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Anxiety in Teenagers

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As a teenager in 2016, anxiety is a feeling I have become far too accustomed to, which is quite common among young people today. This is not to say that anxiety has never been an issue in previous generations, but there is undoubtedly a noticeable rise in teenagers and young adults with anxiety in today’s society. Perhaps it is my strong interest in the way the human mind works or the fact that I am a teenager directly interacting with others of my own age, but I believe that a person of any age or generation should be informed of the anxiety young people are feeling today.

According to Robert Leahy, psychologist at Weill Cornell Medical College, the average high school student today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950’s. Along with that, 1 in 4 parents say that their teenage child is extremely stressed out by massive amounts of school work that have their teen doing up to 4 hours of homework every day. Teens are at a disturbingly high peak of anxiety, and with 18% of the U.S. population suffering from some type of anxiety disorder, it is likely that number will increase in the next few years.

To get a broader scope on the issue, I asked a couple of my classmates to answer some questions about the anxiety they feel and found that there were many similar answers, answers that should certainly get the world thinking more seriously about the way young adults and teenagers are brought up in today’s society.

To start this off, I asked some current and former classmates about the types of environments and situations they find the most anxiety-provoking. After asking this broad question, I asked five more specific questions for each of the classmates to answer. Below are the questions with the answers from each of the classmates:

 

What types of situations/environments make you feel the most anxiety?

Courtney: School and crowded environments make her feel the most anxious.

Kirstyn: Situations or environments with people she does not know well make her anxious. She feels more comfortable when she is with friends, though says that school is where she feels the most anxious despite having friends around.

Mya: Public speaking, such as presenting in front of the class makes her feel the most anxiety.

Aliana: Being in a new environment makes her most anxious, but also being in any type of situation where she has no control also makes her anxious.

Ernest: Most of my anxiety comes when I am getting ready to expose myself to something that I was not previously comfortable with. In different words I tend to feel anxious when I get out of my comfort zone or “bubble” to try something new. I also tend to feel anxious when I am getting ready to take a big test or tests in school; especially around finals day.

In what ways does school contribute to anxiety? (Socially, academically, etc.)

Courtney: The pressure from teachers and some of the treatment the teachers give students give her extreme anxiety. She says that some of the comments made by the teachers make her feel that she never does anything right, sometimes even make her feel worthless.

Kirstyn: The people at school make her anxious, both students and teachers. The other students cause anxiety because many are judgmental and form their own small groups, which can make others feel self-conscious.

Mya: Having to do presentations in front of the class makes her feel very anxious, and since schools do this a lot, it contributes to a lot of anxiety.

Aliana: The standards held up at school give her anxiety because she feels that there are high social and academic expectations students are expected to follow.

Ernest: School contributes to my anxiety because I tend to stress out and worry about getting all of my work completed with my best effort. I also tend to feel more anxious when I am in school than on break because I can live a worry free life for that one month. School in many ways contributes to me overthinking situations as well and then feeling anxious about them afterwards.

What are some changes you believe schools could make to prevent the students from feeling so anxious?

Courtney: She believes that making the environment more calming, such as by having the walls painted a warm color like orange or yellow would help students feel less anxious because lots of schools use harsh colors like beige or white. 

Kirstyn: Schools should create different types of learning lessons that don’t force the students to collaborate with others or speak in front of a group of people because not everyone is comfortable with that. 

Mya: Getting rid of strict dress codes would help because it is especially stressful and worrying for those who go to a school with a strict dress code.

Aliana: Schools should not have a certain standard that they hold students to because that makes them feel pressured to fit that standard.

Ernest: I believe that schools could encourage students in different ways that would encourage them to seek help and assistance when they need it. This could mean simply sending out emails or posting posters throughout the school that simply encourage students to seek help whenever they are feeling overwhelmed. Another idea that I have may seem a little cliche but maybe teachers could try to explain their concepts and contend in class in different ways that allow all of the students to understand rather than in one way.

In what ways do you see anxiety being misunderstood by others? (Parents, family, friends, teachers, etc.)

Courtney: Many older adults, such as teachers and parents, don’t seem to believe that anxiety exists and instead think that teenagers who say they feel that way are just seeking attention. They don’t seem to understand the chemical imbalances in the brain that can cause anxiety or other mental disorders, and being uninformed about that leads to people believing it is not real.

Kirstyn: Parents misunderstand anxiety because they are not facing the same situations teenagers are today. They often think teenagers are just avoiding certain situations that cause anxiety because they are anti-social or lazy, which is definitely not the case. Teachers also misunderstand it because they don’t understand the anxiety their students are actually feeling and don’t seem to remember that the students are real people with feelings too. They just see them as students in the classroom and don’t understand that there are personal reasons they might not be getting good grades.

