The number of teens that are experiencing high levels of anxiety have been on the rise since 2007. By 2012, the numbers for adolescents diagnosed with anxiety disorders went up by 20%. According to the National Institute of Health, a predicted 1 in every 3 adolescents from the ages of 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder. These are severely high stats and with the rise of suicide in teenagers practically doubling over the past decade, it is most certainly a problem. So what is causing our teenagers such high anxiety levels? There are a few factors we know for certain that play into severe anxiety. Factors such as genetics, personality, life experiences and brain chemistry, are all things that have to be considered when working with a teen who deals with anxiety. After these have been thoroughly weighed, other factors can be considered as each teen is an individual and will bring individual factors to the table. Here are some of those factors that can be considered.
Pressure To Succeed
We can all relate to this one! Feeling the pressures mount as we look towards what we need to accomplish whether it be in our day to day or the days to come. There’s a lot to get done in a day, let alone a week or month and this isn’t any different for our teens. We tend to think of teens as having an ‘easy’ life. They’re only in high school right? Most of them haven’t stepped into the work field or have a family to juggle yet, but what if their personal responsibilities are just as tasking.
In their personal world, they still have the looming day to day responsibilities. Keeping up with classes and the demands that will ensure good grades and possibly even a college scholarship. Outside extracurricular activities that take hours of their day in practices, travel and games before they even get home to eat a meal or better yet, do more work! The pressure to academically succeed in order to ensure a successful future can start as early as middle school. Outside school activities alone are often something that parents sign up for before the actual adolescent. Career days and learning what it will take to succeed in the job one aspires to attain are all a part of the early years of adolescence and don’t forget the State tests that start as early as elementary; setting our kids up to believe that they have to have high scores if they want to go anywhere worthy in their future.
It’s a barrage of communication and demands that starts in their formative years that slowly builds upon itself so that by the time our kids are teens, they have the notion that their very future will be built on whether or not they are successful in their present years. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t be communicating the value of hard work but if we’re honest, many of us adults were not successful during our school years. We struggled obtaining or maintaining good grades and not everyone went to college the second they graduated. This season of life is a season of transition. Its a season of figuring out who you are as you approach the big, wide world around you and more often than not our teens haven’t a clue as to what they want to be when they grow up. If we wanted to do them a favor, we would admit that some of us are still trying to figure that out ourselves. Carrying the unspoken pressure to succeed is something many teens can relate with.
The Onslaught Of Social Media
There’s no denying that we live in the world of social media. Everyday is a platform to share with the world our personal lives, thoughts and ideals and not only are we sharing but we are bombarded with the same shares we pump out to others. A new study from IDC Research found that 80% of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up each morning. That’s a large percentage since there are 3.5 billion smartphone users in the world. That’s 2.8 billion people! No wonder we face an onslaught of social media that affects how we view the world and most importantly, how we view ourselves.
Sixty-eight percent of teenagers reported that they keep their mobile devices within reach at night which means that not only are they part of the 2.8 billion that wake up to their phone and all the apps that go with it, but they are sleeping with them as well. Imagine how much of their day is lived through their phone. According to a survey by Common Sense Media, 72% of teens use Instagram every day, 96% watch Youtube videos and 60% use Snapchat. CNN reported that teens spend 5-7 hours of their day engaging with social media platforms and that doesn’t include screen time that they use for school work.
So how does this lead to higher levels of anxiety? Well, if 5-7 hours of the day is spent trolling the vast number of social media platforms, you can imagine that’s where it starts. Teens are no longer having face to face communication. Even the days of teens coming home and spending hours on end talking over the phone rarely exists. These days teens are scrolling or watching countless pictures, videos, tik toks and numerous others only to create an idea in their mind of what everyone else’s life looks like and then compare themselves. The engagements that are happening have less to do with getting to know one another and are more about knowing everyone when really no one knows anyone. If something becomes a trend then everyone feels the pressure to follow suit and that includes girls taking pictures of themselves like they’re getting ready for the runway, or worse, half naked to fully nude pictures. Certain social media platforms have even created ways to hide what teens are sharing and what they are receiving.
All of this and then there’s still the plethora of communication that our teens are facing via these platforms. Communications that come in the form of ‘likes’ or no ‘likes’, bullying commentary or peer pressures to perform, look or act a certain way. Our teens are subjected to all of these and more and we wonder why they may be experiencing levels of anxieties that surprise us. We’ve gone from the occasional people pleaser to being pressured to please others on all fronts in order to feel like we belong in society. If our teens are consumed with the onslaught of social media, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to have a negative effect on them.
Much of what affects our teens will always be there. It’s how we decide to allow those things into our teens lives and how we establish relational communication skills with them that can help them in navigating through these pressures. Pressures will always be there. Teaching our kids how to deal with life’s pressures is a possible key in reducing the amount of anxiety our teens are facing.