Adolescent angst is not just about hormones

December 14, 2009 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

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lonelinessPuberty is an important stage in a person’s life. It is also a difficult time for both the teen and the adults (especially the parents) around them. Teen problems such as mood swings, depression, and even physical health problems are quiet common. Most of the time, these problems are attributed to growing pains and raging hormones. Alarmists would jump into conclusions and shout “drugs!”

Canadian scientists, however, that these symptoms of angst may be are more than just rites of passage or effects of drug abuse. A person’s experiences as a child may also play a role in his or her behaviour and well being as an adolescent.

Childhood experiences can influence a person’s self-worth later in life, from puberty to adulthood. Thus, “insecure infants grow up to be insecure adolescents, and later, insecure adults.” This insecurity leads to emotional problems such as depression but may even translate into physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches, and joint pain.

But what be the main factor in childhood that determines insecurity? The researchers believe they have identified the cause – interpersonal relationships. According to psychologist Dr. Isabelle Tremblay, a researcher at the Université de Montréal and its affiliated Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center

“We found that adolescents with insecure relationships tend to be more ‘alarmist’ about their pain symptoms; they have a tendency to amplify the degree of threat or severity of their pain. This amplification leads to more intense pain and more severe depressive symptoms.”

Co-author Dr. Michael Sullivan, a psychology professor at McGill University adds:

“It is possible that individuals who have insecure relationships may perceive the world as more threatening or more stressful and that manifests in physical symptoms. Alternately, it is possible that individuals who feel insecure might ‘express’ more intense distress as a means of eliciting support from others in their social environment.”

Their findings were based on a study of 382 high school students in Montreal and highlighted the importance of looking at interpersonal relationships starting at childhood in order to understand the root cause of adolescent problems like pain and depression.

Dr. Sullivan continues:

“Adolescents have different health and mental health needs than adults. Although interpersonal factors have not been considered integral component of the treatment of pain and depression in adults, these factors might need to be considered in the treatment of adolescents.”

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