Teen Problems and Psychological Issues

Teen client during session

This page is your gateway to various teen problems and psychological issues. A brief description is given on this page and access to fuller information by following the links.

[For professional reference you are referred to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, text revision. In the counseling business it is referred to as the DSM-IV.]

Quick Page Index:

Lets you jump down to a specific section on this page.


Includes sexual as well as physical abuse. Abuse can be verbal and emotional also.


Anger is an emotion that becomes an issue when in excess or explosive. Many things can drive the anger in teens, including depression, especially in young teens.



Teen anxiety looks much like adult anxiety. It is characterized by excessive fearfulness and worry. On this page we talk about generalized anxiety and adjustment disorder with anxiety. However, the various kind of anxieties include post traumatic stress, panic attacks, acute stress, agoraphobia, social phobia, and phobias. Each of these is discussed separately.

Panic Attacks

Are the sudden onset of feelings of panic. This sense of panic is usually accompanied by a  number of psychological and physiological changes. It is a brief period of intense fear or discomfort.


Often accompanies panic attacks. Agoraphobia means fear of being outside, being in a crowd, traveling in a bus, train, or car, among others. In general it means being fearful about being away from home, especially if by oneself.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is characterized by re-experiencing a highly traumatic event. The survivors of national disasters (e.g. 9/11, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.), solders returning from war, assault and abuse victims, are just some of the traumas that can set off a PTSD attack.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

This is where one's is plagued by obsessive thoughts that are irrational and will not go away. Compulsion is repetitive behavior(s) that the person feels s/he must perform to get the obsession to go away.

This differs from Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder, which is a pervasive pattern of preoccupation with orderliness and perfectionism, that is usually seen in adults, not teens. Although its onset can be seen sometimes in adolescence, we do not discuss this disorder here.


Phobias are about being irrationally afraid of something. Some examples: flying, heights, animals (e.g. spiders, bugs, snakes), and injections.

Social Phobia

Also known sometimes as social anxiety disorder, is a fear of social performance situations.

Acute Stress

This stress occurs when a person is exposed to a trauma in which death or serious injury were possible or actual. The person's response involved intense fear, horror, or helplessness.



A surprisingly large percentage of troubled teens are adopted. Even in the best of families, these teens can struggle with abandonment, trust, and attachment issues.

Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behaviors

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Many children and teens have this diagnosis. There is a high co-occurrence of ADHD with Conduct Disorder or Oppositional Defiance Disorder. ADHD can occur in the attention deficit form, the hyperactivity form, or both together and create teen problems in other areas.

Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)

ODD is a pattern of defiant behaviors that can include arguing with adults, loss of temper, active defiance, etc.

Conduct Disorder (CD)

More severe than ODD. Involves the repetitive, persistent violation of others, animals and/or people.

Disruptive Behavior Disorder

This category is for disorders that do not quite meet ODD and CD criteria.



Involves a qualitative impairment in social interactions and restrictive, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviors, interests, or activities. It can be confused with NLD. We put Asperger's and NLD together here because on the surface they look similar.

Non-verbal Learning Disability (NLD)

Socially inept, physically clumsy, has difficulty with math and general visual-spacial processing. There are deficits in information processing and organizational skills.

Learning Disorders

Includes reading, mathematics, and written expression disorders.

Attachment and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Children and teens that were adopted or that were abused or neglected as very young babies, often have attachment issues. This creates a number of teen problems for the teen and family. Attachment is about the inability or difficulty in forming normal human relationships and bonds. Many of these children have attachment issues, i.e. have difficulties forming these bonds. On the extreme is RAD, where there is a sever disturbance of this ability.


Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and other symptoms can be signals of depression. There is clinical depression and dysthymia, a low grade, long term depression.


Involves cycles of depression and manic episodes. There are two basic types.


Is a milder form of bi-polar disorder. Both the depression and mania are less sever.

Drugs and addiction

Can include children of alcohols (COA) or parents who addicts to other drugs, and teen use of drugs and alcohol.

Children of Divorce

Divorce often throws the family and teen into conflicts. Acting out, anger, anxiety, depression can all result in teen problems.

Parent-Teen Relationship Problems

This is another big area. If you are having trouble with your teen, most likely there is a parent-teen relationship problem.


Index to Teen Problems and Issues:

  • ADHD
  • LD
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiance
  • Anger
  • Drugs and addiction
  • Abuse
  • Children of Divorce
  • Parent-Teen Relationship
  • Problems Sibling
  • Relationship Problems