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Teens: Angst or dangerous anger?

September 16, 2013
By CATHY THOMAS BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center Publicist , Salem News

Angry teens. It may be that every household with teens has an angry one from time to time. Parents may or may not be on the inside track as to the cause of the anger. And while parents may be inclined to think their teen is normal, it never hurts to look a little closer to make sure what their child's anger is about.

"Families that are the most difficult to put back together from disaster are those in which people have given up on each other and no longer care," writes Marie Hartwell-Walker in "Parenting Angry Teens" ( "Where there are fights, there is some room to salvage the relationships."

Hartwell-Walker writes that parents and teens misinterpret each other. Parents think the teen's hostility and anger are unfair, maybe unreasonable. The teen sees his parents' anger and hurt as manipulation and pressure. The teens may think their parents started the whole thing when it was their own attitude that instigated the confrontation. She advises that the intense feelings of the situation are actually signifying that there is caring at work.

Harvard Medical School, in a study, determined that one in 12 teens has an anger disorder, writes Deborah Kotz at The disorder is called "intermittent anger disorder," and is one of the most common mental disorders in adolescents, the experts say. It starts by age 12 and occurs in more boys than girls.

The disorder is defined as "recurrent outbreaks that lead to physical injury or the destruction of valuable property and that the outbursts must be "grossly out of proportion to the provocation" or life circumstances.

The jury is still out on whether this is accurate. The distinction has to be made whether the issue is "everyday anger and physical skirmishes that mark high school years" or "violent outbursts signaling dysfunctional anger and destructive behavior."

Rob Baedeker in "Teen Angst or Dangerous Anger" (WebMD) writs that 15 percent of children and adolescents have symptoms of depression at any one time, with 5 percent of them age 9-17. Listen for cries for help. Has your teen said, "I'm going to do harm"? Has he or she joined a group that wants to war with other groups? Has a communication blackout occurred-that teen is not talking to anyone-parents, other adults, peers? Is he showing violent behavior? Has he dropped out of everything: music, sports, school? Are there signs of substance abuse?

Hartwell-Walker advises parents to hang on with the tenacity of a bulldog. Reassure teens that they are loved and that you are concerned about them. Insist on knowing who they will be with and where they are going. Teens need to feel connected, so make sure they participate in family activities. Be stubborn and don't give up. A sense of humor helps, she says. Sometimes the teen's anger is justifiable; sometimes it becomes a mountain made from a molehill. Parents should not assume they are the problem. There are other forces at work in their children's lives. Remember that kids want to trust their parents and they respond to genuine efforts and honest apologies.

Not unlike their parents, teens cover their fears with hostility. Talking or acting tough covers those feelings of being small, ineffectual and scared. Teens realize when they've gone too far, so it's OK for parents to help them "save face." That doesn't mean they aren't held accountable. It means their parents understand and are there to help them. Parents also need to understand adolescent depression: it's signs and symptoms and how it works.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well-being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. FRC provides The Edge group designed for teens ages 13-17. The Edge covers issues such as coping skills, anger issues, stress management, symptoms of addiction, effects of drugs, steps to change and healthy relationships. For more information about these programs, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail,



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