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Why Is My Teen So Anxious? Exploring the Rise in Teen Anxiety

Updated: Feb 17

Aside from the burning question of 'What the heck do I do?', the other question on the lips of so many parents of anxious teens, is WHY the rise in teen anxiety?


Whilst it would be convenient to blame it all on COVID-19, the truth is that the signs were there for our teenagers long before the pandemic hit.


And the root cause, in my opinion, boils down to one main thing:


A lack of connection.


"A teen's anxiety isn't actually THEIR issue - it's OUR issue, it's society's issue and it's a connection issue. So we need to make connection a priority"

In this article, we will explore the six reasons why I believe real connection is lacking in today's world and how this is impacting our teenagers.


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Mum comforting crying teenage girl on sofa

1. Tech Doom: Numbing Out to Avoid Discomfort


Teenagers have been conditioned to seek solace in their screens, which numbs them to their own emotions and prevents them from building inner and outer resilience.


"Scrolling the socials, binge-watching Netflix, or complete immersion in the latest gaming shootout is a perfect way to avoid feeling anything uncomfortable."

This constant distraction from their own feelings can have detrimental effects on their physical & mental well-being.



2. Social Media: The Illusion of Connection


Despite the promise of deeper connection, social media often leaves us feeling disconnected, inferior, or even rejected.


"Let's look at how much better everyone else is doing...looking....being"

Teenagers should not measure their self-worth by the number of likes, the most flattering filter, or the amount of friend requests they receive. And unfortunately, social media can become a breeding ground for bullying rather than bonding.



3. Pressure: The Fear of Failure


In a society that tends to reward external achievements like academic success and social status, teenagers feel immense pressure to meet these expectations.


"In a modern culture that openly rewards the outer gains of hard work, success, money, high achievement, rather than the inner gains of community, friendship, sense of self purpose, a major underlying fear for a teen is going to be failure"

This fear of failure takes a toll on their mental health, and many teens choose to avoid school, where they can feel the pressure most intensely.



4. Presence: The Importance of In-Person Interactions


In today's fast-paced world, quality time and genuine connection can be difficult to come by. Family dynamics can be disjointed, and communication between teens and their friends often happens through screens.


"A lot of communication between teen friendships is done electronically, and in-person downtime with friends is often screen-led"

However, as heart-centred humans, teenagers still need proper interaction, real listening, and presence from those around them.



5. Overwhelm: The Constant Switched-On World


Teenagers live in an online world that never switches off. They have grown to expect and rely on constant stimulation, and they feel lost without it.


"When teens close their bedroom door, that world is still right there with them. It's on their phone, it's through news, it's through media, it's through social media, it's through messaging, chats, text, YouTube, the World Wide Web"

This constant exposure to the online world can be overwhelming and contribute to those feelings of anxiety.



Emotional Shut-Down: From Suppression to Depression


Modern-day society seems to have inadvertently taught that emotions are bad, uncomfortable and should be avoided at all costs.


There has been a bias towards favouring academic intelligence over emotional intelligence, and many teens (and adults) have simply forgotten how to process natural human emotions.


"At some point, some walls went up in our society around how much emotion it was acceptable to express"

This emotional suppression can have a detrimental impact on the mental & physical well-being of everyone.


 

How Do I Know It's Anxiety....And What the HECK Do I DO about it?



 

Reversing the Rise in Teen Anxiety: A Parent's Role


Mum hugging contented teenage girl from behind


First and foremost, observe. If you notice signs that your teen is not coping, it is essential to remain vigilant, monitor, and take action if necessary.


Taking each factor from above, just explore how these may relate to your own teen. Every teen and family is different but you may want to consider the following:


1. Tech: Assess your teen's dependence on technology and find ways to encourage a more balanced approach. Limit screen time and encourage offline activities.


2. Social Media: Be aware of the social media platforms your teen uses and the content they consume. Set limits and rules around social media usage and discuss the influence it can have on their self-worth.


3. Pressure: Talk to your teen about the pressures they may be feeling and find ways to ease that burden. Encourage a healthy balance between academic, social, and emotional well-being.


4. Presence: Be present physically and emotionally when interacting with your teen. Put away distractions and engage in meaningful conversations. Make any vulnerability they may show a priority.


5. Overwhelm: Help your teen find ways to switch off from the online world. Encourage activities that promote relaxation, such as spending time in nature, playing board games, enjoying food together or engaging in physical activities.


6. Emotional Shut-Down: Examine your own emotions and how they may be impacting your teen's development. Create a safe space for them to express their emotions and encourage emotional intelligence by modelling this yourself.



A row of lettered dice spelling out It's Possible


Teen anxiety is not a teen’s issue; it is a societal issue. The lack of connection in today's world is taking a toll on the overall well-being of our teens - but it IS possible to turn it around.


As parents, it is our responsibility to prioritise connection – connection with ourselves, connection with our children, and connection with the world around us. By implementing the strategies discussed in this article, we can help alleviate the rising tide of teen anxiety and foster a healthier, more connected future for everyone.


Keep trying, keep loving, keep talking, keep listening, and keep connecting.



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What next?

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**Disclaimer: This article is for informational & educational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. The use of this information is at the reader's discretion and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a physician, psychotherapist or other qualified professional, diagnosis or treatment


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