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Updated : August 1, 2022 2 mins read

The teenage brain and mental health

Updated : August 1, 2022 2 mins read


As a teenager, our bodies go through huge changes in order to prepare us for adulthood.

Our brain, much like the rest of our body, grows and develops throughout our teenage years and it can be a scary and often exciting time. Our brain reaches its full size by the age of 11 for girls and 14 for boys. Despite this though, our brain continues to make connections and develops well into our early twenties.

Our brain is built on connections between neurons . These neurons carry different chemicals, called neurotransmitters, throughout the brain which influence our actions, emotions and thoughts. As teenagers, we will experience varying levels of these neurotransmitters. One particularly important one is dopamine, which is thought to control our motivation levels. We have a huge surge of dopamine during our adolescence, which can explain why sometimes teenagers can act before thinking.

Within our brains, we have several different areas, called lobes, that are responsible for different parts of who we are.

Whilst most of these lobes have developed during childhood and our primary school years, one particular lobe still continues to develop well into adolescence. At the front of our brain is the frontal lobe. This lobe is responsible for executive function. Our executive function is like a little manager – it helps us to make decisions, remember things, solve problems and control our impulses. Our frontal lobe is one of the last areas in our brain to reach full development, which is why we might find it very difficult to remember things or we may feel out of control sometimes!

Mental health is also key part of being a teenager. Many different mental health conditions appear in adolescence and there are many different theories as to why this happens.
It is perfectly normal to feel as if you are on an emotional rollercoaster as a teenager. You may feel as if one minute you are perfectly happy, and the next you may feel sad or angry. So whilst this is a normal part being a teenager, when should we be worried about our mental health?

If you find yourself feeling any of the following, you should speak to someone in your wellbeing network or your GP:

  • Sad more often than feeling happy
  • Worried about things on a daily basis
  • Struggling to sleep or eat

As we are experiencing new situations, increased stress, pressure from school and our brain is still in a state of development, it’s clear that mental health as a teenager is not black or white.

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Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.