Puberty is something that everyone will experience at some point in life, some later or earlier than others. An expected part of growing up that can affect everyone in different ways. It can be scary not knowing what to expect, especially when people might say contrasting things about what happens during puberty or even miss out on situations that occur during puberty.
Often it is overlooked that even shortly before puberty begins emotions begin to rise as well. It can become overwhelming for someone experiencing these changes, especially if they are unaware of what to expect.
What is Puberty?
Puberty is something that everyone experiences one way or another. People's symptoms may differ and display signs of puberty differently. However, we do all experience it. Puberty creates many new hormones and physical differences in our bodies.
Puberty is a time in life when a boy or girl's body sexually matures and are capable of reproduction. A process that regularly happens earlier in a girl's life than in boys. Girls often begin puberty around the ages of 10 to 14 and boys from 12 to 16. In both sexes puberty can occur earlier or later, these are just average ages. Puberty will affect both boys and girls differently.
Puberty in Girls:
The first sign is usually breast development
Then hair growing in pubic areas and armpits
Menstruation (periods) normally happens last
Puberty in Boys:
Usually being with testicles and penis getting bigger
Then hair grows in pubic areas and armpit hair
Muscles grow, the voice deepens and facial hair grows as puberty continues
Both boys and girls may suffer acne and experience growth spurts for 2-3 years bringing them close to adult height. All symptoms can begin in different orders for everyone as well as at different times. These are just average ages and guidelines.
How can Puberty affect you emotionally?
During puberty, emotions can become stronger and more intense. Leading to quick mood changes or even becoming frustrated very easily. With puberty being a change in hormones this is to be expected.
However, when someone experiences this, they can often become even more frustrated at themselves as they do not understand why they are feeling everything so intensely compared to before.
Puberty can lead to:
Sudden mood swings
Being easterly agitated
Lack of sleep
These are just some of the emotional differences that puberty can create in some of us.
How to help with the emotional changes puberty brings
Puberty can be a scary time for someone going through it as they may not be aware of what is happening.
Ways that we can help someone face the emotional changes:
Keeping calm with them
Listening and understanding their emotions
Helping them to understand their emotions
Talking it through and providing them with adequate information
Maintain clear rules and expectation
Allow them space to process their feelings
Work together to find ways to lighten their mood
Encourage mindfulness, meditation and relaxing techniques
Encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits
Another way to help is by supporting your child to solve their problems as independently as they can, while also making sure they know you are there to offer help where you can. Try not to just jump in and fix the problem. This will allow your child to have a sense of independence.
Does feeling depressed through puberty make you prone to mental illness?
As mentioned above puberty can have many emotional effects, also making some of us feel depressed. Often stereotyped as a stroppy teen. However, more often than not it is the difficulty, frustration and confusion of trying to understand what is going on with their bodies and minds.
Once a child begins to feel depressed or has mood changes, it can then become difficult for them to get out of that feeling. They may get into a habit of shutting themselves out from others and feeling the need to be alone often. This can lead to them feeling too uncomfortable to be social and open up about their feelings and experiences they may face.
Is it puberty ‘moods’ or could it be something more serious? Often when experiencing puberty we develop mood swings making it difficult to tell if we are experiencing mood swings due to puberty or more than that. If a child is continuously feeling down and frustrated it may well be a sign of something else. It is important to keep in mind that mood swings are also the beginning signs of mental health problems.
Areas to look out for are:
Durations of the mood swings- lasting more than two weeks.
Severity - how drastically the mood changes
Impact - how much and what areas of their lives their mood swings affect
If it is feeling as if there is a mood than just mood swings due to puberty it is beneficial to seek professional advice or even look into self-care measures.
What is early puberty?
Early puberty is also known as precocious puberty meaning when a child's body begins the puberty process too soon. When puberty begins before the age of 8 in girls and 9 in boys is when it falls into precocious puberty.
Effects of early puberty
Hitting puberty young can put someone at higher risk of suffering from; anxiety, depression, conduct disorders (serious anti-social behaviour), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, the risk of self-harm is higher showing that 32% of 15-year-old girls and 11% of 15-year-old boys report self-harm.
Early puberty can also lead to feeling more peer pressure. The fact that they are younger, they can easily be more influenced, wanting to fit in more and seeking a sense of approval. Early puberty can also create greater anxiety around body image at a younger age, which could also lead to an eating disorder.
What is late puberty?
To fall under the category of delayed puberty is when a boy has not shown any signs of testicular development by the age of 14. For girls, this means showing no signs of breast developing by the age of 14 or breasts have developed but periods have not by the age of 15.
Effects of late puberty
As with early puberty, there are issues that come with late puberty. Late puberty can lead to negative effects on psychosocial function (ability to activities of daily living and engagement within relationships). Late puberty may also have an impact on education as well as a higher risk of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders.
Height and bone minerals may also be affected when puberty occurs late as the body develops later on and may not have enough time to develop to its full potential. Recent studies also suggest that beginning puberty late may lead to being more prone to breast and endometrial cancer in women and testicular cancer in men. [Source: www.pubmed.gov]
What can create early puberty?
Factors that increase precocious puberty:
Being a girl - Girls are more than likely to experience precocious puberty than boys
Being African-American - Precocious puberty appears to affect African-Americans more often than children of other races
Being exposed to sex hormones - Coming in contact with an estrogen or testosterone cream or ointment, or other substances that contain these hormones (such as an adult's medication or dietary supplements), can increase your child's risk of developing precocious puberty.
Having a medical condition - Some medical conditions could lead to being more at risk of precocious puberty
What can create late puberty?
Factors that increase delayed puberty:
Malnutrition - possibly from an eating disorder or a condition such as cystic fibrosis or coeliac disease
Problems with ovaries - testes, thyroid gland, or pituitary gland
Sexual development - such as androgen insensitivity syndrome
Genetic conditions - such as Kallman syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome
Differences mentally in puberty between males and females
When looking at the differences between males and females in puberty the biggest differences are clearly the physical difference. With males developing their further male features and females developing further female features,
Aside from physical features, there is the mental aspect. During the time of puberty, early on, expected time or even late, females are more likely to experience depression than males. This is due to the hormonal differences in females puberty to males.
If you feel you would like a better insight into the ongoing mental health problems, we do offer an online Mental Health First Aid course.
Provided by an instructor qualified under Mental Health First Aid England, allowing yourself to become a qualified Mental Health First Aider.
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