Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?

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This post answers: Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety? What is Anxiety? What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? What are the causes of anxiety? What are the main triggers of anxiety? What are some ways to manage anxiety? What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?

One of the most common mental health problems in American teenagers and in teenagers all across the world is anxiety. Almost 6.3 million teenagers are suffering from some kind of anxiety disorder. 

National Institute of Health’s reports indicates that one-third of all teenagers and adolescents today are likely to suffer from some form of anxiety. The number of teenagers in America suffering from anxiety is rising day by day.

Following are some of the possible reasons why more and more American teenagers are suffering from anxiety:

Social media:

Social media is a very helpful tool, but it can be very harmful if it is in the wrong hands or handled wrongly. Here is how social media is causing anxiety in American teenagers:

Social comparison:

Teenagers see all kinds of people on social media. They see people who are more beautiful than them. They see people who are richer and smarter than them. When they see these people, they consciously or unconsciously compare themselves with them.

Comparing themselves with other people make them feel like they are incompetent, ugly, and less intelligent. This almost wrecks their self-esteem. These teenagers believe that so many people are better than them. They realize that they will never be able to achieve their goals. This makes them excessively worried about their future.

Questions like “what would become of me?” constantly worry them. This affects not only their mental health but also their physical health. 

They waste too much of their time on social media and give negligible attention to their health. This further elevates their anxiety levels.

Teenagers do not realize that people do not put their real selves on social media. They look through photos and post only ones that are the best. Also, before posting them on social media, they edit them extensively and make them look beautiful.

These teenagers think that other people are simply better and more beautiful than them, while they don’t realize that what’s on their social media profiles is not what they are like in real life.

 A happy face on social media does not mean a happy face in real life. The inability to think along these lines is what makes teenagers more vulnerable to anxiety.

Too much negativity

Social media platforms are dominated by negative content. People are looking for a view, and the more negative a post is, the more reach and views it gets. 

Teenagers are constantly exposed to their negative environment. This makes them pessimistic about the future of the world as well as their own future.  

Uncertainty about the future is one of the hallmarks of anxiety disorders. Social media makes teenagers give up on the future because they are shown a scary picture of the future. This makes them extremely worried and anxious.

Negligible monitoring

No one rarely monitors what teenagers see or post on social media. That’s why they get exposed to harmful information, which either makes them anxious or further makes their anxiety more severe.

Escape route

Teenagers are using social media as an escape route. They use it as an escape route from the boredom of their schools and home. This behavior is causally rooted in the lack of comfort and attention they receive at home and school. Social media has a euphoric effect on them which is why they get addicted to it and which is why it causes anxiety in them.

High Expectations:

Parents and teachers are making very high expectations of teenagers. They demand them to be exceptional and discourage them if they are not. They feel pressure from society as well. They look at other people and perceive them as their competitors in every regard. The word “success” scares them. They not only feel but actually believe that they will never be able to fulfill the expectations of their parents and society, which is what makes them anxious.

A threatening and uncertain world

A lot of terrible stuff is going on in the world, ranging from wars and terrorist attacks to political corruption. Teenagers know about this through TV and social media. Therefore, the picture they have of the future in their minds is of a scary, uncertain, and threatening world. They feel helpless. They are worried about what would happen to them, but they are pessimistic about it.

What is Anxiety?

Problems and resulting stress are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called  Anxiety. 

Every human has their unique ways of dealing with these difficult situations and the following emotions, some try to adapt to the circumstances and find the best and most comfortable solution while others try to find an escape route for the same, in both cases the main aim is usually to get over the uncomfortable emotions of anxiety. 

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? 

Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:

 

  • Sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Complaints of chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Increased heart rate

These symptoms vary in severity from person to person. However, it is noted that many people experience anxiety attacks that are not significantly displayed.

What are the causes of anxiety?

Anxiety often results from accumulated stress or overwhelming feelings. Some common causes of anxiety include.

  • Increased and challenging situations and demands in day-to-day life.
  • Major changes in family dynamics such as marriage, divorce, death of a loved one.
  • Strain interpersonal relationships
  • Intrapersonal conflicts
  • Ineffective coping mechanisms
  • Comorbid conditions both physical and mental
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Genetic factors
  • Changes in the brain region
  • Overdose of caffeine
  • Prolonged use of medications
  • Significant traumatic experiences in the past or recent times
  • Comorbid mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder or any other phobias.

What are the main triggers of anxiety?

Even though anxiety is seen among many individuals, certain triggers make some people more vulnerable to anxiety than others. Some contributing triggers of anxiety are:

Health diagnosis

An individual is more vulnerable to experiencing anxiety in the presence of chronic or serious health diagnoses such as cancer or diabetes.

Triggers associated with health diagnosis tend to have a strong impact on an individual because of the strong negative thoughts and emotions that are associated with it.

Medications

It is believed that many over-the-counter medications may contribute to the symptoms of anxiety in some individuals. This is certainly because of the ingredients in this medication that makes an individual feel uneasy.

