Abigail is a bright teenager who is preparing for her class 10th Board examinations. She is usually alone at home till late evening, as both of her parents are working. Her parents want her to excel in studies and score high marks so that she can get admission into the best college, in a field of her choice. Her school grades are average though, which makes her parents and relatives feel disappointed. Abigail tries hard to concentrate on studies, but is unable to. She is also troubled by physical changes (including her appearance), which is full of pimples and is often made fun of by her classmates. She feels very anxious, agitated and  her mood changes frequently. She cannot sleep properly. She also gets sick frequently and has a low appetite.

Abigail has got the symptoms and effects of stress, which is extremely common in teenagers now.

Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.
Lily Tomlin

Stress is often mistaken as something bad, but it is actually the human body’s natural defense against danger! It flushes the body with hormones to prepare systems to evade or confront danger, known as the “fight-or-flight” mechanism. The body produces larger quantities of some chemicals (mainly cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline) which trigger an increased heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness. It also slows down normal bodily functions such as the digestive and immune systems, which improve the ability to respond to a hazardous or challenging situation. However, continuous exposure to stress can be heavily damaging to the body, making it age faster, adversely affecting the brain, cause psychological disorders, and so on.

Adolescence has always been a sensitive developmental and transitional period marked by fundamental, yet difficult physiological and psychosocial changes. However, what is recent is the environment that we live in; it is this fast-moving, perpetually plugged-in society that sets the tone for the unreal expectations that teenagers receive every day. Due to varying pressures around school, work, families, relationships, social media, and the seemingly endless series of transitions involved in simply being an adolescent, teenagers today are under more stress than ever before.

The world is infinitely more complex than it appeared to me 15 years ago.
Andrew Denton

Studies show that chronic stress can morphologically affect the teenage brain. It could be particularly damaging to the brain due to the increasing stress-related psychological vulnerabilities during this crucial stage of development. It can lead to perhaps prolonged or permanent structural alterations in the teenage brain, which would have implications for recovery of function and future sensitivity to additional periods of chronic stress. They can lead to anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, drug abuse, and so in the future. However, a conclusive study is yet to be made about the same.

In my next post, I shall be dealing with methods of reducing and managing stress in adolescence.

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