I stand up to turn in my test, but as I do my brain is still moving a hundred miles per hour. If I fail this test, my grade will go down; if my grade goes down, I won’t have a strong GPA; if my GPA is weak, I won’t get into a good college; and if I don’t get into a good college, I won’t have a successful life. These thoughts have continuously rolled through my brain on repeat for years now. Somehow my thoughts manage to turn the slightest possibilities into massive fears that are debilitating and irrational.
For a while, I thought that I was the only one who struggled with this. But sharing my experiences taught me that an unbelievable majority of my peers are feeling the same way.
Anxiety affects nearly one third of adolescents. Although many experience it in a low degree, severe anxiety disorders are becoming increasingly common.
Every day, I try to ignore my fears, but nothing that I do helps them go away. Sometimes just the idea of going to school, or being given a substantial amount of work, sends me into an uncontrollable state of panic.
Though it is often unspoken, many are feeling this way. There is something changing in today’s society because both anxiety and depression disorders are increasing at alarming rates. Technology is giving teens the ability to avoid uncomfortable situations, and develop a false sense of reality from social media.
Stephanie Eken, a psychiatrist and the regional medical director for Rogers Behavioral Health, stated, “Anxious teenagers from all backgrounds are relentlessly comparing themselves with their peers and the results are almost uniformly distressing.”
Although technology is definitely a source of anxiety, there is more to the equation. A majority of anxious teenagers identify their source of anxiety as school related.
The American College Health Association found a significant increase to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 of students reporting having overwhelming anxiety in the previous year.
My theory is that although the distractions and disadvantages of technology are a major factor, the pressures of college and success are even more prominent. Over the past 20 years, total college enrollment has increased by about 250 percent. Because of this, it is becoming difficult for students to get into college. There is now more pressure than ever to have the top grades, the best skills, and the most impressive applications.
Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University said, “There’s always one more activity, one more A.P. class, one more thing to do in order to get into a top college. Kids have a sense that they’re not measuring up. The pressure is relentless and getting worse.”
I have always felt as though I need to do more. No matter how much schoolwork I complete or how many extra-curriculars I take part in, I fear that it is not enough. As a society, we need to work to reduce these unrealistic demands. Kids should have the opportunity to grow into the people that they aspire to be, rather than who they feel pressured to become.
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