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Effects of Stress on the Teenage Brain

female group member consoling teenage male group member about the effects of stress on the teenage brain

Stress leads to chronic health issues for people of any age. For teenagers, the effects of chronic stress are even worse. Teen treatment programs are designed to help teens learn the coping skills they need to manage stress confidently.

Imagine Boise is a teen mental health treatment center in Boise, Idaho. We work with teen clients and their families to achieve recovery from mental health concerns through integrative treatment modalities. Call 888.597.2807 today for more information on our teen mental health treatment programs.

How Stress Affects the Brain

The human brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20s. While teenagers often feel like they’re all grown up, this is far from the truth – as most parents know. The teen brain is still developing the ability to regulate and manage stress.

During childhood and the teenage years, changes to the brain’s gray matter and amygdala play a key role in how a young person’s brain inputs and processes external stimuli – including stress.

When a teenager’s developing brain is overwhelmed, the brain circuits that help a teen navigate feelings of stress don’t work as well as they are meant to.

Over time, the neural circuits that regulate brain stress can cause either under or over-reactivity. This can lead teens to appear either shut down or overly anxious. However a teen’s inability to manage stress manifests, and it can lead to severe issues with cognitive abilities, mental and emotional health, and trouble in many other areas of life.

Short-Term Effects of Stress on the Brain

Teenagers dealing with unmanageable stress levels may act out in several ways. Typically, this happens because of how stress affects the brain. It can make life for a teen feel overwhelmed or out of control.

Parents might see concerning signs in a teen that lead them to wonder what’s wrong. It takes a mental health professional to evaluate specific mental health concerns. However, common indicators that a teen is struggling with stress include:

  • Poor grades
  • Reluctance to attend school
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Emotional changes
  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory

It’s also not uncommon for stress to manifest through physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, unexplained pain, or feeling ill.

Long-Term Effects of Stress on the Brain

The short-term effects of stress on the brain are troubling and seriously detract from a teen’s happiness and quality of life.

As ongoing stress impacts the neural circuitry of a teen’s developing brain, the effects in adulthood can include difficulties with:

  • Impulse control
  • Executive function
  • Memory and concentration
  • Motivation

Effects like these have a lasting impact on an adult’s ability to execute plans, achieve goals, and thrive in relationships.
Research has also found teen stress increases the likelihood of long-term health issues like heart disease, substance use, anxiety disorders, and depression.

How a Treatment Program Can Help Brain Stress in Teens

A mental health treatment program can be a life-changing experience for a teen struggling with stress, brain function, and the ensuing emotional concerns that spring from these issues.

The effects of stress on the brain are difficult to overcome without support, especially for teenagers. However, a professional treatment program offers strategies and tools created specifically for teen clients to connect and help them move into a healthier relationship with stress.

Get Help for Stress at Imagine Boise

Imagine Boise is a teen mental health treatment center located in Boise, Idaho. We offer partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient (IOP) programs for teens 12-17 years old.

Stress, brain health, and teen well-being are deeply interconnected. When a teen is given the tools and support they need to handle stress and the brain, they are empowered to confidently handle life’s challenges – and their long-term brain development reflects that ability.

With the proper support, your teen can overcome the negative effects of stress on the brain. Call Imagine Boise today at 888.597.2807 for more information on our teen mental health treatment programs.