Ah, the rollercoaster of adolescence, but what’s really going on beneath the surface? Brace yourself for a dive into the mysterious realm of puberty, where hormonal changes reign supreme and can have a profound impact on teenagers' mental health.
A whirlwind of emotions and a tide of hormones surging through their bodies; we're not just talking about awkward growth spurts or unexpected acne. No, puberty is a force to be reckoned with, but how do hormonal changes affect the mental health of teenagers and into adulthood? What is mental illness and what are hormones? We'll explore the science behind puberty, dissect the common mental health challenges that arise during this transformative phase, and provide effective strategies for supporting teenagers' mental well-being.
Understanding Puberty and Hormonal Changes
In order to effectively address the impact of hormonal changes on teenagers' mental health, it is crucial to first gain a solid understanding of puberty and its intricate mechanisms.
Puberty is a transformative period that marks the beginning of adolescence, bringing about a cascade of physical and emotional changes. These changes are primarily driven by hormones, which act as messengers in the body, orchestrating the development of secondary sexual characteristics and influencing emotional well-being. All sounds a bit science-y, right? Let's make it simple...
During puberty, the body undergoes a series of rapid transformations such as:
Increase in the production of sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.
Growth of pubic hair
Development of breasts in girls
The deepening of the voice in boys
Menstruation in women
Ache or troublesome skin
And many more changes...
The change in physical appearance can on it's own affect mental health. In a time where the judgement upon others is at its highest, confidence in our own appearance can be at its lowest.
As teens enter this stage of life, many begin to feel overwhelmed and insecure due to the rapid changes occurring in their bodies. It's important to recognize that everyone has different talents and that embracing those strengths can help foster a more confident self-image, but it's not often easy during a period of your life when you are just trying to "fit in". It's vital that during this time, teens are choosing the right friends, who encourage and support them. Joining clubs both inside and outside of school can widen their breadth of friends and help them navigate the qualities in others that they'd like to have surrounded themselves with. Through these types of clubs, teens can gain a sense of purpose while also connecting with peers who share similar passions.
However, the hormonal influences extend far beyond the physical realm.
Hormonal changes during puberty can have a profound impact on teenagers' mental health. Fluctuating hormone levels can give rise to the following mental health challenges:
Emotional instability /Mood swings Some teenagers may struggle with intense anger or irritability, while others may become withdrawn and socially isolated. Everything becomes heightened during this time. Keeping a mood tracker can be really helpful in predicting patterns of mood and the stimuli that cause mood swings. Mood trackers can be particularly helpful during menstruation.
Every Discovery Journal features a yearly mood calendar, allowing the user to continue the calendar regardless of whether they have used all the entry pages. The key allows the user to refer back to the mood calendar and make connections to events, locations and interactions which have caused extended periods of anxiety.
Irritability A common effect of hormones, that teenagers may experience is a "short fuse" or lack of patience. Introducing a routine at home and at school can keep them on task as they will likely become easily irritated with any change, refusal or unpredictable event.
Disrupted sleep patterns Sleep patterns can be all over the place during puberty. It's likely teenagers will want to stay up later chatting with friends or watching television, so late nights can be expected with excessive sleepiness the next day. However, sleep can be disturbed in other ways such as due to growth pains or menstrual cramps. Hormones can tire you out and the feeling of anxiety and stress can have effects on your quality of sleep as well as your motivation the following day.
Change in eating habits During this time, teens may find it difficult to regulate their appetite and food cravings, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. Body image and self-esteem are unpredictable at this time and most eating disorders are developed in puberty, so it's very important to make sure the way a teenager experiences and views food in relation to their body image is positive. It is also beneficial for parents to engage in healthy eating habits themselves as role models for their teens.
Concentration and Decision Making Puberty brings with it an increased need for concentration, problem-solving, and decision-making, at a time of heightened anxiety and constant change. It can be a challenge for teens to process information and develop constructive plans for the future during this time of life and yet they must. To help teens maintain a strong focus during puberty, it is important to create an environment conducive to concentration, such as removing distractions like TVs and phones and providing clear goals and objectives.
Increased vulnerability to stress and anxiety As teenagers grapple with hormonal changes, they may find themselves feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or even depressed. The physiological and psychological changes occurring within their bodies can create a sense of confusion and uncertainty, adding an additional layer of complexity to their already tumultuous teenage years.
Effective Strategies for Supporting Teenagers' Mental Health
In order to effectively support teenagers' mental health during puberty, it is important to implement a range of strategies that foster open communication, promote self-care practices, and provide access to professional support when needed.
