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Unpacking the Teenage Brain

Here’s to your Health


Brought to you by: Community Partner Compact,

Did you know big things are happening in the brain during adolescence and that the brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties? Studies show that adolescence is a unique phase in development in which the reward center of the brain is more active or tends to shout louder than the logical portion. The logical portion is the front part of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex. It is one of the last brain regions to mature. This area is responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses. The reward or pleasure-seeking portion of the brain is what tends to take charge in the teenage years- especially during stressful times. Because the logical skills are still developing and the reward center takes a lead in decision making, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors or make decisions without considering the potential results. 

Community Partner Logo 22 FINAL 1Anxiety Vulnerability. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly one in three of all adolescents will experience an anxiety disorder. According to the CDC, anxiety is at its highest in youth between 12 to 17 years old. These numbers have been on the rise for many years. Hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers have more than doubled over the past decade. Due to the big changes the brain is undergoing during these years, teens are more vulnerable to issues with emotion regulation such as anxiety and depression. Be aware of the potential signs of anxiety including:

  • Recurring fears and worries
  • Changes in behavior
  • Avoiding activities, school or social interactions
  • Dropping grades 
  • Trouble sleeping

It is important to talk with teens about potential stressors and help them keep perspective and find ways to cope.

Drug Vulnerability. As a teen’s brain develops, drugs can damage the way they process experiences. The specific effect depends on the type of drug being used. There are three main categories of drugs- each with a different set of effects on the brain. 

1. Stimulants: Cause teen brains to produce an unnatural amount of energy causing heart racing, rising body temperature, and fast breathing. 

2. Depressants: Cause decrease in energy, slows breathing and heart rates, and lowers body temperature. 

3. Hallucinogens: Affect the brain’s perception of reality. Teens that use them can have delusional thoughts. 

The good news is that the brain is ready to learn. It can change, adapt, and react to the environment. It is resilient and responds quickly to treatment. For more information, visit Facebook @Compact2020 or call 205-605-1827. †


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