Hormone responsible for teen tantrums
A hormone that normally calms adults and younger children instead increases anxiety in adolescents, finds a study.Updated: Mar 12, 2007, 20:22 IST
A new research has revealed that a hormone could be the cause behind teen tantrums.Researchers report that a hormone the body produces in response to stress that normally calms adults and younger children instead increases anxiety in adolescents.
They conducted experiments with female mice focusing on the hormone THP to demonstrate this paradoxical effect, and described the brain mechanism that explains it.
If, as the scientists suspect, the same thing happens in people, the researchers say this phenomenon may help account for the mood swings and anxiety exhibited by many adolescents.
"Teenagers don't go around crazy all the time," says lead researcher Sheryl Smith, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Centre.
"But it really is a mood swing where things seem fine and calm, and then the next thing is someone's crying or angry," she says. "And I think that's why people have used the term 'raging hormones'."
"Responses to stressful events are amplified, and anxiety and panic disorder first emerge at this time, being twice as likely to occur in girls as in boys," the researchers write.
"In addition, suicide risk increases in adolescence, despite the use of adult-based medical strategies." THP, also called allopregnanolone, generally serves as a natural tranquilliser and is produced several minutes after a stressful situation."It's not the immediate fight-or-flight response," Smith says.
It calms neural activity to reduce anxiety and help people adapt and function under stress. "It's thought to be one way that we all can compensate for stress, so we just stay focused and don't go crazy, sort of focus on our task," she says.
Smith's team examined brain activity and behaviour in mice before puberty, during puberty and as adults. The researchers subjected the mice to a stressful event by suddenly placing them inside a container just slightly larger than a mouse's body, a sort of claustrophobic experience, and keeping them there for 45 minutes.
"Twenty minutes after stress, both the young mice and the adult mice showed less anxiety. But the pubertal mice showed more anxiety The parallel with humans is that in humans there are similar hormonal changes going on in puberty," Smith says.
"So the beginning of puberty is a time when a lot of emotions and responses to stress are increased. It's nothing new that teenagers go through a difficult time. Hopefully this will shed some new light on it," she added.