Encouraging teenagers to express their thoughts and feelings openly not only provides them with a safe outlet but also helps them develop emotional intelligence and coping mechanisms; although this is not always easy to achieve. Teenagers tend to feel misunderstood and due to this they can find it difficult to open up but creating an environment where they feel heard and understood can alleviate the sense of isolation that often accompanies hormonal changes. Actively engaging in conversations about mental health, can help reduce the stigma surrounding these issues and encourage teenagers to seek support when needed.
Therapy or counselling
Collaborating with school counsellors, therapists, or other mental health professionals can help identify early warning signs of mental health issues and provide appropriate interventions. Most schools, colleges or universities have mental health initiatives and these should be researched beforehand to make sure the support given is fitting. Mental health support can range from individual therapy sessions and group support programs to online/interactive therapy. By connecting teenagers with the right resources, we can ensure they receive the necessary guidance and support to navigate the complexities of puberty. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counsellors, can provide valuable guidance and support in navigating the complexities of puberty and its impact on mental health.
Journaling can be an invaluable tool during the teenage years. As hormones rage and emotions run high, it can be hard to keep track of the thoughts a young person is going through. Having a written record of these tumultuous times not only provides an outlet for expressing emotions, it can also help teens gain perspective and clarity. Keeping a journal is a great way for teens to not only chronicle their thoughts and feelings during puberty but also provide an opportunity for self-reflection. Journals can be kept private or shared with a trusted adult, and they can be used to explore and document a young person's growth and development. By giving teens this outlet to express their feelings, they become more emotionally resilient and better equipped to face the ups and downs of adolescence.
Friends and Family Maintaining a strong support network is also crucial for teenagers. Connecting with friends or family members who are understanding, empathetic, and non-judgmental can provide teenagers with a sense of belonging and emotional support. Teenagers may be reluctant to open up fully with those they already know and trust (seems counterintuitive) but they may feel misunderstood, under pressure or worried about disappointment and need time to come forward.
Blog writing is very similiar to journalling, but in a digitial format. Some may feel they are able to type faster than they write and therefore they are able to keep up with the pace of their thoughts when typing at a higher speed. Individiuals may also wish to write their blog in the third person, creating a detachment from themselves and making it easier to express their thoughts. Vlogging, is less encouraged due to it's strong connection with social media and publicity, however if a vlog is kept private or monitored closely it can be a place to vent and process thoughts as they come.
Encouraging healthy habits such as regular exercise, proper sleep, and balanced nutrition can have a positive impact on their mental health. Teaching teenagers techniques for managing stress, such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation, can also empower them to take charge of their emotional well-being. By incorporating self-care into their daily routine, teenagers can develop resilience and cope better with the challenges of puberty.
A great way to get into exercise or establish a long-term activity for teenagers is to join a club, enter a contest/challenge or learn a new skill. Participating in these kinds of exercises it will keep their interest, create new social circles outside of school and help them strive towards achieving a goal...
Couch to 5K
Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters, and can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Journalling Journaling, too, can be a powerful coping mechanism for teenagers. Writing down their thoughts and feelings in a journal not only allows them to reflect on their experiences but also serves as an outlet for self-expression. Through journaling, teenagers can gain a sense of clarity, vent their frustration, and process their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner.
Grounding exercises, such as mindfulness and meditation, can help teenagers during puberty as they can help them manage the intense emotions they may be feeling. It can be difficult to keep a sense of perspective while experiencing these changes, so it is important to provide them with strategies to stay grounded in their experience. Mindfulness exercises, such as focusing on the present moment and observing thoughts and feelings without judgment, can help teenagers cultivate self-awareness and reduce anxiety. Deep breathing techniques often found in meditation, can activate the body's relaxation response, reducing stress levels and promoting a sense of calm.
Have a look at some other grounding techniques and why they are becoming so popular for managing mental health.
Yoga can help them develop and strengthen their bodies in a healthy way, while also teaching them to manage their stress with mind-body techniques. Teenagers can also benefit from the self-confidence that comes with learning how to control their body, as well as the mindfulness that comes with yoga which can help them stay focused throughout their day.
By promoting open communication and emotional well-being, adults can create a supportive environment that equips teenagers with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of puberty and its impact on mental health.
In the words of Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." Let us continually strive to know better, to understand better, and to do better for our teenagers. Together, we can be the catalysts for positive change, ensuring that no adolescent faces the challenges of puberty blues alone.