A high school student writes a note about anxiety will be stuffed into a giant marionette and burned in an annual New Mexico ceremony. (Morgan Lee/AP)
Teenage life can be stressful. Anxious. We know it. We get it. But in the last decade, the number of American teens reporting “overwhelming anxiety” has surged. For some, it’s just a lousy feeling. For others, it’s debilitating. Paralyzing. Severe anxiety. So why? Some look at the world now and say, “Why not? Look around!” Others point to social media, or parenting that may be too quick to protect. This hour, On Point: More American teens, more anxious than ever, and what to do about it. —Tom Ashbrook
Lynn Lyons, psychotherapist and clinical social worker. Co-author of “Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways To Stop The Worry Cycle And Raise Courageous And Independent Children.”
Dr. Angela Neal, psychologist and author of “Soothe Your Nerves: The Black Woman’s Guide To Understanding And Overcoming Anxiety, Panic And Fear.”
From Tom’s Reading List:
New York Times Magazine: Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety? — “Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.”
Teen Vogue: How To Cope With Tragedy When You Have Anxiety — “When you have anxiety and want to stay connected to the nation’s events, how do you cope with increasingly disturbing news?”
Fortune: Social Media Is Fueling A Scary Trend For Teen Anxiety — Experts in teenage mental health say social media is a significant factor in a rising tide of anxiety among teenagers and adolescents. Some victims are so seized with anxiety they can’t go to school or perform basic tasks – and untold thousands more could grow up unable to cope with the complexities and challenges of everyday life, according to a comprehensive new feature on teen anxiety from the New York Times.
This program aired on October 19, 2017.
On Point tackled the subject on Thursday’s show. Our inbox flooded. So we caught up with two of our guests who treat kids with anxiety to talk a little bit more about solutions and treatment.
The gold standard is called exposure therapy, and it goes against all our instincts: Don’t try so hard to free yourself of anxiety. Live with it. It’s part of life. The more you try to get rid of it and avoid it, the stronger it becomes.
“The treatment is counter-intuitive, and the parenting is counter-intuitive,” Lynn Lyons, a New Hampshire therapist and author, told On Point. “Because you want to protect your child, and you want to back out, but that makes the anxiety stronger.”
For a child who has anxiety triggered by dogs, then, exposure therapy’s cure is… dogs. Exposing yourself to them, whether gradually or all at once, and not trying to banish the anxiety that comes along with it. By fleeing dogs, the brain learns that dogs are scary. By sticking around, despite the fear, the brain learns that they’re actually not so bad, and neither is the fear.