Common Red Flags in Teenage Behavior

The teenage years are a time of self-discovery and hormonal changes, which can sometimes lead to erratic behavior. However, certain negative patterns of teenage behavior indicate underlying mental health concerns. This article will shed light on the common red flags of teenage behavior and potential mental health issues.

As a leader in the sober living community, Transcend Recovery Community is one of the leading recovery communities that offers comprehensive and personalized mental health care for teenagers and adults. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your teenager thrive.

What are Red Flags in teenage behavior?

Red flags in teenage behavior are patterns of behavior that deviate from what is considered typical teenage behavior. These can include sudden changes in eating habits, extreme mood swings, sudden weight loss, or drastic changes in sleep patterns. These behaviors can raise concerns about a teenager’s mental health and may require consultation with a mental health professional.

Common Red Flags in Teenage Behavior

The common red flags in teenage behavior that need immediate intervention are as follows:

Extreme Mood Swings

a teenager having a bad mood swing and holding her head

Rapid and intense shifts in mood are not typical for teens. Extreme mood swings can be characterized as laughing to crying in moments, which can be indicative of a mental health issue like bipolar disorder.  

Sudden Weight Loss

Inexplicable poor eating habits, drastic weight changes, or developing eating disorders can be a sign of a mental illness.

Sleep Disturbances

It can be normal for teenagers to experience changes in their sleep patterns. However, consistent sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or oversleeping, can be a sign of underlying mental health concerns.

Low Self-Esteem

A teen would display persistent feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy, such as comparing themselves unfavorably to others, and thinking they’re not smart or capable.

Risky Behaviors

When a teen engages in dangerous activities without regard for consequences, such as reckless driving or substance abuse, can be a sign of a mental health red flag.

Secretive Behavior

A teenager might start to isolate themselves and spend a lot of time alone in their room, or become evasive when asked about their activities.

Poor Academic Performance

This can be characterized by a noticeable drop in academic performance that isn’t linked to external factors like a change in school or curriculum.


This is characterized by any deliberate act of hurting oneself physically, often as a way to cope with emotional pain. Examples include cutting, burning, or scratching oneself.

Peer Pressure

Peer influence can cause a teenager to engage in harmful behaviors as a means of conforming with group norms.

Unhealthy Coping Strategies

These are methods used to deal with stress or emotional pain that are harmful rather than helpful. Examples include substance abuse, self-harm, or disordered eating.

Distinguishing Underlying Mental Health Concerns from Normal Teen Behavior

Duration and Intensity

When observing your teenager's behavior, consider the duration and intensity of the behavior. Normal teenage mood swings are typically short-lived and not extreme, while persistent and intense mood swings might indicate underlying mental health issues.

Impact on Daily Life

Evaluate how the behavior impacts your teenager's daily life. Normal teenage behavior may cause minor disruptions. However, if the behavior significantly interferes with their ability to function, it could be a red flag.

For instance, while it's common for teenagers to occasionally struggle with homework, persistent academic decline, such as failing grades despite effort, could be a sign of an underlying issue.

Consistency Across Settings

Consider whether the behavior is consistent across different settings. Normal teenage behavior may vary depending on the situation, but if the behavior is consistently concerning in various environments, it may indicate a deeper issue.

For example, if your teenager engages in excessive screen time, it may mean they may be trying to escape or cope up with certain underlying issues, such as stress, anxiety or depression.

Changes in Behavior Patterns

Look for significant changes in behavior patterns. For instance, if your teenager suddenly stops spending time with friends or participating in extracurricular activities they used to love, it may be a sign of a mental health concern.

Physical Symptoms

Pay attention to any physical symptoms that accompany the behavior. While physical symptoms can have various causes, they can sometimes be a perceived as a warning sign. For example, complaints of frequent headaches or stomachaches without a clear medical cause could be related to stress or anxiety.

Family History

Consider your family's history of mental health issues. While not definitive, a family history of mental illness may increase the likelihood that certain behaviors are indicative of an underlying mental health concern. If several family members have been diagnosed with depression, your teenager's prolonged sadness may necessitate further evaluation.

How to Spot Them?

Spotting red flags in teenage behavior requires observation and open communication. Parents, teachers, and mental health professionals should pay attention to changes in behavior, mood, and daily habits.