Mya: Teachers don’t understand that some students are very afraid of public speaking or speaking up in a group and see it as lack of engagement or laziness.
Aliana: Adults often overlook anxiety in teenagers because they see it as a part of growing up, not as an actual issue that needs addressed.

Ernest: I think that the greatest misconception of anxiety that almost everybody has is simply telling the person who has anxiety to not worry about it. I know that I almost always get this same response from everybody who tells me to not worry about my finals and that I’ll do great. Now this is not saying that they were not right but I was still feeling anxious about the tests until I saw my scores go into the gradebook. I also think that others do not understand that anxiety is not an easy feeling to shake off; if that makes sense. In other words it is not easy to feel anxious one second and be worry free the next.

What do you believe are the biggest causes of anxiety for people today, especially in teenagers?

Courtney: School and work are huge contributors to anxiety in teenagers today because there is a lot of pressure to have a job, do well in school, and have a strong social life. Preparing for college also causes high anxiety in teenagers because the cost is so high and the requirements to get into so many schools are extremely competitive.

Kirstyn: It is difficult for teenagers to be themselves today because adults, especially parents, often force or pressure their children into social situations they do not want to be in. Parents try to get their children involved in activities and make them talk a lot to others they may not know well, which does not have the beneficial outcome parents tend to think it has. It can lead to a lot of anxiety to be put under that kind of pressure of trying to please parents and behave under their expectations.

Mya: Being judged by other people leads to a lot of anxiety in teenagers, as well as the pressure teenagers are put under to speak out loud in groups at school or publicly speak in general.

Aliana: The standards that teenagers are expected to meet cause high anxiety, especially coming from parents. There is a lot of pressure teenagers put on themselves because of parents having high expectations for them, and that leads to anxiety.

Ernest: I think the biggest causes of anxiety for teenagers are caused by family issues, school work, their one’s social life. For myself I know that school work causes my anxiety and I'm pretty sure that I can vouch for many of my friends too when it comes to that. I also have some friends I try to help out by letting them talk to me about their issues which have also tended to revolve around their social life and their family.

What are some techniques or methods you use to relax when feeling anxious? Do you think these methods would be beneficial for others?

Courtney: Trying different deep-breathing patterns to calm yourself down is helpful, especially in crowded places where it is difficult to try other methods.

Kirstyn: Getting a drink can help with anxiety because she gets very dehydrated when she feels that way, as well as getting outside to get fresh air, which she believes is very beneficial to others too. But if she does not have the option to leave the room, she tries deep-breathing patterns to relax.

Mya: When she is feeling anxious about something specific, she tries to prepare herself for that event, such as by practicing a presentation in front of a small group of people before actually doing it in front of the whole class. Keeping your mind busy and thinking of a happy place is also something she suggests, as well as taking deep breaths.

Aliana: Keeping your mind busy by doing something you enjoy can help, so she writes and watches videos when she is feeling anxious.

Ernest: I think the biggest causes of anxiety for teenagers are caused by family issues, school work, their one’s social life. For myself I know that school work causes my anxiety and I'm pretty sure that I can vouch for many of my friends too when it comes to that. I also have some friends I try to help out by letting them talk to me about their issues which have also tended to revolve around their social life and their family.

As shown through these responses, anxiety is certainly an issue among teenagers, especially in school. There are various changes that could be made in schools to make the environment less anxiety provoking, such as by making the rooms a calmer color as our participate Courtney suggested. From what my classmates said, it also seems that teachers should try harder to connect with their students on a personal level so that they can understand why their students are anxious. From my own experience, I have found that being able to personally connect with the teachers is really helpful when you are feeling stressed or anxious because I have also struggled with public speaking and needed reassurance. Being able to talk with teachers about your anxiety really helps you find ways to deal with it because they will be able to give you tips and advice. I think that if adults in general tried to talk with teenagers about what they are feeling anxious about, there would be a much stronger understanding of anxiety in teenagers today. As my classmates mentioned, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on teenagers at school, and perhaps because adults are not the ones actually experiencing it, they are not fully aware of it.

Overall, anxiety has unfortunately become a common feeling among teenagers today as shown through my classmates, school being an especially large contributor. From my own personal view on the issue of anxiety in teenagers and from seeing what my classmates had to say, I believe that there are definitely some changes schools could make to help prevent or decrease the anxiety students are feeling.




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Brittany1996 said...
today at 11:33 pm
It was a good interview article. The first paragraph for me could have been wondered a little bit better sense you state an opinion and then the second paragraph the psychologist goes and completely blows your opinion out of the water. It would of been cool to see if you could have found a physiologist that agrees with your statement in the first paragraph.
 
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