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Recognizing Risky Behaviors in Teens

a teen boy wears a hoodie with his hood up while talking to a therapist about his risky behaviors

As parents, it can be challenging to recognize when our teens are in crisis. Unfortunately, risky behaviors are often the first signs of trouble, and we must act quickly to ensure that our children receive the help they need. From substance use to self-harm, a variety of behaviors could indicate an underlying problem and require intervention.

At HillsidesCares, our intensive outpatient program (IOP) for teens is designed specifically for adolescents who need more than traditional therapy but don’t require 24/7 residential care. Through this treatment, teens can learn how to manage their symptoms while continuing with school or work and participating in other activities outside of treatment. Contact our team at 323.641.4842 for more help with understanding the warning signs of risky behavior in teenagers and outlining an effective approach to helping them get back on track

Risky Behaviors to Watch Out for

Adolescence is a time when teenagers face many challenges and changes in their lives. Many teenagers are prone to engage in risky behaviors that can negatively affect their health, education, and relationships regardless of their background or home life. As a parent, it is crucial to be aware of these risky behaviors and take timely action to protect your child. Here are some of the most common risky behaviors parents should watch out for:

Substance Use

Teens experimenting with drugs or alcohol can be a serious problem. It can cause addiction, mental health conditions, and even death. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 45% of high school students have used marijuana at least once. Teenagers can also use prescription drugs, ecstasy, cocaine, and others. If your teen is experimenting, it may be time to consider having a conversation and discussing the choices they are making with them.

Sexual Behavior

Teens may engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex, early sexual experiences, and multiple partners. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40% of high school students have had sexual intercourse, and more than half did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter. Teenagers who engage in such behaviors are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies, and emotional trauma.


Some teenagers may engage in self-harm behaviors, such as cutting, burning, or other forms of self-injury. They may also have suicidal thoughts. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth aged 10 to 24. Parents should take self-harm and suicide attempts seriously and seek professional help immediately if they suspect these behaviors.

Eating Disorders

Teens may develop eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder. These disorders can lead to severe physical and mental health problems, such as malnutrition, depression, and anxiety. If you suspect your child is exhibiting any of these risky behaviors, it is crucial to seek professional help immediately. An intensive outpatient program for teens can provide the necessary support and treatment to overcome these challenges.

How Outpatient Programs Help Teens in Crisis

When recognizing risky behaviors in teenagers, it’s essential to understand the underlying causes of such behaviors. Teens in crisis could be dealing with various challenges, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Substance use
  • Other mental health conditions

Therefore, getting the teens the necessary help for their specific needs becomes crucial.

One option for providing the necessary resources to teens in crisis is to enroll them in an intensive outpatient program for teens. An IOP treatment typically involves more than nine hours of weekly therapy in a structured and supportive environment. Under an IOP, youths can receive individual and group therapy, medication management, and treatment for co-occurring disorders.

In an outpatient program, teens receive care in a monitored environment, which may also include medical supervision. This type of program can benefit teens who require a higher level of intervention and support but must maintain other priorities such as school, sports, a job, or other activities. Outpatient programs provide teens flexible yet structured care in a secure and monitored setting.

One of the key benefits of an outpatient program is that it removes teens from their home environment if only briefly, which may be contributing to their risky behaviors. It provides a secure and supportive environment where they can receive individualized care, address underlying mental health issues, and learn valuable coping skills.

Providing a Safe Space for Teens in Crisis to Heal at HillsidesCares

Recognizing risky behaviors in teens is the first step to providing them with the necessary care and support. An outpatient program can offer a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of adolescents struggling with mental health issues. Through this program, teens can receive the care, support, and tools they need to regain stability and lead a more fulfilling life. For more information, contact our team of experts today at 323.641.4842.