Common Causes of Teenage Anxiety
The internal and external pressures that teenagers must bear throughout adolescence can be incredibly overwhelming and even seem suffocating, at times.
There is little doubt that young people experience significant anxiety, along with a whole slew of other emotions throughout their teenage years. Every young person is different. Hence, there is no universal cause for why a teenager may experience anxiety; however, there are several contributing factors, including certain physiological elements that can play a role in its development. While some amount of anxiety is highly common among teenagers, it is not healthy to feel anxious all the time. Below is a breakdown of some of the commonly reported causes of anxiety in teens.
Peer pressures can have a positive impact or can be negatively influential. Regardless of the type, both have the propensity to raise a teenager’s stress levels. A teen that sets a goal to gain acceptance into a prestigious university along with his or her friends, for example, will likely place significant pressure on achieving excellent grades in attempt to keep up in order to accomplish his or her goal. An example of negative peer pressure is engaging in illicit substance use. The stress that can surface from committing a crime in order to fit in with a group of peers can cause a teen to feel significant stress and anxiety. For centuries, society has been set up to encourage young people to conform to the norm. This, unfortunately, has manifested as teenagers having an innate yearning to fit in with their peers.
A teenager may experience high levels of stress and anxiety in situations that require them to be around other people. A teenager’s anxiety could be exacerbated simply by having to attend school, or being in a situation that requires them to carry on a conversation with peers. Occasionally social anxiety is inaccurately identified, as shyness, when in fact, social anxiety and shyness are completely unrelated.
As the world has evolved, so too have the growing expectations placed on young people. The high expectations that teenagers feel the need to achieve may originate internally, (i.e. far reaching personal goals), externally (i.e. parents expectations, teachers expectations, peer pressures…etc.), or a combination of both. While attending a university was once a luxury only afforded to the highly intelligent and/ or wealthy, it has now become the norm. For many, a common progression of a young person’s education after completing middle school is to attend high school, followed by college, and if possible complete some form of higher education. This means that children in their early teenage years are essentially working towards a goal that may not be actualized for nearly a decade. Not only are there amassed academic pressures, but the extracurricular activities that a student hoping to attend college are equally considered and important, placing additional stress and anxiety on the student.
The hormonal shifts that occur as a direct result of the onset of puberty can cause anxiety. A teenager’s hormone production fluctuates greatly during adolescence, which can lead to feelings of sadness, angst and anger. Teenage boys are faced with navigating testosterone surges, and teenage girls are dealing with the onset of menstruation and all its associated hormones. The combination of these intense biological changes and being ill equipped from a lack of prior experience in dealing with the connected feelings can produce significant teenage stress and anxiety.
It is important to bear in mind that in addition to all that accompanies the fast-paced growth that occurs during adolescence, the teenage years, into early adulthood, also happen to be the time period when certain mental health illnesses may surface and/ or develop. As such, although anxiety is wildly common amongst teenagers, be mindful of its severity, and if your teen is suffering from debilitating symptoms of anxiety understand that he or she may benefit from a mental health consultation.
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Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.
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