Newswise — If your teenager doesn’t act the way you expect–blame this hormone.
The “raging hormones” of puberty are known to produce mood swings and stress for most teenagers, making it difficult to cope with this period of life. Until now, the specific causes of pubertal anxiety have not been identified, making it harder to understand and treat adolescent angst.
In the current edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers led by Sheryl S. Smith, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, report findings demonstrating that a hormone normally released in response to stress, THP, actually reverses its effect at puberty, when it increases anxiety.
This hormone normally acts like a tranquilizer, acting at sites in the brain that “calm” brain activity. In the adult, this stress hormone helps the individual adapt to stress, with a calming effect produced half an hour after the event.
However, at puberty, molecular changes in the part of the brain that generates emotion, the limbic system, respond to this same stress hormone by increasing brain activity, an effect that ultimately increases the anxiety response.
I can understand how increased brain activity could increase the anxiety response. But I can also see given the lack of brain activity on the part of teenagers that often causes the initial stress, this might be nature’s way of forcing teenagers to use their brain to respond to the situation.