Anxiety is nothing new. Freud wrote a book on it and Hippocrates described the symptoms of anxiety as a “thorn” in the viscera. The problem is that anxiety in the younger generation is reaching epidemic proportions. Millions of young people are struggling to cope with day-to-day anxiety and depression. A 2013 study found that more than half of university students reported they had experienced overwhelming anxiety in the previous 12 months. Most people know at least one young person who is suffering from an anxiety disorder. So why is Generation Y so anxious?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
There are different types of anxiety, but the most common one is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD has no obvious cause. The symptoms come out of nowhere and before long, the fear of anxiety becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The sufferer is continually anxious, worried, and stressed. They feel on edge and unable to cope with their studies or job. Even routine things like meeting friends for a drink or attending a lecture can set them off.
For many young people, anxiety creeps up on them once they reach their late teens. The stress of exams, applying for college, and making their way in an adult world all combine to cause crippling anxiety. And yet, on the face of it, today’s younger generation have never had it so good. They are surrounded by material possessions, they can do anything they want, and the world is their oyster. However, some experts believe that having so much freedom of choice is part of the problem.
Too Much Choice
Having too much choice is not always a good thing. Many teenagers don’t have a clue what they want to study at college, or even if college is the right path for them. They feel under immense pressure to make the right decisions because failure is not an option. We live in a connected world. Everything we do is broadcast online to the world, so if we screw up, we do so in a very public fashion.
This piles a huge amount of pressure on young people and many of them are struggling to find their way in the world. They feel out of control with nowhere to hide. The majority of young people spend up to 10 hours a day on social media, catching up with friends and following their favorite celebrities.
It’s a Perfect World
It is not difficult to see why so many teens lose confidence when they are surrounded by images of physical perfection and the perfect lifestyle. Social media encourages us to compare everything we have and do. We want the perfect hair, body, relationship, and career, and when we can’t have them, we feel like failures. Social media icons like Zoella are very popular with Generation Y. Their lives appear to be perfection personified, yet they experience anxiety too.
It seems that even the rich and famous are not immune to the modern scourge of anxiety. At least anxiety is no longer stigmatized. Universities offer counseling services and the internet makes it easy for sufferers to talk about their problems and connect with other young people who feel the same way.
If your teenager is suffering from anxiety, there is help available, so speak to your doctor.