Anxiety is on the rise in the U.S. and it’s not only adults who are dealing with this devastating mental health issue. More teenagers than ever are suffering from symptoms of anxiety in a way that significantly interferes with their life. Therapists agree that it is a widespread issue and assert that anxiety is the most common reason that adolescents seek psychological help.
Over the last decade, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common mental health issue among young people. The American College Health Association discovered a significant increase from 50 percent to 62 percent of undergraduates reporting overwhelming anxiety. In the past thirty years the number of incoming college freshman feeling overwhelmed by their responsibilities increased from 18 percent to 41 percent.
In addition to these startling statistics, the number of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers doubled over the last ten years. What is causing so many young people to struggle with anxiety? For the people involved in treating them and caring for these kids, the answer is not easy to explain.
Part of the reason for the dramatic rise in anxiety can be due to the increase in awareness about symptoms and diagnosis of the problem. More young people may be aware that they are dealing with this problem and are seeking help for their anxiety. But this cannot account fully for the surge of anxious teens that has taken place in recent years.
Modern Life and Pressure
One possible explanation for the rise in anxiety among teens can be due to changes in our culture and the ways that parents raise children in the modern world. Teens are used to escaping from any kind of loneliness or boredom through the help of television, video games and electronic devices. This disconnection from their emotions can actually cause anxiety to increase because they will have trouble handling any uncomfortable feelings.
Children that spend too much time online, using their smartphones or hanging out on social media have less of an opportunity to develop crucial coping skills that can help minimize their feelings of anxiety. Some therapists theorize that electronic devices make it harder for children to develop mental strength and awareness that would help them deal with everyday challenges.
Another concern regarding teenage anxiety is that adolescents are given too much pressure to succeed and learn academically but they aren’t taught valuable emotional skills that they need to handle their many responsibilities. Teenagers often feel emotionally unprepared for college by the time they graduate high school and struggle with stress and time management. They may feel immense pressure to succeed in school and can’t live up to the high standards that they feel they must achieve.
Parenting Tactics, Peer Pressure and Anxiety
Another theory as to why teens may be dealing with more anxiety than they did in the past is that parenting styles have changed over time. Parents now may be more protective of their children and are preventing kids from experiencing uncomfortable challenges that can make them more prepared for the trials they will have later in life. Kids may believe that they are too fragile to handle the realities of life because they were overprotected by their parents while they were growing up.
Teens are also dealing with a lot of pressure to measure up to their peers and the lives that they present on social media. Teenagers are now comparing themselves to others and to the perfect versions of their friends that they believe they are seeing online. Kids sometimes obsessively follow one another online, worrying about whether they measure up to their peers which can generate a lot of distress.
Teenagers become hooked on social media and may not even realize how much it is affecting their mood. They feel more self-conscious, worry about being judged and yet spend hours on their phone in spite of feeling badly about themselves. The anxiety that teenagers experience due to their behaviors online can be considerable.
Treating Teen Anxiety
More kids are aware that their anxiety is interfering with their school work and causing problems for them in their personal life. Teens that reach out for help need to receive professional treatment from a qualified therapist. A combination of therapy and medication may be helpful in alleviating most of their anxiety.
In individual therapy sessions, teens can start to learn some of the coping skills that they may have failed to learn when they were growing up. They can develop strategies to effectively deal with their anxiety and prevent it from building into a more severe problem. Teens can benefit from the guidance of a mental health professional that can help them build up self-esteem and emotional stability.
If a teenager in your life is struggling with anxiety, find treatment from a therapist as soon as possible.