Mental Health and Hormones

This might be an odd topic to discuss, but it’s actually very important in terms of adolescent mental health particularly if there is a biologically-based brain disorder on the table.

What happens when puberty strikes?

Let me get this off my chest.  I hate the word ‘puberty’.  I don’t know why.  It’s a weird word, isn’t it? I don’t even like to say it aloud.  “Puuuuuuuuuberty.”  No.  Just…no.

What else can I call it? Game Day? The Dawn of a New Age? Rites of Passage? Pledge Week? These all sound like terrible movies, cults, or something that happens to you at a Greek Week event.  But, isn’t that what puberty feels like? I digress…

Everyone warned me that puberty would be an über nightmare for Grace as opposed to the standard nightmare that the neurotypical folks experience because the sudden surge in hormones might possibly increase the intensity of her diagnosis–schizophrenia spectrum disorder.  I winced.  It is a valid concern because onset of puberty is often the time when schizophrenia and bipolar spectrum disorders emerge.  If you have a child who has a childhood-onset diagnosis, then what might puberty change or exacerbate?

So, how has it been?

Well, the first thing to note here is that Grace has been taking Abilify since she was 11 years-old, and Abilify affected her sexual development.  She didn’t experience any signs of puberty until she was well into her 15th year.  That’s late.  It was concerning.  We were almost referred to an endocrinologist.

The second thing to note is that her symptoms were in no way exacerbated by her diagnosis.  She was a very typical teenager if ‘typical’ is a thing.  In other words, her behavior and thoughts were well within the bell curve for what I would define as normative although she has favored emo-angsty self-expression for about a year.  It’s like living with a character from a knock-off John Hughes movie.  The month prior to menarche (another word that should never be used), however, she became an asshole, and no one knew why.

Also, she wanted to snort and mainline sugar.  I had to practically build a wall between her and the kitchen just to keep her away from anything potentially sugary–even granulated sugar! She hated everything as well.  She was rude.  She wanted to be left alone.  Everything was bad.  And, she cried all the time.  She is my third daughter.  I’ve seen all this before but not quite at this level.  A friend commented, “Wow, she just hates everything.”

Well, when her first period arrived, it all crystallized, and her mood cleared up.  It’s damn hard being a girl.

We did not, however, have any psychotic symptoms.  We did not have a surge in mania.  It was fairly typical.  Everyone in the house gets a bit moody and upset as their hormones ebb and flow.  Doireann cries.  Eadaoin gets punchy.  Grace hates everyone and everything.  I feel irritable.  It is life.  You learn to go with the flow (sorry about the pun…).

The good news? There was no apocalypse, and that means a lot because more than a few people prognosticated the end of the world for Grace when Shark Week hit.

So, should you be in a similar situation, wondering how your child will do when the surge of hormones bathes their brain in all the colors of the moody, developmental rainbow, have hope.  Sometimes things go smoothly and everything works out.

Just as you hoped it would.

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Mental Health and Hormones

  1. Well, it’s good to know I am not the only one that finds some words, just weird.

    Your sense of humor is awesome too, if I may say so.

    My son is in (that word we won’t say,) he is bipolar with psychotic features. First thing I am noticing is he has become 100X more emotionally sensitive. He is also getting agitated easily, easier than usual that is. I fear there is something else going on also that I can’t put my finger on, maybe schizo-effective, I am not a psychiatrist so I don’t know.

    What makes this difficult is his ability to be “normal” during the psychiatric appointments so the doctor sees nothing. Of course me forgetting to mention it doesn’t help either, old age, bad memory, stinks.

    I have decided to get him a full psychological evaluation, even if it’s out of pocket. Being the only living parent gives me a sense of urgency to get all of my children as self-sufficient as possible before I die.

    He really is a wonderful boy, it breaks my heart to see him suffer, he is so sensitive to the death of his mother and it has broken him in a way I can’t fix.

    Thank you for the post, your honesty and your sense of humor, you are an amazing mom, your children are blessed to have you as their guide in life.

    George

    • I don’t know if what I did and do will help you, but In terms of having him evaluated…one of the things I did with Grace (and my two other kids) is document everything, and by this I mean that I documented symptoms and recorded dates and times. Was there a trend in “lability” (mood changes)? How did this manifest? Had sleep changed? Was it an organic change? Did I wake up and find her watching “Thor” at 2 AM and did she think was completely normal vs. sleep changes affected by outside factors like schedule changes, for example?

      Grace has ADHD. That’s a new DX. Her doc was VERY careful to add a drug, but he did because her ADHD is bad. A day later she was very hypomanic–up and skateboarding at 5 am.

      So, I documented all the changes. When we went back for the med check in two weeks, he stopped the drug. Also, if there is an increase in getting physical. Just record it. Then, you don’t have to remember. It’s VERY hard to remember all the nuanced changes.

      The increase in sensitivity seems to be THE thing. How it expresses is, well, unique to the kid, but I remember feeling almost out of body all the time at that age…It makes sense. I am so sorry for what you and your kids have gone through and the journey that you now how to figure out how to make on a day by day basis.

      • As a psychologist, I can say this is an excellent recommendation. You are your children’s experts and for us, knowing small nuances that we may not observe in sessions or evaluations is invaluable.

      • Thank you for your validation. It’s nice to hear that I’m hitting the mark. It’s not easy (as I’m sure you know).

  2. Hi MJ. “No apocalypse,” is great! Love your site and sense of humor. Laughter is powerful medicine, particularly when raising girls. I have two girls, now 18 and 20 years old and puberty was surely a turning point. I can also identify with your daughter’s sugar craving (snort and mainline, yes! lol), one of the main reasons I thought initiating a blog about nutrition and mental health might be helpful. Thanks for so candidly sharing!

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