The term adolescence doesn't explain why the sweet ten-year old who yesterday held your hand and told you "I love you mommy," suddenly woke up at the age of 12, having decided that you are a moron and an embarrassment. The term adolescence just gives us a name for this inexplicable behavior. There is a critical but physiologic reason for the irrationality of adolescent behavior- it is "hormone storm."
For years, parents have justified their teenage son or daughter's behavior with the catch all phrase "it's their hormones". Well, that certainly is the truth. The only problem is that when we refer to this hormone storm, we think in terms of their behavior on the outside and their overflowing sexuality. We readily attribute to hormones teenagers' pimples and their short fuses to parental advice, but we fail to realize another much bigger effect hormones have on our teens.
We rarely notice how incredibly healthy they are. They recover from the flu in 24 hours, and can eat 5000 calories of junk food a day and not gain an ounce. We're painfully aware that teens can sleep for 20 hours on Sunday after staying up all night on Friday, Saturday, and hardly sleep at all the rest of the week.
We just take that for granted. We say it's youth.
We watch in awe of their boundless energy but we don't make the connection between this zest for life and their hormones. Yes, it is youth, but youth is due in large part to the overabundance of hormones in the body. Hormones hit their stride with the beginning of menstruation. Whether the girl is 11 or 17, when she starts menstruating, her ovaries release an egg every month and estrogen and progesterone levels follow a cycle.
The Ugly Side of Hormone Imbalance
Occasionally though, something goes awry. It takes time for the body to adjust to being on a cycle. During this adjustment period, the balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone is not always finely tuned. This imbalance the highs and lows of rapid changes in hormone levels- sometimes present themselves clinically as acne. High levels of estrogen and testosterone create a perfect environment for the bane of teens- acne. Both estrogen and testosterone make oil glands grow and the progesterone increase after ovulation closes down the pores and offers a fertile ground for pimple growth.
Although not a life threatening situation, acne is unsightly and makes young girls and boys, who are already undergoing identity problems, uncomfortable.
All too often hormone imbalance during teen years is misinterpreted, incorrectly treated, or just plain ignored. All it takes is a sudden change in the balance of the levels of estrogen and progesterone, "and poof!" you have emotional problems. The overwhelming rise in progesterone in the second half of the month, after ovulation, may bring about depression in your otherwise pleasant teen. If estrogen and testosterone are overabundant, the result is a very aggressive, contrary, adversarial teen.
It is the fluctuation, the sudden surges followed by precipitous drops in hormones that cause the otherwise docile teen to change moods with the speed of light, or the clear skinned youth to sprout a crop of pimples the day of the prom.
Yes, it may be stress that makes the pimples grow, and stress certainly can change people's personality. Stress causes immediate and drastic changes in hormone levels.
The best-known reaction for dealing with stress is the "fight and flight" mechanism. Our ancestors who lived in caves and had to protect themselves from attack by wild animals and other dangers reacted instinctually through their hormones. They did not have the ability or wherewithal to think before they acted. At the core of the mechanism that saved their lives was a simple but most powerful hormone.
The Drastic Effects Our Hormones Make
Cortisol is the hormone our adrenal glands make to protect us from danger. It is released every time our body or mind thinks we are about to get hurt. To the body, stress means danger. When cortisol is released to help us run away from harm, our immune system is activated. Progesterone levels drop and insulin levels rise. This is important because the more time we spend in our lives under stress, the more out of balance our hormones become. The results are: increased energy production, accumulation of toxic waste products, faster aging, and ultimately permanent organ damage as manifested in the form of chronic diseases.
Our hormones prepare us to fight or run away from danger when we are under major stress. This mechanism works well in the wild where stress is a matter of life and death. It doesn't work as well in our advanced society where stress is about who is more popular in school. The cortisol release in response to the "fight and flight" perception of stress, no longer appropriate in our society, creates hormone imbalances that show up as acne and mood swings when we are young. The teen's body will try to right this hormone imbalance. But the symptoms appear so quickly, it may take months or years to get the overall balance back in check.
During this time parents desperately seek help. The help need not come from antidepressants or other heavy duty synthetic medications. Learning to cope with stress and eliminating the spikes of cortisol levels are the first steps. Understanding the teen's reaction to stress is based on an old, outdated but seriously destructive mechanism and protecting the child from its untoward effects is critical. Supplementation with natural hormones is the second step. Natural hormones are so similar to the teen's own hormones and their action so gentle, they can easily right the balance and eliminate the symptoms. Finally, recreating the ideal hormone balance helps naturally eliminate the symptoms and boosts the teen's spirits while their own hormone manufacturing system rights itself.
Read on to find out more about Teenage Hormones