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Symptoms of Teen Depression >

Teen Anger & Aggression -- Neurotransmitter Deficiency
by Billie J. Sahley, Ph.D.

What makes some teenagers display angry and aggressive behavior, while others are calm and in control?  A growing number of scientists are looking at the same area of the brain that is involved in A.D.D. and A.D.H.D., the delicate limbic system. Research demonstrates alterations of function in the limbic system causes changes in emotional responses as rage, fear, reasoning, and impulse control. The limbic system located deep in the brain's interior is associated with the roots of anxiety, panic, and fear.  The limbic system stays in overdrive due to an excessive production of sex hormones. The teen years are a time of continuous changes in brain chemistry.

According to Frank Goodwin, a psychiatry professor at George Washington University, the environment activates a genetic vulnerability. Too much stress and too little support can lead to increased depression. However, the majority of evidence points to disturbed brain function and the overproduction of certain chemical and under production of others.

Studies done at the University of Illinois Medical School found children and teens with aggressive and disruptive behavior all had low levels of the major inhibitory neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin levels are the most accurate predictors of how teens and children will react to punishment. Serotonin transmits electrical impulses in the brain from one neuron to another. Smooth transmission of impulses is interrupted when serotonin levels are low. When this occurs the brain receives mixed signals. According to Ronald Kotulak, author of Inside the Brain, scientists now believe that along with the nation's increase in violence, low serotonin may be responsible for a steady increase in depression, especially among children. 

During adolescence, the teen brain undergoes a multitude of changes, the neural pathways, the connections between neurons affecting emotional skills; physical ability and mental cognition are not yet developed. The teen brain has a tremendous capacity for emotional growth. Girls usually develop much faster than boys.  If a child uses drugs, emotional growth is delayed, and the ability to sort out, reason, and resolve is never fully developed. Kids turn to drugs as a cosmetic quick fix when parents are not 'there" for emotional support during the teen years.

Amino acid blood tests done on one hundred teens and children at the Pain & Stress Center all reflected a major deficiency of neurotransmitters. When the deficiencies were corrected with amino acid supplementation, behavior problems ranging from aggression, anger, A.D.D., A.D.H.D., behavioral disorders, poor concentration, and depression, all diminished remarkably. Inborn metabolic errors, chronic stress/anxiety as well as an over consumption of junk food, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol cause neurotransmitter deficiencies.  Chronic stress burnout can also kill vital brain cells. 

Scientists report children can inherit a tendency toward anger and aggression through aggressive genes. This predisposes a teen to anger, violence, and depression; and it is very likely that the child could pass the gene on to his children. Children are the genetic and environmental products of their parents. The cause of negative behavior can be a direct result of not only genes, but also brain chemistry. The delicate balance between the limbic system, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex is the key to where critical judgments are formed. In the case of most teens the limbic system is in overdrive, the amygdala is a storehouse of unresolved anxiety and the prefrontal cortex is sleepwalking. The genes that direct your child's behavior are chemicals that direct a combination of more chemicals. The brain has its own pharmacy, the only drugs you will ever need are already there. 

Children who have an alcoholic parent can inherit the alcoholic gene, and demonstrate the same amino acid deficiencies that cause the craving for alcohol. GABA and glutamine, two major neurotransmitters shut off the craving switch in the brain.  When the brain chemistry is in balance, impulsive and aggressive behavior patterns do not dominate brain function. 

Serotonin is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter, a chemical that transmits electrical impulses in the brain from one neuron to another. If there is a defect in the serotonin processing in the brain, impulsive or violent behavior results. Serotonin enables impulses in the brain to harmonize. Serotonin-producing cells send out over five hundred thousand connections to cells in every part of the brain. Serotonin is the only neurotransmitter that is able to do that. The prefrontal cortex is an organizational part of the brain. If there is an injury in that area one of the outcomes is impulsive, uncontrollable, and violent behavior. For teens, the best serotonin source we use 5-HTP or 5-hydroxtryptophan. The formula, Teen Link, is specially formulated for the overactive teen's brain. Teen Link contains a balance of 5-HTP, GABA, Glutamine, Tyrosine, Taurine, and B6.

There is no simple solution to teen anger and violence. In addition to amino acids, parents should consider counseling sessions with a behavior therapist/cognitive therapist. Behavior therapists are trained in talk therapy. Behavior therapists help troubled teens sort out their feelings so they feel better about themselves, and most importantly, resolve anxiety. The longer negative feelings stay buried, the more powerful they become. This brain activity not only uses all available neurotransmitters, it sets up a chain reaction that causes them to withdraw and allow their problems to go unresolved. 

Parents who put their children on Prozac, Zoloft, Serzone, or any other prescription drug to elevate the serotonin level are only using available neurotransmitters. Drugs do not create new needed neurotransmitters. Drugs only mask symptoms and repress anger that should be resolved. There are neurotransmitter formulas available that can be given to children and teens safely without the possibility of addiction or long-term side effects. 

The key is to correct neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain and control aggression by adjusting brain levels of serotonin. Available serotonin declines in situations when chronic stress/anxiety is in control of a person's life. Impulsive and angry behaviors become a way of life setting the stage for possible violent behavior. The teen's brain never slows down, and must be provided with proper nourishment in the form of balanced neurotransmitters on a daily basis. A complete neurotransmitter formula should contain the amino acids, glutamine, GABA. L-taurine, phenylalanine, glycine, L-arginine, L-methionine, L-valine, L-lysine, L-leucine, L-alanine, L-isoleucine, L-histadine, plus B6.

An amino acid blood test can be done to establish exact amounts of amino acid deficiencies. The blood that flows through the brain is a virtual map to its activities. 

Need help choosing
a nutritional program?

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The Pain and Stress Center can advise you.

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or call 1-800-669-2256.

anger + depression
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