What Causes Anxiety in 21st Century Teenagers
Today’s young people face a world different to any we have seen before. They have more access to information, more means for comparison and greater access to unhealthy coping mechanisms than any generation that has come before. Surveys have shown that 14% of young people* have experienced mental disorders. So what are some of the causes of anxiety for our 21st century youth?
The inclusion of social media on our list will come as no surprise. While it provides us with a wonderful means of communication and connection with others, it also provides an unprecedented means of constant comparison to others. Those who feel insecure about their bodies are now bombarded with images of their apparently perfect looking peers. Those who feel lonely are constantly faced with images of others going out and having fun. Those who feel uncertain of their position among their peers have constant stress about how many of their peers will like or respond to their posts. And those who feel bullied or isolated at school now feel that same bullying or isolation at home through their social media platforms. Any potential fear or doubt now has a very public platform to drive it home.
Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
With greater access to information and to social media also comes greater knowledge and pressure to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol, drugs and self-harm. While providing teens with the temporary relief that they are craving, it ultimately only heightens their emotions and exacerbates the difficulties they are facing.
Pressure to Succeed
Many of today’s teenagers feel great internal pressure to be successful in life and many define this success by having a high profile or high earning jobs. This leads to constant pressure on their grades at school, getting jobs at an early age and various extracurricular activities. A lot of today’s youth feel that they will become defined by these successes and, if they don’t succeed, defined by these failures. These pressures build to the point of constant physical symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, headaches and stomach aches and can lead to regular panic attacks.
While these are just a few of the factors that have contributed to the high prevalence of anxiety in today’s youth – it makes it clear how necessary early intervention is to help our youth build resilience and coping skills. Building these skills early can help them to navigate these, and other, difficulties and ultimately lead more balanced and happy lives.