Why Are Teens So Emotional?




It seems almost every person can remember a time in their teenage years when they felt emotions so extreme it either felt like they were going crazy or like the world was ending. These feelings tend to be extremely intense and upsetting. And it definitely feels like these feelings are more extreme than those adults are experiencing. Well, there are clear biological reasons as to why 13-18 yr olds experience intense emotions compared to their fellow humans.

The brain, when extremely oversimplified, can be looked at in two sections; one emotional and one logical. The limbic system in the brain is the emotional center. This part of the brain responds to emotional stimuli and aids in our fight or flight responses. The frontal lobe of the brain can be seen as the logical problem solving area of the brain. These parts of the brain develop at different speeds.

In the beginning of your teenage years the limbic system is developing A LOT but disconnected from your much more underdeveloped frontal lobe. And as we continue to grow through our teenage years the limbic system is extremely active and still growing. The amygdala and the hypothalamus specifically are much more active than usual during this time. Both of these parts of the brain are used in fear and stress responses. So having these parts of our brain being very active oftentimes lead us to having almost laughable emotional outburst. These areas when active can cause people to be paranoid, overly sensitive, mean, and just all around irritable. Basically our brains are really fired up at this point in our lives and are really good at making us think everything is wrong and hurtful. Along with this the constant outpouring of hormones into our bodies leaves teenagers feeling agitated and ansy aiding in our perceived irritability. Throughout our teenage years the link between the limbic system and the frontal lobe becomes more solidified. SO while our brains are increasingly emotional we also begin to be able to sort through our emotions with reason to some extent, particularly in later teenage years. Thankfully in our 20’s our limbic system, if all goes well, refines its communication lines with our frontal lobe which leads to logical thought process’ in order to reel our crazy limbic systems in. Psychology today says in summary, “teens are highly emotional because of a hyperactive amygdala that generates many “danger” false alarms and slow, inefficient connections between the logical Prefrontal cortex and the emotional amygdala (i.e., a faulty inhibition system and loose brakes).

A part of this though, that I feel is VERY important to note, is that while teenagers feel more negative emotions more intensely than adults they also experience positive emotions much more intensely. In a classic win some lose some teenagers get to experience the deepest depths of love, joy, and connection throughout these years and in my mind that makes the negatives much more worth it.