Emotions in Adolescence

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Coming of Age

During puberty, the degree to which we are supported to become who we really are by our families and social networks is the degree to which we will bloom and remain healthy. When we are not fully supported in becoming who we really are, however, we are at increased risk for developing illness or mood disorders at adolescence. Depending on our temperament, we may either suppress our individuality to fit in or individuate along lines that are foreign or unacceptable to our families in order to remain true to ourselves. Either path takes its toll both emotionally and physically.

At puberty, a girl begins to search in earnest for outside validation for her innermost hopes and dreams for herself as a young woman. When she doesn’t find what she’s looking for, or when she sees women making compromises that the males in her family or society are not asked to make, she quite naturally becomes angry, frightened, or disappointed. That’s part of the reason for adolescent rebellion. It’s a natural consequence when a girl’s longings and sense of unlimited possibilities run headlong into the limitations and compromises she sees in the lives of her parents and other adults. Her unbridled passions are not yet tempered by a fully developed dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (or DLPC), nor has she had to deal with the realities of adult burdens and responsibility.

If her emotions aren’t validated and redirected in a positive way, her disappointment, anger, and anxiety may turn inward as depression, moodiness, or physical illness or it could turn outward as hostility toward peers, parents, or other authority figures. Another possibility is that it can become a setup for self-destructive behavior of all kinds, including substance abuse, getting involved in destructive relationships, or engaging in multiple body piercing and tattoos. Most girls, however, reach a new emotional set point and calm down toward the middle to end of high school.

Spiritual and Holistic Options

The stormy emotions associated with adolescence can be weathered far more effectively if you realize that all emotions are simply messages from our inner guidance system. Each has a function. Each is telling us something we need to know. Each should be felt fully and then released. It’s that simple. If this doesn’t happen, or if any emotion is put down or suppressed, it can cause illness.

If your daughter becomes moody or “mouthy,” give her a lot of space and don’t try to cheer her up or “fix” her emotions. Let her discover the inner guidance that will help her reach her own solutions. However, she also needs to realize that her feelings affect others. If she says “I don’t want to talk about it” when you query her obvious sadness, tell her it’s okay to feel sad, but that she needs to figure out how to solve her problem in a way that doesn’t negatively impact everyone else in the family. Let her know you’re available if she wants to talk about whatever is troubling her, but that it’s not okay for her to sit sullenly at the dinner table without saying a word, holding everyone else hostage.

Despite the pervasive influence of the mass media and mass culture, our daughters can learn that their own inner wisdom and intuitive voice are far more potent guides to a life of fulfillment, health, and joy than anything outside themselves. Once they learn to identify and trust this voice, they will be far less apt to get caught up, at least for long, in the emptiness of meaningless relationships, frantic consumerism, or using addictive substances and processes whose purpose is simply to numb pain and awareness.

Learn More — Additional Resources

Last Updated: January 30, 2007

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. Elektra G.
    10 years ago

    awesome post!

  2. Kelley
    10 years ago

    How wonderful that we as woman can choose at any point in our lives what it is that we spend our precious energy on! I’m a single mom of three and own a business with my brother. My primary role for the past 16 years has been “Mother-in Chief” BY CHOICE! Nurturing and honoring myself and them has been my first priority! When I started the journey perfection was my goal, but as time went on and I really enjoyed myself in the mother – guide role, I learned many precious gifts. Probably the most important is that there is no such thing as perfect!!! As I look at my very independent, healthy both physically and emotionally children, I’m grateful for the choice I made. Could I have spent more time on my business producing profits? Certainly!, but to what expense? The time I’ve shared with my children and the ability of them to observe me choose to use my time to honor me and them has given them a foundation based on self love and not sacrifice. Have there been mistakes? MANY!! But what is important is the understanding that the wisdom of a choice that feels right to you, will usually produce experiences that are most meaningful. I applaud Michelle Obama for her choice. Her energy spent on nurturing her family will not only benefit them, but all of us as, she raises two beautiful, independent girls who understand they have a choice to use their energy to do what they deem important during their lifetime. We as a community of people will benefit from these well balanced souls! How lucky they are to have such a great role model. Michelle, I’m sure, will enjoy and be challenged by her ever changing role as “Mother-in-Chief”. As her children grow and make choices that honor who they are and what feels right for them, she, like me, will feel very comfortable shifting her energy to different areas of her life. She will continue to be the ever present guide, but not necessarily the constant gate keeper. Spending the energy to build an amazing foundation, gives everyone the freedom to be the best that they can be! To all the so-called feminists who object to this all important role, I challenge you to consider how amazing it would be to have a community of young girls raised to understand that they are fabulous in every way! Think about the potential of this group of young girls! Talk about a feminist movement!!

  3. Tina D.
    10 years ago

    Here, Here! I have always loved being a mother/wife/homemaker. Despite several different part-time jobs, I always felt my most important was at home. I am now home full time again and an empty nester and I still feel very proud of what I do. I am thrilled to see what Michele Obama represents for all women and delighted that she placed motherhood first. At last, she just might bring women together and help us all see that there is room to be proud of each of our roles in life.

  4. Dena L.
    10 years ago

    Thanks, my favorite line is “So there!” Well said

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