Hormonally Induced Changes to the Mind and Brain

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The Stress in America survey reported that money and work were the top two sources of stress for adults in the United States for the eighth year in a row. Other common contributors included family responsibilities, personal health concerns, health problems affecting the family and the economy. The study found that women consistently struggle with more stress than men. Millennials and Generation Xers deal with more stress than baby boomers.

And those who face discrimination based on characteristics such as race, disability status or LGBT identification struggle with more stress than their counterparts who do not regularly encounter such societal biases. Stress is a chain reaction. Finally, a hormone called cortisol is released, which helps to restore the energy lost in the response. When the stressful event is over, cortisol levels fall and the body returns to stasis.

While stress itself is not necessarily problematic, the buildup of cortisol in the brain can have long-term effects.

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Thus, chronic stress can lead to health problems. In moderation, the hormone is perfectly normal and healthy. Its functions are multiple, explains the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. In addition to restoring balance to the body after a stress event, cortisol helps regulate blood sugar levels in cells and has utilitarian value in the hippocampus, where memories are stored and processed. But when chronic stress is experienced, the body makes more cortisol than it has a chance to release. This is when cortisol and stress can lead to trouble.

According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation , resulting in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others. Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain.

Chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. While stress can shrink the prefrontal cortex, it can increase the size of the amygdala, which can make the brain more receptive to stress. It can also lead to other significant problems, such as increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Other systems of the body stop working properly too, including the digestive, excretory and reproductive structures.

All of these changes mean that their bodies are developing as expected during puberty. Girls' bodies usually become curvier. They gain weight on their hips, and their breasts develop, starting with just a little swelling under the nipple. Sometimes one breast might develop more quickly than the other, but most of the time they soon even out.

With all this growing and developing going on, girls will notice an increase in body fat and occasional soreness under the nipples as the breasts start to enlarge — and that's normal. Gaining some weight is part of developing into a woman, and it's unhealthy for girls to go on a diet to try to stop this normal weight gain. If you ever have questions or concerns about your weight , talk it over with your doctor.

This is one more thing that lets a girl know puberty is progressing and the puberty hormones have been doing their job. Girls have two ovaries, and each ovary holds thousands of eggs. During the menstrual cycle, one of the eggs comes out of an ovary and begins a trip through the fallopian tube, ending up in the uterus the uterus is also called the womb.

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Before the egg is released from the ovary, the uterus has been building up its lining with extra blood and tissue. If the egg is fertilized by a sperm cell, it stays in the uterus and grows into a baby, using that extra blood and tissue to keep it healthy and protected as it's developing. Most of the time, though, the egg is only passing through. When the egg doesn't get fertilized, the uterus no longer needs the extra blood and tissue, so it leaves the body through the vagina as a menstrual period.

A period usually lasts from 5 to 7 days, and about 2 weeks after the start of the period a new egg is released, which marks the middle of each cycle. Well, maybe not everywhere. But one of the first signs of puberty is hair growing where it didn't grow before. Guys and girls both begin to grow hair under their arms and in their pubic areas on and around the genitals. It starts out looking light and sparse.

Then as you go through puberty, it becomes longer, thicker, heavier, and darker. Eventually, guys also start to grow hair on their faces. Another thing that comes with puberty is acne , or pimples. Acne is triggered by puberty hormones.


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Pimples usually start around the beginning of puberty and can stick around during adolescence the teen years. You may notice pimples on your face, your upper back, or your upper chest. It helps to keep your skin clean, and your doctor will be able to offer some suggestions for clearing up acne.

The good news about acne is that it usually gets better or disappears by the end of adolescence. A lot of teens notice that they have a new smell under their arms and elsewhere on their bodies when they enter puberty, and it's not a pretty one. That smell is body odor, and everyone gets it. As you enter puberty, the puberty hormones affect glands in your skin, and the glands make chemicals that smell bad.

These chemicals put the scent in adolescent! So what can you do to feel less stinky? Well, keeping clean is a good way to lessen the smell. You might want to take a shower every day, either in the morning before school, or the night before. Using deodorant or deodorant with antiperspirant every day can help keep body odor in check, too. Guys and girls will also notice other body changes as they enter puberty, and they're all normal changes. Girls might see and feel a white, mucous-like discharge from the vagina.

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This doesn't mean anything is wrong — it is just another sign of your changing body and hormones. Guys will start to get erections when the penis fills with blood and becomes hard. They may experience something called nocturnal emissions or wet dreams , when the penis becomes erect while a guy is sleeping and he ejaculates. When a guy ejaculates, semen comes out of the penis — semen is a fluid that contains sperm.

That's why they're called wet dreams — they happen when you're sleeping and your underwear or the bed might be a little wet when you wake up.

Hormonal Influences on Cognitive Function

Wet dreams become less frequent as guys progress through puberty, and they eventually stop. Guys will also notice that their voices may "crack" and eventually get deeper. Just as those hormones create changes in the way your body looks on the outside, they also create changes on the inside. While your body is adjusting to all the new hormones, so is your mind. During puberty, you might feel confused or have strong emotions that you've never experienced before.

You may feel anxious about how your changing body looks. You might feel overly sensitive or become easily upset. Some teens lose their tempers more than usual and get angry at their friends or families. Sometimes it can be difficult to deal with all of these new emotions. Usually people aren't trying to hurt your feelings or upset you on purpose.

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It might not be your family or friends making you angry — it might be your new "puberty brain" trying to adjust.