Getting through life can be difficult at all ages, but dealing with things as a teen is particularly difficult. The reason is that dealing with stress really is harder mentally and emotionally for teens.
If you’re a teen going through stress, or you’re a parent with a teen, it’s important to realize this. Before you think I’m just making excuses for teen misbehavior, let me explain the science behind why being a teen really is emotionally difficult.
First, teenage brains are still developing. See The Teenage Brain by Frances Jensen for more information about teenage brain development.
So, the brain’s frontal lobe is the part of the brain that logically holds everything together. This isn’t fully developed until your early to mid-twenties. This means you may not even know who “yourself” is as a teen; this is also why some teens seem to change identities on a weekly basis.
It’s hard enough going through life having a clear sense of identity and purpose. However, due to the way the brain develops, teens naturally lack the brain development to “put it all together” or put everything in perspective, and they are generally unaware of this inability. This makes it harder to deal with stressful events because it can lead to feelings of uncertainty and a lack of purpose.
Second, teenagers are going through hormonal changes. This creates not only mood changes, but huge mood swings. Combine this with an undeveloped frontal lobe, and it can seem like you are going crazy. The extremes can be staggering, from being extremely happy one minute to incredibly sad the next, sometimes even without explanation. Also, teen guys tend to take riskier behavior in the presence of women, thanks to the the surging testosterone flowing through their bodies.
Third, teens are going through a lot of feelings and changes for the first time, and they feel them in a more heightened way. Since they are still developing, teen brains are more sensitive to dopamine, which causes them to take more risks and and seek more thrills. They don’t always know what these feelings mean, and due to the lack of frontal lobe development, they haven’t developed the skills to fully cope with them. So, feelings, especially those surrounding love and relationships are new. They’re exciting, but also scary. And, when things don’t work out (or do), it can lead to an inability to properly react. Imagine going through something that’s both new and emotionally tough.
Finally, teens mainly spend the day with others just as emotionally volatile as themselves: other teens. So, it creates drama and even more emotional stress since these overly stressed teens often cope by bullying and lashing out. So, it makes bad situations even worse.
So, if you are a teen who is upset a lot or you’re a parent with a teen who seems to be an emotional roller coaster, it is fairly normal. If a person is seriously depressed or has other mental health issues, then it’s important to seek help. But, a little bit of emotional pressure on teens is very normal.