Teen Talk: Are You Having Mood Swings?

A Note From The Santa Monica Teen & Family Therapist

Here is some important information that describes the neurological changes that occur in teenager’s brains. Sandra

  • Have you ever felt blue for no obvious reason?
  • Do you ever do things on impulse that you later regret?
  • Have you ever overreacted to a situation and later wondered why?

Adolescence is now starting at younger ages than in previous generations. The average age that girls go into adolescence is between 10 and 11, when they reach 17% body fat. Boys go into adolescence between 12 and 13.

Teenagers are going through a transitional time when the brain rewires itself for emotional attachment, reproduction, and ultimately the creation of a stable family structure, thus ensuring future generations.

There can be a noticeable gap between intelligence and behavior during the teen years. We used to attribute this to the assault of a hormonal hurricane. There is actually a lot more going on in the different structures of the teenage brain that end up having long-term consequences.

The myelin sheathing, which insulates nerves, increases by 100% in teenagers. Myelin sheathing is responsible for the conduction of nerve impulses to the brain. As the nerves become twice as efficient, this feeds the intensity and speed of a person’s reaction.

The teen years are also time of the lowest levels of Serotonin in the human brain during human life. Serotonin is the primary transmitter in the limbic system, having to do with morale and moods. Low serotonin levels create a state in which a teen can become susceptible to stress and overwhelm.

The brain does not grow in an orderly fashion. It first over-produces a bunch of connections that go to new parts of the brain. Then, in the later teen years-around age 16 through the mid-20’s-it starts eliminating connections based on how frequently they are used. The connections that remain determine who a person feels they are for the rest of their life.

Did you know that the teenage brain does not complete development until close to age 25? Yes, something called the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for impulse control and operates much like the CEO of a company, does not come online fully until your mid-twenties.

If your teen or young adult child is struggling socially or emotionally, I can help you to discover the cause and remedy it.

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