Hide page

Your amazing brain

Growing into an adult isn’t just about raging hormones and finding it hard to wake up in the morning. Your brain is growing and changing in really important ways from your early teens right up to your mid 20s. Scientists are just starting to understand how complex this process of change is.

So, what’s your brain busy doing?

The structure and basic circuits in your brain are developing and changing.  Your brain needs to change to create important shifts in thinking, feeling, interacting and decision making. And these changes are crucial to move towards being an independent adult.

What changes are we talking about?

Prefrontal cortex

This is at the front of brain and is the area which controls emotions and the ‘thinking part’ of the brain. This isn’t properly developed till 20+ years meaning it’s hard to regulate feelings and moods.

Melatonin

Melatonin is the sleep chemical in your brain – and in teenagers it doesn’t switch on till late at night – so it’s likely you find it hard to get to sleep. Especially if you are up late using electrical devices which trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Read more about sleep.

Dopamine

This is a chemical in the brain related to rewards. The concentration of dopamine is often different in teenagers which could mean you want to try new things and have more of a sense of adventure.

How might these changes in the brain affect behaviour?

Seeking new experiences and sensations

You may have more of an urge to seek instant rewards or to try something new and take risks. Your music, food and dress sense might change a lot. You might start experimenting with drink or drugs, or trying stuff you haven’t before.

Upside: You need to take risks and push boundaries so that you are open to change – so you can live life passionately, have a fascination for life and adventure and reach your full potential.

Downside: Driven by the thrill of doing something, you might be quick to turn an idea into an action without thinking about the consequences, and it could lead you into dangerous situations where you are vulnerable.

Friends become really important

You may be connecting with your peers more than ever as you explore who you are and where you fit. You might want to spend less time at home, and feel that your family or other adults don’t get you. You might starting wondering if you want a partner and about who you fancy too – and if you are gay/ straight.

Upside: Social connection helps you learn about relationships and this is crucial for wellbeing and happiness throughout life. You may meet all sorts of new types of people – some of them will be friends for life

Downside: Not being able to relate to adults means you probably don’t trust their judgement! It could mean you are more likely to take risks and put yourself in danger. You might also feel like other people have better or more friendships than you or that you just don’t fit in.

Intense feelings

You will probably feel things more deeply, and your emotions often feel extreme. Your feelings might feel so strong they are almost unbearable – they change quickly and you might not know why this is happening.

Upside: Life can be filled with energy and a sense of passion. This means you can feel joy or love more intensely…and have an excitement about being alive on the planet!

Downside: Intense emotions can feel overwhelming – and make you more likely to be moody or feel desperate, or behave without thinking things through. It might help to give mindfulness a go.

Being more creative

You are likely to have an increased sense of consciousness and imagination. You might start to question your views on society or religion – you might think about your values or maybe political stuff.

Upside: You are the best age to become expert at things. If you are able to imagine the world in new ways, the world is your oyster! If you can question everything you can think of new innovative ways of dealing with problems and create new amazing ideas.

Downside: Searching for the meaning of life may lead you to feeling like you’re having an ‘identity crisis’ – with a lack of direction and purpose. You might feel really lost.