- Mental Health and SRH
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Mental Health are essential aspects that contribute to a person’s quality of life. Changes in someone’s sexual and reproductive health impact their mental health and vice versa. One of the ways SRH affects mental health is during puberty.
Puberty is the physical and psychological changes a child goes through before transitioning into an adult. Puberty in girls usually begins between 8 & 13, and for boys, it begins between 11 &13. Boys will have increased testosterone, which can cause impulsivity or lower levels of control, among others. While girls will start their menstruation and experience premenstrual symptoms (PMS), such as mood swings.
- Physical & Mental Changes
Everyone goes through physical, hormonal, mental, and psychosocial changes. During puberty, the body adjusts to fluctuating hormone levels. Since hormones control puberty, it is normal to experience mood swings when emotions become more intense and change quickly & randomly. It is common for more sexual thoughts and urges to occur, which will lessen as you get older. In addition, teenagers need more sleep and patterns may change due to the body’s production of melatonin, a sleep hormone, at different times of the day. It is also normal for teenagers to have an increased appetite due to a major growth spurt.
Physical changes are the first to be noticed, but mental changes or maturity take longer. The front part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, controls decision-making. However, this is the last part to change, usually until the early to mid-’20s. Because of the incomplete brain development, teenagers have difficulty putting things into proper perspective and lack emotional regulation to manage the highs and lows of their emotions called mood swings. Because of this, teenagers have immature thinking that causes impulsivity, hastiness, and a lack of good judgment. On top of this, teenagers often feel misunderstood, self-conscious, sad, and the like because of the constant comparisons with their friends or people they think have the ideal body type or social status. Their physical change directly affects their needs, interests, and moods.
Among the mental effects are:
- Sensitivity: teenagers are often overly sensitive and uncomfortable with themselves and their physical appearance.
- Uncertainty: since it is a transition phase, many kids begin to think about what they want in life, such as personal identity, career, lifestyle, relationships, and the like. This can create a sense of worry and uncertainty that might affect some kids more than others.
- Contradictory thoughts: this is when teenagers feel as though they are stuck between feeling like a kid and wanting to be an adult. Some want more independence while also seeing the support of their parents.
- Peer pressure: kids are more likely to be influenced by their surroundings when they’re in their teenage years. This can be uncomfortable, especially when it comes to negative influences and struggling to fit into friend groups.
- Mood Swings: teenagers go through mood swings, some worse than others. Common emotions include feeling critical or conscious about oneself, getting sexual feelings, and aggression & having a short temper because of difficulty managing their emotions. This is a normal process. When a teen is aggressive towards a parent, the parent needs to let her/him know that the conversation will continue after taking a short break when the teen is calm. This will teach the teen that violence is not the way. However, if these symptoms are consecutive for over two weeks, it could affect how this teenager behaves and mean it’s a deeper issue that can lead to mental illness. Before situations escalate, it is advisable to seek help or support from counselors or mental health professionals.
Puberty can be tricky, so it is vital to understand mood swings and the effects of puberty physically and emotionally. In addition, having people who understand can help kids transition into teenagers and adults with a healthy mindset. It might seem like your emotions are uncontrollable because one moment you feel fantastic and the next you feel sad. This is entirely normal and happens to everyone during this time. It is beneficial to talk with a trusted adult to help sort through these emotions.