Any of this sound familiar to you? “Slam the door, yell back, be disrespectful,” says 15 year-old Kayla. “I yell at my mom, I scream,” says 14 year-old Mark. 14 year old Samantha says, “I get really angry and sometimes I don't know what I feel.” The diagnosis: normal teenager. The reason for this “problem”: well, now, researchers have found that a hormone –called thp—may be a big culprit.
Dr. Sheryl Smith, the study researcher at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, says, “Normally on adults it acts on a target of the brain to reduce anxiety. It has even been shown in humans to have this effect, and in fact in very high concentrations it can even be an anesthetic.” But thp does the opposite in adolescents—it increases anxiety in teens.
The experiments were done in female mice exposed to stressful situations. Thp calmed adult mice, but made adolescent mice even more anxious. The finding may help explain mood swings and anxiety in human adolescents. “In humans mood swings can start between the ages of eleven and thirteen. It is the first time when anxiety first really begins to emerge in individuals who are susceptible,” states Dr. Smith.
Suicide risk also increases in adolescence. And, anxiety and panic disorders are twice as likely to occur in girls as in boys. “What I would really hope people learn from this is there is a biological basis for changes and mood during puberty and this can be a frustrating time and not only for children but parents and educators, and just to understand that there is a different response going on in the brain, and what adults may view as just a normal situation in life a teenagers may see it as a more stressful event and may have a greater reaction than an adult might think is warranted,” states Dr. Smith.
And, wouldn’t it be great if there were a pill to get rid of those nasty mood swings? It’s at least theoretically possible. “Yes there are enzyme blockers, you can block the formation of THP. Now, before you actually are going to use it on a child you are going to need to test to make sure there aren’t any unwarranted side effects,” instructs Dr. Smith. For now--the best treatment is for you the parent, to take a deep breath..or two….or three…