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Unhealthy Relationships on the Brain

Written by Ivy Nguyen

What Does an Unhealthy Relationship Feel like?

When it comes to unhealthy romantic relationships, tense family dynamics, or a toxic friendship, it can be particularly impactful on the developing teenage brain. Someone in your life that hurts you, disrespects you, or shuts you out can have lasting impacts on your brain and mindset.

For example, the intense emotions felt can lead to stress, releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones affect the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for helping you make decisions. This may cause you to withstand an unhealthy relationship, as your problem-solving skills are clouded. Unhealthy relationships can also lead to depression and anxiety, causing one to feel hopeless, unmotivated, and not willing to leave an abusive relationship. When teens are in a relationship that is causing them emotional pain, this can feel overwhelming and affect a teen's life outside of the relationship. For example, depression has been shown to cause a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, which is important for memory and learning.

If you are a teen who is struggling with mental health issues due to an unhealthy relationship, it is important to seek help, even if you may feel that it is “not that bad.” You never realize how unhealthy a relationship is until you leave. Once you can recognize the hurtful effects of a relationship, you may start by talking to the person about your feelings and the way they are treating you. If the other person continues to harm you, you should talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, or counselor. They can provide support and guidance on how to navigate the relationship and make healthy choices. Many teens struggle with unhealthy relationships, and there is support available to help you navigate these challenges. With the right support and self-care, you can build healthier and fulfilling relationships that will make you feel cared for and understood.

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