If you are the parent of a teenager who loves to argue just for the sake of arguing, crossing their arms and rolling their eyes, rest assured you are not alone. In fact, it is completely normal for teens to be self-centered, quarrelsome, sensitive and moody. During moments with your teen that make you want to clench your teeth, pull your hair out and dream about the days when your teen was a happy-go-lucky five year old, remember, for most teens it's only a temporary "phase" that eventually brings them into adulthood.
When Disrespect and Defiance is Cause For Concern
Having rational discussions with an argumentative teen about what they are allowed to do can be expected from parents of adolescents coping with monumental physical and emotional changes. Establishing rules your teen should respect is essential for their overall well-being and ability to learn how to make good decisions.
When teenagers go beyond simple argumentative behavior, it's possible something else may be contributing to their extreme defiance, such as spending more time with peers known to drink alcohol, take drugs and get in trouble with the law. Signs that indicate your teenager may need professional help include:
- Uncharacteristically alienating themselves from family and previous "good" friends
- Becoming more aggressive and combative when they don't get their way
- Physically confronting parents and other authority figures
- Increasingly losing interest in school/getting bad grades (especially if the teenager used to get decent grades and seemed to enjoy school)
- Refusing to comply with household rules/staying out late
- Appearing disoriented, disassociated or "out of it"
- Deliberately trying to upset or annoy authoritative figures
- Adopting a resentful, vengeful attitude towards everyone but their peers
When teens become out of control, psychologists often diagnose them with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). ODD is a condition that is best treated by professionals in an inpatient environment. Left untreated, in the worst cases, teenagers with ODD may drop out of school, become habitual offenders and suffer ongoing addiction, employment and relationship issues throughout their lives.
Disrespectful Behavior and Depression in Teens
For many teens, the biological, physical and psychological stress of transitioning from childhood to adolescent demands behavioral and cognitive adjustments that are difficult for them to understand and cope with in healthy ways. Consequently, two in 10 teenagers will experience clinical depression before they are 18 and nearly 15 percent of adolescents will suffer symptoms of depression without being professional diagnosed or treated.
ODD and depression are almost always diagnosed together. Signs of depression in teenagers are similar to signs of oppositional defiant disorder and include:
- Withdrawal from family/having only one or two close friends
- Disinterest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Blaming authoritative figures for their problems
- Sleeping all day and staying up all night
- Thinking or talking about death and suicide
- Engaging in risky behaviors--drug and/or alcohol addiction, prostitution, criminal activities
- Anorexia, bulimia or overeating
- Significant weight loss or weight gain due to appetite changes
Sometimes it is difficult for parents to recognize warning signs of teen depression simply because adolescent behavior can be so puzzling and enigmatic. Behavior that we automatically attribute to teenage angst and self-centeredness may, in fact, be depression symptoms that parents simply fail to notice.
Changes leading to Disrespect Authority
In addition to powerful hormonal changes occurring in the body, teenagers often experience a wide variety of stressful events, ranging from parental divorce and death of family members to peer pressure, bullying and self-esteem issues. Frequently aggravating these stressors are neurotransmitter imbalances that worsen moodiness, reduce self-esteem, cause feelings of sadness and meaningless and worsen learning disabilities that may remain undiagnosed throughout high school.
Atypical Depression vs Clinical Depression in Teens
Teens with atypical depression experience bouts of extreme sadness that temporarily improves when something happens that makes them feel better. For example, teens who are severely depressed and refuse to get out of bed for several days may suddenly feel happy and jump out of bed upon hearing a certain friend is coming to visit. This is considered atypical because teens suffering from clinical (major) depression would fail to react in that manner.
Treating oppositional defiant disorder successfully means treating depression first with therapuetic counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, support group assistance and medication to help stabilize neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. Depression does not just "go away" by itself. It is a medical disease that requires treatment by experienced and caring professionals.
Substance Abuse and Disrespecting Authority
Teenage substance abusers can quickly and easily become addicts when they attempt to escape a painful reality with which they do not know how to cope. In addition to ODD, personality disorders may also contribute to a teenager's ODD, such as borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. Adolescents with oppositional defiant disorder and borderline personality disorder have a strong fear of being alone and abandoned. For this reason, they often remain in relationships that are based only on drugs and alcohol. They also suffer from a severe lack of impulse control, which makes them vulnerable to the immediate gratification provided by drugs, alcohol and a false sense of peer security.
Behavioral Disorders and Defiance
Can behavioral disorders such as internet addiction be a consquence of ODD? Yes and no. Although a teen addicted to the Internet may not be a substance abuser, they still receive some of the same chemical releases and rewards that a drug abuser receives--euphoria, disconnect from reality and relief from overwhelming depression, anger and anxiety
When a teen addicted to the Internet is online 10 or 12 hours a day, the neurochemistry of ther brain changes so that the "pleasure centers" of the brain are receiving extra amounts of neurotransmitters involved in feeling good. Just like a heroin addict who goes too long with getting a fix and begins suffering from withdrawal symptoms, the teenage Internet addict will also begin feeling severely anxious, irritable, moody and even physically ill when he cannot get online.
Teens with ODD may be attracted to the Internet because they have an intense need to escape reality and feelings of low self-esteem. With the ability to take on another identity and pretend to be someone else while interacting with others who do not know them, teens with ODD, depression and/or BPD may engage in cyberbullying, which can worsen their existing mental health problems.
When Talking to Your Teen Isn't Working
If you have tried discussing problematic behaviors with your teen only to be consistently rebuffed and defied, your child may need professional help. In some cases, parents could unknowingly be contributing to their teenager's ODD and substance abuse by being an enabler.
Enablers dislike confrontation and will avoid confronting problems. They believe that by preventing conflict, the problem will eventually solve itself. Enablers are in denial and refuse to acknowledge their teenager is troubled and addicted. While parents who are enablers truly love their child, they are also great "minimizers", often telling family members "it's not as bad as you think" or "she's just going through a rough age right now". Parental enablers will engage in contradictory behavior by simultaneously allowing their teen "do what they want" while criticizing them for being irresponsible and immature. See more on our blog on Intervention Advice.
Get Professional and Caring Help Today for Your Troubled Teen
In addition to providing an evidence-based, personalized mental health and substance abuse program for your child, we also use cognitive-behavioral therapy to show teens how to recognize negative thinking patterns that misrepresent their perception of reality.
Counselors specializing in CBT help adolescents recognize and remedy distortions in thinking and perception that have caused them to misinterpret many things about themselves and others. Especially beneficial for teens suffering ODD, borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders and anxiety/phobias, CBT challenges certain false beliefs and thinking patterns, such as magnification of negative events and overgeneralizing situations.
Teens participating in our in-patient program are guided to understand that they have control over choosing how they feel about events that happen to them. This type of therapy is a self-illuminating and deeply insightful method for teenagers to gain a sense of control over their lives which improves their ability to avoid "trigger" situations, or situations in which they may be motivated to engage in ODD behaviors or to use drugs.
Call us today to learn more about our in-patient program for teens with oppositional defiant disorder and addictions (844)319-5239.
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