Guest Blog by Gemma: Dealing with negative comments about my anxiety during my teenage years

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In our latest Guest Blog, Gemma details her experience as a young person dealing with negative comments about her anxiety and emotions, which in turn affected her confidence and mental health. She explains how young people can be reassured that there is nothing wrong with them, and how they can better understand their own thought process when it comes to expressing emotions and feelings. 

“You’re too sensitive”
“She takes everything to heart”
“You’re thinking with your heart, not your head”
“She responses with emotion”
“Emotional teenager”

Throughout my mid-teenage years, I heard all of these comments far too frequently, from teachers to doctors to peers. These comments made me assume I was reacting to situations irrationally and not in the ‘normal’ way. I questioned myself and my emotions all the time; wondering why I was reacting so sensitively to comments, making decisions with my heart and being emotional in every situation. I was labelled as a ‘overly-sensitive’.

Rationalizing my anxieties

Through learning psychology in college and now university I’ve definitely been able to understand and rationalize a lot of my anxieties, emotions and behaviours. While learning about a particular area of psychology I had a sort of realization, which gave me reassurance and helped me understand to some extent my ‘overly-sensitive’ nature and hopefully may comfort someone else too.

Advances in brain scanning technology discovered the brain continues to undergo changes throughout adolescence and demonstrates the human brain is not fully matured until late 20s. The teenage brain is often referred to a ‘developmental mis-match’ as the maturation process occurs in a front-back process meaning different areas develop at different times. The limbic system is an area that develops initially and is an important element in the body’s response to stress, processing emotions and storage of memories. The limbic system consists of the amygdala which controls emotional responses such as happiness, fear, anger and anxiety. This area of the brain tends to develop during teenage years.

Due to the maturation process teenagers will process information differently to adults. An adult with a fully matured brain will rely heavily on their frontal lobes, which play a key role in many high-level functions of the brain. These include reasoning, judgement, regulation of emotions and impulse control. When a decision or scenario arises, an adult will use this part of their brain to come to a resolution. However, a teen is more likely to reply on their limbic system, especially the amygdala, as this area is matured unlike their frontal lobes. Teenagers may respond emotionally, irrationally or impulsively due to their reliance on their limbic system and immaturely developed frontal cortex.

Affected my confidence

In hindsight I realise that the comments and labelling did affect my mental health. It took a huge hit to my confidence and affected how I acted in many situations, from speaking in lessons to explaining my feelings to a therapist. I didn’t give value to my own emotions and was extremely harsh on myself when I was experiencing feelings of anxiety and confusion. I would overthink decisions as I came to believe I’d used my ‘heart instead of my head’ and then regretted them as I didn’t think they were the correct. Teenagers and young adults known the hormonal and body changes they’re experiencing but don’t fully understand the way their brains are developing.

Hopefully reading this explanation may provide reassurance to another ‘sensitive’ person.