Anxieties of Teens & Adolescents
“Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at times. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or making an important decision. Anxiety disorders, however, are different. They can cause such distress that it interferes with a person’s ability to lead a normal life. An anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. For people with anxiety disorders, worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be crippling,” according to Web MD.
Anxiety is something I have dealt with for most of my life, although I didn’t even realize it as a child. Now, at the age of 25, I can detail exactly what makes me anxious and I can even think back to my childhood where I question when it all began. But if you asked me the same question 10 or 20 years ago… “what makes you anxious?…. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.
My anxiety flares up when I’m stressed, when I’m in social situation, and most definitely when I am in small or confined places. So you are probably thinking to yourself, “ okay you’re claustrophobic and have social anxiety,” but it’s a lot more than just that. It’s easy to give a name to a problem, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. And I feel lucky to know what makes me anxious because then I know what to avoid or what to address to get past the anxiety. This is something I had less control of as a kid.
Social anxiety disorder: Also called social phobia, social anxiety disorder involves overwhelming worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations. The worry often centers on a fear of being judged by others, or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or lead to ridicule. (Web MD)
According to Child Mind Institute and ResearchGate.Net, social anxiety is the most popular amongst adolescents and teens. “We observed that being less accepted among peers uniquely (controlling for other aspects of peer relations) predicted increases in social anxiety,” the institute stated in a study from May 2012. That was my fear growing up. I was afraid the other kids didn’t like me. And especially as a young girl, there was a lot to live up to, even at the age of 10, 11, or 12. Society reiterated that girls had to be pretty, skinny, tall, and popular. It’s kind of tough to be tall when you are 10 years old or “pretty” when you are going through puberty and a face full of pimples.
I think today, more than ever, kids are experiencing social anxiety due to the nature of their age, but also due to the prevalence of social media. Although social media has the word “social” in it, social media is far from social. Kids are able to sit behind their phone and communicate non-verbally. Communicating in a non-verbal manner eliminates body language, sarcasm, accents, and context clues that are unique to the art of a conversation. Kids aren’t learning to interact with any of these requirements needed to have a verbal conversation or confrontation. Kids can actually confront each other via social media and probably say things to each other they wouldn’t necessarily say to the person’s face.
Because of the influx of social media use, kids can feel the social anxiety of not fitting in and people not liking them. She didn’t get enough likes on Instagram. He unfollowed her on Facebook. She created a Facebook group for a party and he isn’t invited. Social media gives kids the power to exclude on a grander scale. Which leads to higher levels of anxiety and worry of what will happen or what will people think. Social media also gives kids the opportunity to avoid society, to hide behind a screen and not communicate verbally. This can give a child anti-social tendencies.
It’s easier said than done; to lighten up on the social media use, especially when it makes us feel better and more comfortable in uncomfortable social situations. I STILL call a friend before walking into a food establishment to make sure they are already there and I wont need to search for them. Why do I do that? Because it’s awkward to walk into a store and look like an idiot; to look like you don’t know where you’re going. But I should take my own advice and put the phone down and walk into that store without knowing what I’ll run into. Because it’s the art of conversation. I can certainly walk in and ask, “hi has my friend shown up yet?” or “thanks, I’ll just wait at the bar.” And even the idea of that makes me anxious. But I have hidden behind my phone to avoid social situations and to cushion my social anxieties for too long. We should all put our phones down, welcome the anxieties, learn how to deal with it (within reason!), and only use the phone 50% of the time!