We often hear this question from worried parents who are unsure if the latest session of mood swings from their teenaged child is just those normal overworked hormones or something far more dangerous. Here are some useful signs to look for which can help you tell the difference between a normal, emotional teenager and one who has slipped into more worrying habits.
Sudden, drastic changes in behaviour and appearance are normally an indication that something is abnormally wrong. Rapid weight loss (or gain) and sudden neglect of personal hygiene and appearance normally reflect a serious need for help and should never be ignored.
Constantly asking to borrow money all the time can be a problem which many parents suffer anyway, but if it is a new development – perhaps coupled with money going missing from your wallet or even small items of value vanishing from the teen’s personal possessions or around the house – then it can be a warning signal that these funds are being used to finance a drug or alcohol habit.
Avoiding eye contact or conversation with family members after returning from time spent with friends, whether a night out or a presumed study session, can mean that they are trying to hide telltale symptoms from you. Look out for dilated pupils, slurred or otherwise impeded speech and shortness of breath.
A change in the normal group of friends, especially to those who seem older or dress and act substantially different to your teenager’s normal associates, can indicate a new set of influences and potential sources of trouble.
Differences in odour – it may sound odd on paper but you are quite likely to notice if your child starts to smell different from normal. It may be a completely new smell like chemicals or alcohol, or a sudden tendency to use breath mints or heavy perfume in an attempt to hide other foreign smells.
Going missing overnight or regularly missing appointments is a common symptom as those misusing drugs and alcohol often lose all track of time while under the influence of illicit substances. In extreme cases, you could even find your teenager going missing for days on end only to return with some extravagant story which justifies their disappearance.
A change in attitude towards family, old friends and previous hobbies can also point to problems. Look out for new or elevated incidents of bad temper, irritability, uncooperative behaviour and self-isolation. A key warning sign is loss of interest in activities which used to be enjoyed, whether it is time with friends, favourite sports or normal hobbies.
Any sign of suspicious substances or accessories amongst their possessions must be addressed immediately. Commonly reported “finds” include powders or pills wrapped in tin foil or plastic bags, often stuffed at the bottom of drawers or inside clothing and bags, new smoking equipment, strange glassware or “roaches” (tips made out of cardboard) in ashtrays.
Generally, any drastic change is a cause for concern. While teenagers quite often undergo significant personality changes during this tumultuous period of maturation a sudden and complete transformation should be caused to investigate further. With proper care and attention, it can even be possible to intervene with troubled teens before they get onto the slippery slope of drug and alcohol abuse. Call now to ask about our teenage early intervention programmes or to speak to an advisor for help with any concerns that could lead you to suspect a problem with teenage addiction in your family.