CTRL Care Behavioral Health

Is it Normal Teenage Behavior or Mental Illness?

It’s not easy being a teenager. Teens are halfway between childhood and adulthood. They are still figuring out who they are while dealing with physical and emotional changes. This can cause your teen to act out in ways you haven’t seen before. 

Some irritable or defiant behavior is normal during the teen years and typically nothing to worry about. Teens need to find their way and become comfortable in their skin, and parents can make this transition easier by listening, practicing patience and respecting boundaries. 

But what happens when that normal teenage behavior doesn’t seem so normal anymore? It’s estimated that about 85 percent of teens get through adolescence without too much trouble, but 15 percent do not. Could your child be in the latter group? And if so, how can you help? 

Below you’ll find more information about identifying normal teenage behavior and mental illness, and where to go for child mental health services in Princeton NJ. 


Teens have very different biological clocks compared to kids and adults. The body naturally wants to sleep between 1am and 10am. Therefore, it’s normal for a teen to want to stay up late and sleep in the next day. 

However, if your teen is sleeping all day, isolating themselves from friends or falling asleep at school, these could be signs of a bigger problem. 

Moodiness and Irritability 

A simple comment can send a teen into a frenzy, but again, this probably isn’t a cause for concern. It’s normal for teens to get frustrated, moody and irritable because they’re dealing with many thoughts, feelings and emotions. 

But, it can be a cause for concern if your child’s moodiness is constantly escalating. Maybe they are responding with violence or having trouble coping with everyday situations. These red flags should not be ignored. 

Alcohol and Drug Experimentation 

Even though parents don’t like it, most kids are in the position to experiment with alcohol before they turn 21. And the same is often true for nicotine and marijuana. This is why it’s important to talk openly and honestly with your child. 

While some experimentation is normal, it’s a fine line. If your teen is frequently partying or using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, they might benefit from youth addiction treatment in Princeton NJ

Defiance and Rebelliousness 

Some defiance is normal, as teens are feeling out boundaries and pushing for independence. They might also be more secretive, as they want the opportunity to make their own decisions without parent input. 

However, it’s a bigger issue if your child is breaking laws or getting into frequent trouble at school. This defiance can impact their future. 


Because they are faced with pressures to do well in school, it’s common for teens to be anxious about homework, tests and grades. This anxiety can kick up as graduation nears. 

So when should you be concerned? When your teen starts showing real anxiety over their schoolwork, such as not being able to study, not being able to sleep or getting physically ill. It’s also concerning if your teen suddenly stops caring about their grades. 

Seeking Help for Your Teen

It’s important to be present and patient with your teen, as this allows you to address concerning behaviors as they arise. If you’re not sure what to do, it’s okay to involve a professional. But it’s also important not to let fear take over. Manage your emotions and try to remember what it was like to be a teenager. 

CTRLCare Behavioral Health offers child mental health services in Princeton NJ. We frequently work with teens who are struggling in their lives, and we help get them back on track with better coping skills and life skills. Contact our admissions team to learn more about getting your teen professional help. 

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Focused on evidence-based therapies and integrated wellness programs, the unique, hybrid approach at CTRLCare Behavioral Health is designed to meet the needs and goals of the individual. For personalized treatment that addresses the mind, body, and spirit, contact CTRLCare Behavioral Health today.