Explosive Teen Anger Could Be Depression or Drug Use Related

By Cary Quashen
It’s a common occurrence. We open our morning newspapers 
or turn on the television or radio to find yet another violent 
episode in which teens are perpetrators of brutal and senseless 
actions. Frequently there is no explanation other than a deeply 
rooted anger had taken over the teen. 
Anger is often regarded as negative; we're taught that it's all 
right to express anxiety, depression, or other emotions, but not 
to express anger. As a result, we don't learn how to handle it 
or channel it constructively. It is often how anger is expressed, 
and that expression of anger can become destructive. There are 
a number of reasons for explosive anger in teens. Sometimes 
anger is used as a form of control, sometimes anger is a form 
of manipulation, sometimes anger is a sign of depression, and 
sometimes anger is fear and sadness. Families in crisis know 
all too well that a teen's anger has an effect on all of those 
around him or her. The issue is whether the anger is normal or 
We know a tantrum is quite common for a two year old, but is 
not normal for a second grader or a teenager. Teens need to 
learn how to identify and manage their anger. Parents often 
become afraid of their angry teens.
Anger is what we call a cover-up emotion, a sign that says 
something is wrong. However, the real problem is always 
underneath. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and 
determination to deal positively with a teenager who is acting 
out such angry behavior. 
Physical or verbal abuse at home, alcohol or drug problems in 
the family, divorce or loss of a loved one, economic distress, 
learning disabilities, or physical illness could be the root of a 
teen’s anger.
It's easy to recognize anger when a teenager is yelling and 
physically threatening another person. But teens express their 
anger in a variety of other ways. In fact, many behaviors that 
we consider stereotypical of teenagers can be manifestations 
of anger.

Symptoms of Outwardly Directed Anger

• Yelling and screaming. 
• Throwing objects 
• Hitting (either objects or people). 
• Driving too fast. 
Symptoms of Inwardly Directed Anger
• Lack of eye contact during conversations. 
• Mumbling, instead of speaking clearly. 
• Lack of interest in any activities. 
• Generally sullen disposition. 
• Alcohol or drug use. 
No one knows for sure when a teenager's anger could become 
dangerous to themselves or others. 

The following signs indicate that a teen may need professional attention: 

• Raging behavior, in which the teen is uncontrollable. 
• Consistent explosions of temper, even short-lived, at the 
slightest provocation. 
• Drastic changes in a teen's behavior—from sullen to 
unnaturally energetic, or from extremely energetic to 
• Physically hanging back from the group on a constant 
basis, never participating in activities. 
• Consistently blaming life for treating him unfairly. 
• Cruelty to any animal. 
• Any behavior that causes an adult or others in a group to 
become afraid or uncomfortable around the teenager. 
Teach your teen to deal with anger. Help them recognize anger 
and what to do about It. 
• Teach them to recognize that anger comes from feelings 
of hurt or shame and try to identify the source of those 
• Help them to learn to identify "trigger thoughts" that 
bring on angry feelings. 
• Help them imagine scenes in which one can respond to 
a "trigger thought" with a positive thought, feeling, or 
• Help them recognize that other people are free to make 
their own choices—whether good ones or bad—and the 
teen has the ability to choose how to respond. 
• Encourage them to listen to music (with headphones on) 
and dance with some anger-inspired energy.
• Encourage them to write it down in any form - poetry or a 
journal, for example.
• Encourage them to draw it - scribble, doodle or sketch 
your angry feelings using strong color or lines.
• Encourage them to play a sport or work out. You'll be 
amazed at how physical activity helps to work the anger 
• Teach them to meditate or practice deep breathing. This 
one works best if they do it regularly, not when they 
are actually having a meltdown. It's more of a stress 
management technique and will help them use self-
control and not blow a fuse when they are mad.
• Encourage them to talk about their feelings with someone 
they trust. Many times, other feelings like fear or sadness 
lie beneath the anger. Talking about these feelings can 
• Teach them to distract themselves so they can get you’re 
their mind past what's bugging them. Watch television, 
read or go to the movies instead of stewing for hours 
about something.
Sometimes, just knowing that a parent or an adult does care, 
and is available to really listen and willing to treat them as the 
honorable person they long to be, is enough to save a teen's 
If you believe your teen has a problem with anger, it is 
your job to help them develop positive conflict resolution 
techniques. Parents who teach anger-management strategies 
and encourage non-aggressive conflict-resolution techniques 
early on may find the teenage years less challenging. If your 
child has long-lasting feelings of anger or is unable to adopt 
coping strategies, seek medical assistance and treatment.
Cary Quashen is the founder and president of the Action Family 
Foundation, Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs and 
Action Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers 
for adolescents and adults. He has worked with at-risk teens 
the past 30 years. And is nationally recognized drug treatment 

With drug and alcohol residential treatment locations in Santa Clarita, Piru, and Bakersfield; Intensive Drug and Alcohol Outpatient in Santa Clarita and Bakersfield, Action Family Counseling is here to help you.

For information regarding admission, intake, and services please call Action Family Counseling at (800) 367-8336 or visit www.actiondrugrehab.com

Being a teenager today is a lot different than when we were kids.
The social and academic pressures are different. Drugs, alcohol, sex and gangs, are today’s 
For some kids these pressures become too great. That’s where Action can help. Action is the parent and teen support program that families depend on 
to help when the stress becomes too much for your teen. 
If you are having trouble with your teen call (800) 367-8336