Behavioral interventions, like parent management training and cognitive-behavioral therapy, may help a teen learn to better manage their anger while also helping parents understand how to cope with situations in which their children lash out.
Whether a child has a dual diagnosis of using drugs or alcohol along with a mental health disorder or it’s believed that they are using substances that are causing anger during use or the following withdrawal, it’s important to get them medical care and treatment as soon as possible.
Teenage anger issues aren’t caused by just one thing. In reality, there are many factors that play a role in developing teenage anger issues. There are also protective factors that make it less likely for a teen to develop anger problems.
There are many stressors that could increase the likelihood of a teen developing anger issues. It’s known that anger issues are often related to mental, emotional and behavioral health disorders, for example. Substance abuse may increase the likelihood of anger or be a sign that a teen is trying to manage their anger and frustration by self-medicating.
Some of the stressors that could lead to teen anger include:
These and other factors may play a role in the development of behavioral issues, like teen anger, in young men and women.
Just as there are some factors that increase the likelihood of teen anger, there are some protective factors that help prevent it or help reverse the damage. Some helpful ways to reduce and prevent behavioral health issues include:
Teen anger may be a symptom of drug and alcohol abuse or it may be a result of other underlying conditions. It’s important to look for the reason that a teen is angry before developing a treatment plan. Once the core cause of the anger is identified, it is easier to make a plan on how to resolve it.
Interestingly, substance abuse may trigger teen anger, or it can happen the other way around. Studies have found that one psychobehavioral factor that predicts the likelihood of drug abuse is anger in students. Anger had a positive correlation to addiction potential, which means that a teen who shows signs of anger may be more likely to turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to help them control those feelings.
In one study, it was determined that those between the ages of 17 and 22 were more likely to drink to the point of intoxication or have alcohol-related consequences when they had high levels of anger. It has also been shown that anger is a sign that a patient is less likely to complete substance abuse treatment, which is why the underlying anger, and cause of that anger, has to be addressed in a dual-diagnosis scenario.
Substance abuse itself may also lead to teen anger when a teen is frustrated by drug use or being caused to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Teens who feel pressured to use drugs or other substances may lash out at their peers. Teens who cause accidents or who get caught using drugs or alcohol may become angry or combative with parents, teachers, or guardians.
Some drugs also have the potential to cause anger as a side effect. Drug-induced violence is not uncommon, especially when the drug being used is a hallucinogen or stimulant. While many people who use drugs or who drink alcohol do not have violent or aggressive tendencies as a side effect, some may show signs of irritability, aggressiveness or threatening behavior when they are high or going through withdrawal. Why? Alcohol and other drugs disrupt the normal function of the brain, and this may result in reduced inhibitions and impaired judgment.
Dealing with teen anger isn’t easy. Troubled teens may need help learning new coping skills for teenage anger and ways to manage the way they feel.
Anger management helps teens learn new ways to express and control their anger in a safe way. It is not about preventing them from getting angry but instead about teaching them how to handle anger in an appropriate, acceptable way.
The reality is that life is not always going to go as expected. There will always be things that make a teen angry. The goal is to help them understand how to handle that feeling and how to react to things they do or do not have control over.
Anger management treatment is appropriate for teens who seem to have excess anger. For example, someone may not have good control over their anger if they:
It’s important to monitor teens who are showing signs of anger. If they make plans to harm others or begin to put those plans into motion, an immediate intervention is necessary.
The thing to remember is that anger can be controlled and addressed in a positive manner. People can learn how to address problems in a more productive way.
What happens during anger management treatment depends on the cause of the patient’s anger. For example, if a teen is struggling with anxiety, there may be psychotherapy options or medications that can help them relax and learn better ways to react to stress. A teen who is angry about bullying may do well in psychotherapy while also taking steps to get out of that situation or to mend relationships with peers.
In many anger management programs, patients go through a few steps to determine the cause of their anger and to address it in a healthy, productive way. These include:
Anger management isn’t always enough without medications. Sometimes, teens may be dealing with an underlying mental health issue that requires treatment. Some medications that may help could include:
The kinds of medications that are appropriate will depend on the teen’s mental health condition and if there is a dual diagnosis involving alcohol or drug abuse. Some teens don’t need medications, while others benefit from having medications while they go through psychotherapy and anger management treatment.
At Safe Landing, as part of a teen substance abuse treatment program, we help your son or daughter learn to recognize their triggers – the source of their anger – and develop more productive ways of responding to the situations that make them angry. We teach them relaxation techniques and coping skills that help them deal with those triggers without getting upset.