Photo by 胡 卓亨 on Unsplash
Youth today are experiencing many external stressors that did not exist before. As a consequence, it appears as though youth are now experiencing more significant negative mental health consequences due to these stressors. As described in a New York Times article, one of these consequences is an increase in severe anxiety for youth. Already anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States, which is somewhat surprising given that other conditions, such as major depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), appear to receive more media attention.
One of the stressors facing youth these days is the increasing pressure to always be doing something that improves one's chances to get into a great university. Youth feel pressure to take advanced classes, study, and engage in extracurricular activities such as sports, organized groups, and volunteering. The problem is that there is never a point at which someone can feel 'caught up' and there is always more that could be done to improve one's chances of college acceptance.
Granted, similar pressures to always be doing something productive can also exist in adult life. However, youth have not always developed good coping skills to deal with this pressure and may be externally pressured by close others, such as parents, to maintain a rigorous schedule, even when youth feel they need a break.
Another significant source of stress for youth is the presence of social media and how unescapable it is. This is particularly a risk factor when a youth is being bullied online, as it is difficult to get away from the constant online taunts and threats. Even when there is no bullying, people on social media often post idealistic photos that do not always represent reality. When we see these 'perfect' photos, it often makes us feel worse about ourselves and our own lack of a perfect life. Of course, no one's life is as neat and contained as Instagram or Snapchat would have us think, but it is difficult to remember that sometimes when all we see is how happy and #blessed other people are.
The New York Times article does a nice job of taking the reader alongside some youth as they engage in exposure-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard treatment for anxiety problems. Now while the article acknowledges the differences between those from higher and lower socioeconomic levels, it does not delve too much into how treatment looks different for youth in poverty who deal with more objectively life or death situations. This being noted, the article helps provide a humanistic understanding of what youth with anxiety deal with. The article is an engaging read and hopefully helps create understanding and awareness of how anxiety and stressors can negatively impact youth.
Article link: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/magazine/why-are-more-american-teenagers-than-ever-suffering-from-severe-anxiety.html
The Clinically Relevant Insights Blog, part of ShawnWilsonPhD.com, shares news and research regarding psychology and wellness.