Stress is often associated with the hormone adrenaline. “Adolescents have adrenaline rushing through their bodies.” Adrenaline is indeed a substance that the adrenal glands produce when increased vigilance is required. Adrenaline improves reaction time and therefore performance. Being tense before an exam increases concentration and makes you more alert and therefore makes fewer mistakes. However, the effects of adrenaline are short-lived. Prolonged stress produces another hormone, cortisol. An increased cortisol level in the blood causes memory to function less effectively. Attention and energy are saved for other more life-saving functions. A long-term elevated cortisol level can even cause permanent damage to certain brain areas.

The stress axis

The hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal gland together form the so-called stress axis. Under the influence of some threat or pressure, these organs start producing hormones, which ultimately lead to an increased amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. This cortisol, together with other released substances, causes the alarming feeling that characterizes stress. The increased level of cortisol also ensures that the hypothalamus and pituitary gland are inhibited in their activity. . If everything goes well, this self-regulating system ensures that a balance appropriate to the circumstances is continuously achieved. Some people are more sensitive to stress than others due to genetics. The circumstances in which they live determine whether that predisposition actually manifests itself. For adolescents this is a bit more complicated. In adolescents, stress is not only related to hereditary predispositions or circumstances, but also to the developmental phase they are in. You could say that adolescents are in a constant state of stress, especially in social situations. That in itself is a healthy condition for an adolescent. That's part of it. However, for young people who are already sensitive to stress or suffer from a disorder such as ADHD, the stress can sometimes become too much.