As one example of stress related to a life transition, the teen years often bring about an increase in perceived stress as young adults learn to cope with increasing demands and pressures. Studies have shown that excessive stress during the teen years can have a negative impact upon both physical and mental health later in life. For example, teen stress is a risk factor for the development of depression, a serious condition that carries an increased risk of suicide.
Fortunately, effective stress-management strategies can diminish the ill effects of stress. The presence of intact and strong social support networks among friends, family, and religious or other group affiliations can help reduce the subjective experience of stress during the teen years. Recognition of the problem and helping teens to develop stress-management skills can also be valuable preventive measures. In severe cases, a physician or other health care provider can recommend treatments or counseling that can reduce the long-term risks of teen stress.
What is the healthy response to stress?
A key aspect of a healthy adaptational response to stress is the time course. Responses must be initiated rapidly, maintained for a proper amount of time, and then turned off to ensure an optimal result. An over-response to stress or the failure to shut off a stress response can have negative biological consequences for an individual. Healthy human responses to stress involve three components:
The brain handles (mediates) the immediate response. This response signals the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine and norepinephrine.
The hypothalamus (a central area in the brain) and the pituitary gland initiate (trigger) the slower maintenance response by signaling the adrenal cortex to release cortisol and other hormones.
Many neural (nerve) circuits are involved in the behavioral response. This response increases arousal (alertness, heightened awareness), focuses attention, inhibits feeding and reproductive behavior, reduces pain perception, and redirects behavior.
The combined results of these three components of the stress response maintain the internal balance (homeostasis), increase energy production and utilization, and alter electrolyte (chemical elements) and fluid balance in the body. They also gear up the organism for a quick reaction through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS operates by increasing the heart rate, increasing blood pressure, redirecting blood flow to the heart, muscles, and brain and away from the gastrointestinal tract, and releasing fuel (glucose and fatty acids) to help fight or flee the danger.