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Drugs & Health Blog

It's Not Just You: The Teen Years Can Be an Emotional Roller Coaster

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Ever have one of those days? One minute you’re feeling great; the next, you’re knocked down by a bad grade or a fight with a friend.

Setbacks like these can seem like the end of the world to some teens. Others can bounce back after they’ve had a little time to think and see that the situation isn’t so bad. But not everyone can recover so easily.

As part of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, the National Institute of Mental Health hosted a panel discussion that focused on what happens when mental health disorders—like depression or anxiety—or drug abuse interfere with the development of the teen brain.

What’s Happening in Your Head?

No one feels good all the time. Teens are particularly vulnerable to a roller coaster of emotions because of major brain changes taking place between the ages of 12 and 25. These emotional ups and downs are all part of normal teen development.

But for teens suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD, the stresses—from peers, family, or problems in school—may be more than they can handle. Some may start using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope, or to escape from anger, hurt, or disappointment. However, over time, these behaviors can lead to a bigger problem…addiction.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

Every brain is different, and just because you feel down or stressed doesn’t mean you’re going to develop a problem. But, whatever you’re going through, it’s important to be aware of your feelings.

Take note if you’re overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or unfocused. You may just be experiencing the normal emotional reactions to events in your life. However, if these feelings don’t let up, or if you feel like you can’t bounce back on your own, talk to a friend, family member, or someone you trust to help you.

Watch a videocast of the whole discussion about mental health and the teen brain, then share your thoughts with us. What are some things you do to stay grounded when things seem out of control?

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


like its very crazy how people do drugs

Excellent website and a fantastic opportunity to influence and to offer guidance and support for all teens, although as a person who previously worked with young people who entered the criminal justice system – youth justice and youth offending teams – UK, the young teens involved within the criminal justice system including teens adversely involved with legal and illegal drugs their needs are vast and varied and their current needs must be addressed, not just by a website devoted to their negative habits, but also by a society which is responsible for offering the teens an equal opportunity of achieving their life goals through education and giving them hope – through education, leisure facilities and above all the potential of a well paid employment in the future. These goals set by society achievable but only if society is prepared to invest hard cash in the teens future, which will offer an increase in positive and potential achievement levels for today's teens.

I think this article is influential, because it helps teens realize that these mood swings aren't their fault. The brain is a tricky thing and we don't fully understand why it does what it does. It is unfortunate that some teens take these emotions as a signal to fix it with drugs. The thing that teens can't understand is the moment where they feel as if it can't get better, it will pass in about an hour. Eventually everything gets better.