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How Are Teen Brains Different?

You've heard about the teen years before, but you thought you were safe from them. But man, you thought wrong.

You now have a teenager, and it feels like they changed overnight. What happened to your happy and easygoing kid?

Now, you're having a difficult time communicating with one another. They can't seem to focus. They're unwilling to do their chores. And they're behaving erratically.

You've questioned everything. Are you being too hard on them? Are they falling behind in one of their subjects in school? Are they having out with the wrong crowd? Or is this just the person they became.

To be fair, it's not their fault. Well, not entirely at least. Let's learn more about how teen brains are different.

Teen Brains are Still Developing

While adult brains are fully developed, teen brains are still constantly developing and maturing until the mid to late 20s. Teen brains may be full-sized, but that doesn't mean that the developmental years have stopped. The teen years are actually a very important time for brain development.

The Amygdala and The Pre-Frontal Cortex

The amygdala is the area in the brain that develops relatively early. This area of the brain is responsible for reactions, especially in relation to fear and aggression. Unfortunately, the pre-frontal cortex develops later. This area of the brain is what helps us think before we act or speak and with reasoning.


Reward Centers are Higher

In addition to the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex, teens also show higher levels of activation in their brains. This means that their reward centers are higher. More teens are seeking things that feel good or are exciting compared to adults. This is why a lot of teenagers tend to be more impulsive or feel the need to take risks.

Teenage Brains are More Adaptable

You've probably heard that it's easier to learn new things when you're younger. Well, that's partially true. Teenage brains are more adaptable compared to fully developed adult brains. This means that teenagers are able to respond well to new situations and experiences. Plus, participating in new activities can actually help to strengthen and develop the brain's maturity even further.

Mental Health Issues are More Common

The constant development of a teen's brain can also bring on more stress and increase the likelihood of the development of a mental illness. The changes can affect their emotional, physical, and social state. Teens are more susceptible to developing mental illnesses like anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Learning more about the potential triggers or ways to cope with stress can be extremely beneficial to a teen dealing with stress.

There's a Reason Your Teen May Be Sleeping A lot

Sleep is actually essential for teenagers to help with their brain development. You may notice that your teen is staying up later at night, sleeping in late in the morning, or taking naps during the day. They may not be as lazy as you think. Keep in mind that teenage brains are wired differently than adults. The melatonin levels in their brain are higher at night and are lower in the morning which explains this inadequate sleeping schedule. Sleep is essential for not only brain development, but also their ability to pay attention, control their impulsive, support their overall mental health and wellness, and perform well in school.

Next Steps

Despite all of the changes that occur in a teenager's brain, the changes that occur can actually help a teen become stronger and more adaptable as an adult.

If you or someone you love is interested in learning more about how to support a teen or yourself, reach out to us today to set up a consultation for teen counseling.

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