Nobody truly understands how hard it can be to raise a teenager until they’re actually doing it themselves. It’s an experience unlike any other. In the best of times, it’s rewarding to a degree that transcends description, and in the worst of times, it can be a deeply painful and maddening experience.

One of the biggest challenges is diagnosing your teenager’s problems, along with the appropriate response to them. Since teenagers are highly emotionally volatile, it can be hard discerning between a gaping wound and a harmless scratch. Sometimes they make mountains out of molehills, and sometimes they deftly conceal major issues that warrant serious treatment.

As professionals who deal with teenagers on a day-to-day basis, we sympathize with this struggle. Nevertheless, it’s incredibly important that you, as a parent, are able to recognize when there’s a serious problem, even if your teen is making efforts to hide it. While some behaviors and struggles heal on their own, others benefit from professional treatment. Here are some signs that your teenager may need therapy:

Abrupt Changes in Personality or Habits

It goes without saying that teens haven’t yet fully come into who they “really are,” and they experiment with all kinds of hobbies, interests, social circles, and behaviors. It’s expected and natural for these things to shift on a frequent basis. But not all behavioral shifts are the result of self-discovery — they are sometimes a side-effect of a much more serious problem that’s eating away at their motivation and self-worth.

If your teenager picks up a profound interest in painting, and dives into it excitedly for a month before abruptly shifting to some new pastime, it’s probably nothing to worry about, especially if your teen has a history of this kind of behavior. But suppose your teen has been passionate about painting for years, never failing to resort to it as a happy pastime or therapeutic stress-reliever. If they suddenly drop painting altogether without any kind of meaningful replacement hobby, something might be brewing on the inside.

That’s a very specific example, but the point we’re making is that one thing leads to another. If they’re suddenly unmotivated to engage in activities that have historically brought them much joy, it could be symptomatic of a bigger problem. From there, you can start making other observations: has their social life changed? Is their attitude noticeably more negative? Take note of these things, because it could mean that your teen is struggling with depression or other serious problems.

Self-Destructive Habits

It’s not only natural in teenagers, but in humans altogether to engage in self-destructive behaviors during periods of trauma, low self-esteem, or depression. This can be for a multitude of reasons — loss of motivation, a desire to escape the pain, crushing stress, and so on. It should be a huge red flag if your teen is indulging in this kind of behavior.

Self destruction can be literal and figurative; self-harm, such as cutting, is a habit that’s relatively common (but extremely serious) among distressed teenagers. They could also start indulging in unhealthy food and neglect exercise. These habits aren’t atypical among teenagers, but if they have a history of healthy lifestyle choices, it could be a concern.

But not all self-destruction is physical — they may compromise long-standing friendships, plummet in their academic performance, or act ornery towards family members. The bottom line is that these behaviors are all common side-effect of deeper struggles; don’t just brush them off as being a phase.

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Substance Abuse and Addiction

Some addictions are symptoms of another problem, while some addictions are the problem. Sometimes, it’s all of the above, causing a destructive, never-ending cycle. But in both instances, it’s a clear signal that your teen would benefit from professional treatment.

It’s not exactly uncommon for teenagers to experiment with alcohol, drugs, or other destructive substances. While ideally, they would avoid this behavior altogether, there’s still a difference between teens who do some light partying once in a while, and teens who turn to substance abuse to cope with serious problems.

There are also other forms of addiction, some of which we treat teenagers for at Kaizen Academy. Pornography addiction is one of them; this is an unhealthy habit that can have destructive ripple effects in other areas of their life, or it can be a temporary relief that they indulge in because of serious depression. Once an addiction has formed, it can be overwhelmingly difficult to overcome it without outside help; this is where a teen counselor or therapist can truly be a life-saver.

Suicidal Tendencies

If you reach the point where your teen is displaying suicidal tendencies, you’re past the point of waiting around for the problem to get better. Many people who talk up suicide don’t actually have plans of going through with it, but some of them do, and ultimately, it’s impossible to know with exactitude. Ignoring that, it’s atypical in general for people to have suicidal thoughts and remarks. If you see this in your teen son or daughter, get down to the bottom of what’s going on in their life, and find a professional therapist or counselor that can help guide them to recovery.

At Kaizen Academy, we’ve worked with our fair share of teens who put very little value on their own life. With years of experience helping them recover in our residential treatment center, we can tell you with full confidence that things can get better. No teen is beyond recovery — you simply have to find the right path for them.

A Cry for Help

Finally, your teenager might be reaching out for health right underneath your nose. While teenagers are stereotyped as being coy about their true feelings, especially with parents, the truth is that many of them are earnest and open about how they’re feeling. And even if you feel like they resent you, that facade can melt away in times of great need.

At Kaizen Academy, our boys struggle with sexual behavior problems. This is a source of great personal shame to many of them. In some cases, this causes them to bury their issues as deep as they can. But in others, the teenager feels so distressed about their behavior that they desperately want help overcoming it. If you show them unconditional love and support during these times, that’s the first major step to a brighter future.

Part of that love you have for your child is seeking the right help when they need it. Some teenagers openly acknowledge that they need professional help, but you may need to propose the idea to them yourself.

Kaizen Academy – Counseling and Therapy for Teenagers in Provo

Believe it or not, by the time that a lot of teenagers enter our residential treatment center, they’ve already gone through the worst of their problems. Why? Because admitting you have a problem and seeking recovery is often the hardest part of all. Once you actually reach that point, it simply comes down to taking the right steps to improve. When you have talented, qualified, and caring counselors at your side, that process is much more bearable.

That’s exactly what we offer at Kaizen Academy. We have years of experience working with troubled teenage boys with sexual behavioral problems, and by narrowing down our focus to such a specific