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Reckless Behavior In Teens: Does Your Child Need Help?


teenager misbehaving

Teenagers are notoriously known as hypersensitive, impulsive, wildly emotional beings. Though teenagers may visually morph into adults during adolescence, their brains do not fully develop until at least age twenty-five. With an underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex (area of the brain that reins rational thought, impulse control, executive planning, etc.) teenagers are forced to rely on the amygdala (area of the brain that governs one’s emotions, impulsivity, emotional behavior, and motivation) to process external stimuli. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) define reckless behavior as “the conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk.” For some, engaging in risky behavior as a teen may be a developmentally appropriate means for a young person to express their desire for autonomy. However, in some cases, reckless behavior could be indicative of more than just teenage expression and/ or experimentation. Reckless behavior could be a sign of a mental health disorder (e.g. posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, etc.), which is why it is helpful to understand what distinguishes typical teenage behavior from the warning signs of reckless behaviors associated with mental health conditions. 

Warning Signs

Teenage reckless behaviors are different than occasionally acting irresponsibly. Examples of warning signs that could indicate a pattern of reckless behavior could include any combination of the following, as provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Doing risky and/ or hurtful things to oneself or others
  • Ignoring the potential adverse consequences of one’s risky behaviors
  • Consistently going over the limit in nearly all activities
  • Putting others at risk
  • Feeling regret after engaging in risky behaviors 
  • Ignoring the concern of others in relation to one’s risky behaviors
  • Inappropriate outburst of anger
  • Volatile emotions

There are several mental health disorders that typically surface during adolescence, many of which initially manifest as reckless behaviors. If your teen exhibits any of the above signs it may be best to obtain guidance from a mental health professional, and possibly have your teen complete a mental health evaluation. 

What Does Help Look Like?

There are many modalities that are proven to be effective in treating any underlying mental health conditions that may be perpetuating one’s reckless behaviors. The treatment modalities that are used at Pacific Teen Treatment, for example, include, but are not limited to: talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mindfulness practices. CBT can help a teenager identify the negative thought patterns and emotions that can lead to maladaptive behaviors. DBT is similar to CBT but places greater emphasis on the psychosocial aspect of treatment. Expressive arts therapy can help a young person explore their emotions while simultaneously building stronger connections with one-self and others. Mindfulness practices, such as yoga and/ or meditation, can become healthy and effective alternatives to engaging in maladaptive behaviors. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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