Use of caffeine

Even though it is said that the use of caffeine helps to activate an individual’s system, studies show that over usage of caffeine might lead to adverse effects such as anxiety or even depression.

Apart from the overuse withdrawal from caffeine may also lead to anxiety. hence it is suggested that individuals take conscious amounts of caffeine per day.

Skipping meals

Apart from environmental factors ones eating habits might also contribute to an individual’s anxiety directly or indirectly. When an individual fails to maintain their food timings it might lead to fluctuations in their blood sugar levels.

These fluctuations might make an individual feel jittery which in turn triggers anxiety.

Hence maintaining a proper schedule and diet is important for various reasons not just for energy but also for maintaining one’s mood.

Negative thinking

An individual’s behavior and emotions are certainly controlled by one’s thoughts. When an individual is upset and dwells on negative thoughts it further leads to discomforting emotions and detrimental thoughts causing a vicious cycle.

These negative thoughts are then projected to various areas of an individual’s life creating an overall sense of lack of control over oneself and the environment which triggers anxiety.

Financial concerns

Many individuals experience anxiety due to their financial standing. Learning to manage financial triggers requires seeking professional help such as from a financial advisor.

Stress

Daily stressors as simple as traffic jams to major ones such as strained relationships might contribute to one’s intensity and frequency of anxiety and anxiety attacks.

However long term or chronic stress leads to long term anxiety and a build-up of negative taught processes and emotions that impact an individual’s mental health

 

Conflict

individuals might also experience anxiety as a result of interpersonal or intrapersonal conflicts.

The inability to resolve these conflicts might lead to the buildup of negative thoughts, emotions that overwhelm an individual and trigger anxiety.

Personal triggers

Personal triggers can be as minor as a smell, place, or even a song that reminds an individual of negative and discomforting experiences. Personal triggers can remind an individual of an unconscious or conscious dramatic event in an individual’s life that triggers their anxiety.

If you can identify and understand your triggers, you can work to avoid them and learn to cope with them. You can learn specific coping strategies to handle the triggers when they happen.

What are some ways to manage anxiety?

Identify and acknowledge the triggers

The most significant strategy that can be used to control one’s anxiety is by identifying and acknowledging those triggers.

Being able to recognize what makes an individual anxious makes them better equipped to take action.

Relaxation techniques

 

Even though anxiety can be bought under an individual’s control it cannot be predicted. In such situations, it is necessary that an individual actively carries out relaxation techniques.

These might include meditation, yoga, and deep breathing which helps to reduce the intensity of anxiety within a short period.

Socialization

 

A key to reducing the frequency and intensity of anxiety attacks could be spending time with close family and friends.

The kind of emotional and practical support provided by these social and personal groups help the person feel connected and aid in distracting one’s mind from negative and recurring thoughts that lead to anxiety.

Apart from friends and families, individuals can also consider speaking to groups of people that are experiencing similar problems.

Set realistic goals

When an individual is feeling overwhelmed, setting goals and targets keeping in mind priorities can help resolve overwhelming feelings of fear or panic.

Setting goals provides structure and routine to an individual’s life reducing space for uncertainty which can be a major trigger for anxiety in many cases.

Take up new challenges

Apart from doing activities that an individual is usually fond of and has expertise in, trying new and challenging activities that put an individual outside their comfort zone in a healthy manner may help reduce the stress and anger temporarily.

Signing up for new activities also provides a path to meeting people with similar stories and concerns.

Lifestyle changes

An individual’s lifestyle plays a major role in their experience of anxiety. An unhealthy and busy lifestyle usually leads to unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of adequate sleep.

A combination of a well-set diet, exercise, and sleep can help to regulate an individual’s mood and equip them with a favorable coping mechanism.

These coping mechanisms in turn help to get control over once anxiety concerns in a more adaptable manner.

lack of proper diet, sleep, and exercise can make an individual sluggish, dependent, moody and vulnerable to anxiety attacks.

Making journal entries

Last but not least having a journal to write down how a person is feeling and thinking when they are anxious helps them to reflect upon their thoughts and feelings.

Putting down one’s thoughts and feelings onto a paper helps to provide a sense of temporary relief.

In the case of journal entry, a person does not even have to fear being judged by another person regarding their thoughts and feelings.

What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioural therapy

Cognitive-behavioural therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session, individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy

 

It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.

Medication

Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief. 

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time

Conclusion

Anxiety is very common in today’s American teenagers. This anxiety stems from a negative picture of the world, the future, and themselves. 

Social media is one of the largest generators of anxiety.  Parental neglect and unrealistic expectations are also among the major reasons.

Frequently asked questions: Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from severe anxiety?

Is anxiety in teenagers directly related to suicidal ideation?

The more severe the anxiety is, the more likely a teenager is to go towards suicidal ideation.

Is anxiety today only high among teenagers?

No, anxiety is higher than ever in people of almost any age.

Which country has the highest rates of anxiety?

The United States is on top of the list of the countries with the highest rates of anxiety in the world.

Citation:

https://time.com/4547322/american-teens-anxious-depressed-overwhelmed/
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Anxiety-Disorders.aspx

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