Feeling a little…off? If you’re a teenager, you probably are, in fact, feeling a little off. And if you’re a teenager, chances are good that feeling weird isn’t really your fault. Being a teenager is a weird time in general–it’s an important liminal stage in your life when you know that everything you’re doing could affect you later on in life, but you’re not totally sure which decisions you need to be making, or even what you want out of life–and, as it turns out, it’s also a little hard on your brain.
This isn’t just in a school sense–though it’s certainly related–but more in the sense that, when you’re a teenager, your brain and body are both going through a lot of changes. Because of this, it makes certain things that might not have bothered you when you were a kid suddenly feel significantly harder to deal with. The good news? Some of these things, like stress and self-consciousness, will always impact you in some way, but they won’t bother you as much in a few years. All you have to do is wait it out. So, check out these things that affect everyone, but are especially hard to deal with when you’re a teenager:
StressAnything that might qualify as being stressful--homework, exams, family drama, driving your new Mustang with your grandma who is also a queen, etc.--will probably never be something that you think of as being fun. But according to a study done at UCLA in 2011, teenagers feel the impact of stress more strongly than adults do. This often results in poor decision making, which is most likely because the prefrontal cortex--the part of the brain that helps regulate decision-making--isn't fully developed when you're a teenager, and can be inhibited by the presence of stress. So, if you're having an extremely stressful day, it would probably serve you best to take a little break. This might sound counterintuitive, but giving yourself a rest will probably help you make better decisions later on. Image source: Princess Diaries
MoodinessOne of the most common (and annoying) stereotype about teenagers is that they are moody. But, according to a study done last year, the study isn't actually so far off--when you start going through puberty, your body produces new hormones and proteins in the body which have been shown to impact moodiness. This, combined with the fact that your prefrontal cortex isn't fully developed, means that it's harder to regulate emotions, decision-making, and mood swings. Image source: My So-Called Life
AddictionObviously, addiction is never going to be something that isn't hard to deal with for most people. But according to a study done at University of Pittsburgh, it's much easier to become addicted to things--and much harder to get over addiction--when you're a teenager. This is because teenagers' brains are driven strongly by "reward" chemicals that are produced when you eat food or have sex. And, since drugs mimic this feeling of reward, it's much easier to become addicted to them when you're a teenager. Image source: Thirteen
Self-ConsciousnessA study done at Harvard in 2013, in which researchers told teenagers to watch something on a video screen and told them that there was someone their end watching on the other side, found that the act of being looked at elicits an "emotional" self-conscious response. This is probably true to an extent for most people--if you know someone's watching you, you're going to behave a little differently than you might if you knew you were alone--but it impacts teenagers most strongly, and encourages the assumption that everyone is watching you at all times. Image source: My Mad Fat Diary
Social AnxietySince self-consciousness has such a strong impact on teenagers, it's probably not too surprising that social anxiety is a lot worse when you're a teenager, too. This is mostly because your skills of abstract reasoning increase when you become a teenager, which is good for a lot of things--thinking with empathy about other people, for example--but bad because it makes you think more about how others perceive you. This can increase feelings of social anxiety, because you're always thinking about what other people are thinking about you. Image source: Skins
Impulse ControlEver feel like it's a little hard to check your impulses? If so, it's not really your fault. When you first start puberty, your brain produces a lot of gray matter, which helps you process information. What it doesn't have as much of, however, is white matter, which helps link information together in the brain. Because of this, you basically have a ton of information, but not a lot of direction of what to actually do with it. This si great for quick thinking--firing off a biting insult in the middle of an argument, for example--but not so great for figuring out if you should actually use that biting insult. (Like if you're talking to your mom, who will then ground you for talking back.) Image source: Clueless
ConcussionsObviously, concussions are one of those things that you're never exactly going to be happy about. But if you get a concussion as a teenager, you'll be more susceptible to its effects than adults and younger kids are. This is because your brain is basically undergoing a growth spurt when you're a teenager, so if it gets damaged in any way, it'll be harder to recover. This can result in things like damage to memory retention and multitasking. So, when you're playing sports, just be careful--one concussion isn't the end of the world, but it's not great, either. Image source: Friday Night Lights
What do you think of these things? Were you surprised by any of them? Let us know in the comments!