14 Nov Why is anxiety so common?
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue facing Americans. Over 18% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of anxiety disorder (read the Bonus YSS post to learn more about different anxiety disorders). But you are not quite an adult, so how does this affect you?
Well, of all those who do experience an anxiety disorder, nearly three-quarters of them (almost 75%!!) will have their first episode by age 21.5. That means while still in school!
In fact, 8% of teens have an anxiety disorder.
That means in an average classroom of 25 students, at least two are suffering from an anxiety disorder. But that number reflects just the students who have a full disorder, it doesn’t include the countless others who are suffering with lower levels of anxiety. Plus, very few teens report their anxiety. Instead they try to manage it with less than wise methods such drugs, self-harm, alcohol, cheating, over-eating etc.
What is going on? Why is anxiety such a big issue today? A few things, actually.
First, the education system is not helping. Sorry, but it’s true. You face a lot of pressure at school with little outlets or classes to help. You are told that tests, grades, Regents Examinations, etc., are the most important criteria for your future success. Then, when you are faced with all this stress, schools take away recess, art, PE, and extracurricular activities – all of which help you deal with stress. Then, they cut back on health and mental health programs that would teach you how to deal with stress.
Second, life events have an impact on you. You face pressure to be an outstanding basketball player, gymnast or guitar player. You compete at grades, sports, theatre, college entrance exams, friends, clothing and tech gear. Feeling not good enough is all around you. On top of that you may be dealing with a family situation – divorce, illness or a death. And of course, many families don’t have the opportunity to eat together anymore, which is one of the best things you can do for your personal well-being. (Unless the table conversation stresses you out!)
Third, well-meaning responses and advice by teachers and parents can backfire. Parents and teachers try to reassure you, comfort you, avoid situations so you feel better, or they over-protect you (can you say, helicopter?), but few offer solutions that get at the heart of the matter: your thoughts and feelings and your sense of self.
Finally, news feeds and social updates have their downsides. Situations in the news can sometimes make us feel nervous, unsettled, unsafe. Not hearing back from a friend or not receiving enough “likes” on a post can negatively effect our sense of self. We end up feeling “less-than” in some way.
Combine all these examples and we can see why anxiety is becoming so common. Even reading all of these things may have felt overwhelming! All of these factors are adding to anxiety but let’s delve a little deeper into the root cause of anxiety…
Can you relate to any of these causes of anxiety as causing you anxiety?