As a girl goes through puberty, she'll experience many exciting changes and many troubling moments. This time in life can easily be overwhelmed by depression, anxiety or "adult problems" like pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. Parents, guardians, friends, mentors and teachers all play important roles in providing a framework of support and education to girls who face the potential pitfalls of adolescence.
As a girl becomes more aware of her own personal appearance, her changing body and society's near-obsession with the female form, there will be a greater risk that she'll develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa (self-starvation) or bulimia (overeating and purging). During this turbulent phase of life, some girls may also have difficulty expressing complex feelings and emotions and may attempt to do so through self-cutting, burning or other forms of self-mutilation. If a parent suspects these issues are in play, he or she should contact a mental health professional or family doctor.
Girls begin pushing their own behavioral boundaries and taking increased personal risks. While some girls may push themselves academically or athletically, others may begin experimenting with tobacco, theft, sneaking out, sex, drugs and alcohol. This, too, is a normal part of growing up. Of course, there may be a problem if these behaviors continue beyond an experimental phase. Ideally, girls will have discussed these and other adult issues with their parents or another clear-headed adult before they're confronted with potential sources of life-changing trouble.
Girls may begin experimenting with masturbation and showing an increased interest in all things sex- and courtship-related. This is totally normal. Increased feelings of anxiety or guilt about these feelings may also exist.
Girls passing through adolescence become more aggressive and competitive with one another, and may attack other girls through slander, gossip and ridicule. Pressures from heavier school workloads, shifting social networks and physical strain just from all the growing make this an especially hard time for many girls.
To learn about the male side of puberty, PMS and acne, try the links to HowStuffWorks on the very next page.
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