If you’re keen on determining whether or not there are red flags in your teen’s behavior, see if it includes any of the following:

Observe Changes in Behavior

Look for any significant changes in your teen’s behavior. This could include becoming more secretive, engaging in risky behaviors, or showing signs of low self-esteem.

Monitor Mood Swings

Pay attention to extreme mood swings that are not typical of normal behavior or a result of hormonal changes. These could be a warning signs of underlying issues on mental health or other serious red flag.

Check Daily Activities

Keep an eye on their daily activities. Any drastic changes, such as spending excessive screen time or showing a sudden decline in academic performance, could indicate emotional pain or other mental health challenges.

Eating Habits

Significant changes in eating habits, like sudden weight loss or gain. This behavior could be a red flag for eating disorders or other mental health conditions.

Sleep Patterns

Monitor your teen’s sleep patterns. Consistent sleep disturbances or drastic changes in sleeping habits could be a sign of emotional distress or other mental health issues.

Social Interactions

Pay attention to your teen’s social interactions. If they are isolating themselves from family members or friends, or giving in to peer pressure to engage in any harmful teenage behavior, these could be warning signs.

What to Do After Spotting Any Red Flags in Teenage Behavior?

If a parent notices any red flags in their teenager's behavior, it's important to take action. However, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and understanding because teenagers navigate their way through life differently.

Understand that they may be going through a difficult time. So your support can make a significant difference in their recovery.

Consider taking these steps if you spot some red flags that are not typical teen behavior:

Talk to Your Teen

Approach your teenager with concern and care. Express that you've noticed some changes and ask how they're feeling.


Give your teenager a chance to open up. Listen without judgment and validate their feelings. Ask open-ended questions and listen to their responses.

Seek Professional Help

If you're concerned that your teen’s behavior may indicate any mental health red flags, consider seeking professional help from a mental health expert. They can provide an assessment and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Create a Supportive Environment

Offer your teenager a safe space to express themselves. Encourage healthy coping mechanisms and provide support. For example, you can teach your teenager to practice deep breathing or meditation to manage stress.

Educate Yourself

Seek professional advice from experts to learn more about mental health red flags and substance abuse. This approach may help to better understand what your teenager may be going through.

Monitor Their Behavior

Keep an eye on your teenager's behavior and mood. Look for changes or patterns that may indicate deeper, underlying issues of emotional distress and other mental health red flags.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Promote activities that support physical and mental health, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and healthy sleep habits. Guide and encourage them in setting reasonable online and offline activities that will provide them with a healthy daily routine.

Stay Involved

Stay involved in your teenager's life and activities. Show interest in their hobbies and friends.

Be Patient

Be patient with your teenager and offer ongoing support. Recovery and healing take time.

Seek Support for Yourself

Taking care of a teenager with mental health issues can be challenging. Find support from friends and family. Also, seeking professional help for yourself is recommended, especially if you think everything feels too much to handle.

Does Your Teenage have Mental Heath and Substance Abuse Concerns?

If you suspect that your teenager may be struggling with mental illness or substance abuse issues, it's crucial to seek professional help. A mental health professional can assess the situation and recommend appropriate treatment options. Early intervention can make a significant difference in a teen's life.

If your teenager is exhibiting multiple red flags in their behavior, they may be struggling with mental health and substance abuse concerns. Risky behaviors such as reckless driving, secretive behavior, or self-harm are serious red flags that require immediate attention from a mental health professional.

How Can Transcend Recovery Community Help?

Transcend Recovery Community provides a safe and supportive environment for teenagers who display any mental health red flags or substance abuse. We offer individualized intensive therapy programs that include multiple one-on-one sessions and sober living options.

Additionally, we have mental health mentors who can provide proper care and treatment options to help teens navigate these challenges. Through open communication and healthy coping strategies, we empower teenagers to overcome their struggles and lead fulfilling lives.

Any red flags in your teenager's behavior should be considered a mental health emergency, so don't hesitate to seek help. Early intervention can make a significant difference in their mental health and well-being.

Transcend Recovery Community

Transcend Recovery Community family of sober living homes provides a safe place for those undergoing mental health and addiction treatment to live with like-minded peers. Our community-based approach to sober living (similarly to a halfway house) facilitates an open and welcoming environment, where members, staff and team can provide support and encouragement on the path to a sober and healthy life. Transcend's Los Angeles sober living homes are located in some of the most iconic areas of the city, filled with luxurious and upscale amenities, providing plenty to do for those in our transitional housing community.

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