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Why Do Teenagers Suffer from Severe Anxiety?

by: Stefan Simonovic

Anxiety - under normal circumstances this is a natural body mechanism that warns us that we’re in danger. Still, if anxiety attacks happen out of the blue then we can talk about an anxiety disorder. An interesting fact about the anxiety disorder, though, is that it can exist separately from depression - which is also one of the most common mental health-related issues of the 21st century. Depression, on the other hand, is usually followed by an anxiety disorder by default. Still, the main question is what is actually causing a severe anxiety to a vulnerable demographic group, such as teenagers? We’ll try to provide some of the answers below.

Tobacco and Drug Abuse

Believe it or not, studies have shown that teenagers smoking cigarettes or marijuana are more likely to suffer from anxiety or have depressive episodes. Still, what’s interesting is that both tobacco and marijuana are experiencing the significant decrease in popularity among teenagers, which is pretty encouraging to hear. Moreover, it seems that consuming drugs and tobacco are no longer parts of that desirable rebel image to which teenagers have been attracted during this developmental phase of theirs until very recently. Further, it seems that nowadays they rather reach out for something that has nothing to do with intoxicants (even though it has some similar effects, we have to notice), which helps them feel accepted within their social circles and alleviate their youthful frustrations – even though ostensibly and only for a while. And yes, we’re talking about spending too much time on social media networks here. So, the next logical question concerning teenagers and increased levels of anxiety could be:

How do Social Networks affect Teenage Psychology Exactly?

Scientists are pretty unanimous these days on the matter of social media overuse and how it can cause anxiety in combination with a lowering self-esteem and having a distorted picture of the world around us. Take the Instagram, for instance, where an average teenager only gets to see retouched pictures of beaches, beautiful faces and fine meals that probably make him/her think the reality is like that but, sadly – it’s happening to someone else. This means that the high standards are no longer imposed by celebrities on Snapchat or marketing agencies paying big bucks to create idealized images of perfect bodies. No, nowadays we have the classmates and close friends who are doing this instead. And this is actually causing a huge distress in teenagers.

Duck Syndrome and Social Media Image

On the other hand, there is also a so-called duck syndrome – a syntagma that was coined by psychiatrists to describe a duck that appears to be perfectly calm and balanced on the surface yet it frantically puts all its efforts just to stay on the top of the pond.

We can use it to illustrate the kids who suffered from some sort of a more severe mental disorder that eventually led them to suicide. The most surprising thing is that they were maintaining perfect social media images. Namely, their social media profiles looked as if everything was effortless to them, regardless of whether it was about grades, physical appearance, being successful at sports and so on and forth. The saddest thing is that nobody knew what they felt like inside – perhaps they secretly hoped they would feel better seeing perfect versions of themselves online while the pressure for maintaining one such image was only worsening their anxiety issues – to the point it was just too much to deal with.

The Addiction

This all leads us to the conclusion there is a certain level of addiction that comes with owning a profile on some social media platform, which consequently contributes to developing teen anxiety. What we are talking about here is the inability of an individual to restrain from performing certain actions on social media (to like, comment etc.) - even if they don’t entirely approve the content due to various reasons. For instance, we know that a person doesn’t look the same on Instagram and in person; or we disapprove of someone’s lifestyle and yet we keep liking their posts just because a lot of our common friends are doing it; perhaps we’re secretly jealous even if we’re aware there’s no rational background for such a feeling.

Either way, a constant social media exposure is yet to be studied but it seems it’s partially responsible for various anxiety-related issues among teens. And this sort of a constant pressure can definitely lead to emotional outbursts, depressive episodes or panic attacks, especially when combined with hormones that are basically at peak during the adolescence period.

In conclusion

We’re living in the era of the increased technological development that negatively affects the healthy development of the youth. The rapid growth of a number of anxious and depressed teenagers and adults alike is clearly one of the paradoxes of the modern society that seemingly goes forward but whose members are clearly not happy due to a huge gap that exists between their projected social media selves and not-so-perfect, real-life personas. The adolescent anxiety and depression aren't anything new, however, and the proper treatment usually consists of parental support as well as a right combination of psychotherapy and proper medications, if necessary.

About the author:

Stefan is a writer and a blogger in his spare time. He also works for First Beat Media, a company that mainly focuses on the online dating niche and similar services.

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