What to do About My Teenagers Uncontrolled Emotional Outburst

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Part of being a teenager involves having some mood swings. However, when it crosses the line to the child experiencing an uncontrolled emotional outburst on a regular basis, something more serious may be going on. The teen years can be the time when mental health disorders begin to surface. Our staff at Zenith Behavioral Health can assess your child to determine if their volatile emotional state is a symptom of a mental illness. If so, we offer proven treatment in a residential setting that helps your child become calmer and learn to control their emotions.

What is an Uncontrolled Emotional Outburst?

An uncontrolled emotional outburst consists of changing quickly from one strong emotion to another one. This rapid cycling can include the person raising their voice, crying, laughing, or feeling irritable. The individual may act out in angry or aggressive ways. These types of outbursts are part of a condition called emotional lability. It is also known as the pseudobulbar effect. 

The reactions often seem inappropriate to the situation or have no tangible explanation. Common symptoms of this neurological condition include:

  • Uncontrollable laughing fits
  • Uncontrollable bouts of crying
  • Mixed emotional reactions, including switching from laughing to crying or vice versa
  • Reacting more strongly to a situation than most people do
  • The opposite of an expected reaction, such as laughing when the person is actually upset
  • No sign of emotions between outbursts

These outbursts can cause friction in relationships with loved ones. Family members may feel the adolescent is merely acting out or seeking attention. Members of their peer group may become frustrated by the outbursts, causing difficulty in maintaining friendships for the teenager. These emotional outbursts can also cause young people to do poorly in school.

Causes of an Uncontrolled Emotional Outburst

It can be easy for a parent to witness an uncontrolled emotional outburst from their child and mistake it for teenage angst. Rather than acting out due to immaturity or misbehavior, these outbursts can be a symptom of a psychological disorder or medical condition. They occur due to a malfunction in the part of a person’s brain that has to do with emotional control. 

The development of this condition can have a specific cause, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, a stroke, or multiple sclerosis. Alternatively, some teenagers’ uncontrolled emotional outbursts can be caused by blunt force head trauma, contusions, infection, swelling of the brain, oxygen deprivation, or other reasons. 

Symptoms of uncontrolled emotional outburst

Are Emotional Outbursts Diagnoseable?

Parents typically lack the expertise to accurately diagnose a condition of uncontrolled emotional outbursts in their children. No specific test just for this condition exists, but a qualified doctor can make a diagnosis. The physician will need to discuss the person’s medical history, including both their mental and physical health. 

Prior to getting an assessment done, a parent may want to ask their child to keep a record of their emotions. As well, the parent can keep track of their child’s outbursts. Sharing this recent history with the clinician performing the diagnosis can help them ascertain if the child has a true illness related to their emotional outbursts.  

If the child has undergone any recent medical crises, including head injuries, the doctor should be told. Armed with this information, an accurate diagnosis can be made. From there, a plan for any needed professional treatment can be discussed. 

How Can Uncontrolled Emotional Outbursts Be Treated?

A teenager’s uncontrolled emotional outbursts can be treated, giving them the ability to have more stable control of their emotions. Medication can help reduce the number and severity of outbursts. Medications used specifically to treat this condition include dextromethorphan hydrobromide and quinidine sulfate. 

Antidepressant medications can also help control the symptoms of emotional outbursts. These medications include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Dosages of antidepressants are usually lower than those prescribed for people dealing with depression. 

Teenagers who have uncontrolled emotional outbursts often have separate ongoing conditions. Mental health disorders such as borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder often co-exist with emotional outbursts. For this reason, treatment of mental illnesses such as those can help influence the ability to control the outbursts of emotion. 

Contact Our Mental Health Treatment Facility in Phoenix, AZ

If you know your child has difficulty with uncontrolled emotional outbursts, you may wonder about the root of the problem. Often, this type of action is a symptom of poor mental health. Zenith Behavioral Health provides an effective program designed specifically to treat teenage boys aged 13 to 17. Our residential home gives adolescents a place to receive focused care around the clock. We diagnose any mental health disorders they may have and provide treatment designed for their age group.

If you would like to get more information about our program, please contact us now. Let us help you to help your child regain control of their emotions.