Why puberty is the threshold to adulthood

Growing up is a Herculean task for the body, mind and spirit. In this development phase, in which the neural networks in the brain are severely restructured, many mental illnesses begin. On the other hand, some problem behaviors are part of the "normal madness" of puberty. "It is reassuring to know that the vast majority of young people manage this time without any problems," says Professor Dr. Franz Resch, Medical Director University Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Heidelberg. “Nevertheless, you have to react sensitively to alarm signals from adolescents and young adults and offer appropriate help.” On Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016, as part of the lecture series “Medicine in the evening”, he will give an insight into what is in the mind of young people going on. How does the psyche develop parallel to the brain? What problems can arise and what help is important then? The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the lecture hall of the Kopfklinik, Im Neuenheimer Feld 400. University Clinic and Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung cordially invite all interested parties.

In the last few years, brain research - also thanks to the most modern imaging methods such as magnetic resonance tomography - has brought to light a number of new things about the processes in the pubescent brain. So up to now, fluctuations in mood and risk behavior were thought to be a side effect of the hormonal surge that began at this age. In fact, however, remodeling processes that have progressed to different degrees in the individual functional areas of the brain are responsible: “In many teenagers, the emotional centers in the brain are already very mature, while the control bodies are not yet. So the whole range of feelings is already emerging in the brain, but the youngsters cannot yet deal with them, ”says Resch. "The same goes for impulse control, so young people tend to be risky."

At 18 years of age it is far from being an adult

In addition, this condition can last much longer than previously thought: Today we know that brain development is only complete at around 25 years of age. In general, the transition to adulthood, scientifically referred to as adolescence, takes longer today than it did with our grandparents: training paths and entry into professional life are more complex, financial dependencies remain longer, relationship structures are less binding and social role models are blurred. It can be a challenge to develop your own identity and self-worth, to take responsibility and to build close bonds. "But how well you succeed in doing this is decisive for later life satisfaction," says the child and youth psychiatrist. "For example, if you always have the feeling that you are not good enough, you can develop psychological problems at some point."

So it is not surprising that during puberty and adolescence the risk of developing a mental disorder is higher than ever. Alarm signals can be self-harm, violence against others as well as cyber-bullying, substance abuse or even escaping into virtual worlds. “Most adolescents have different degrees of risk behavior, but parents should pay attention if adolescents withdraw completely and show no sympathy. Then it is important to keep in touch and seek advice, ”recommends Resch.

The current findings on adolescence and brain maturation are also of particular relevance for the treatment of adolescents and young adults with mental health problems: At their 18th birthday, patients exceed the classic line of responsibility between child and adolescent psychiatry and adult psychiatry, and then there is a change of therapist at. "That is development-psychologically untenable. Young people with mental disorders can only be optimally treated if the expertise of both disciplines is incorporated into a joint treatment concept," explains Resch. The Heidelberg University Clinic has therefore had the "Early Treatment Center for Young People in Crisis" since 2003, a ward and day clinic that is jointly cared for by child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychiatrists for adults reachable to patients between the ages of 13 and 28 years.

Impressions of the evening