Adolescence is often painted as the most trouble-free time of life. A song from the 1970s once put it “Things get complicated when you get past 18.”
Today, things are getting more and more complicated for those not yet 18.
Much has been written lately about increases in teen stress, anxiety and loneliness.
Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, addressed the issue in an internet article titled “10 Reasons Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today.”
Morin blames a lack of developed coping skills as one of the biggest problems. She blames various things, including increased reliance on electronic devices for communication, and parents trying to protect children from unpleasant situations.
Four Valle Catholic and seven Ste. Genevieve High School (SGHS) students met with the Herald on December 12 to discuss the issue. High School principals Chris Hoehne of SGHS and Greg Miller of Valle accompanied them and also offered input.
Junior Cora Friedman, junior Macy Shuh, senior Maria Cabral and junior Riley Siebert of Valle and junior Sydney Eisenbeis, sophomore Thomas Elder, freshman Lindsey Crump, sophomore Christopher Kiefer, sophomore Aiden Trollinger, junior Katelyn Fuller and senior Jadyn LeClere of SGHS all attended.
They agreed that life can be stressful for today’s teenagers.
“I have one friend in particular,” Eisenbeis said. “Around winter time, like when all the finals are happening and all these things are coming in and due dates are starting to accumulate, she isolates herself super, super bad. She’ll stay home from school; she won’t talk in our group chat; she won’t hang out with us anymore. It’s sad. I think it’s because she’s super busy with everything.”
Hoehne asked if she thought her friend might have had some underlying depression behind her withdrawal.
“Probably both, because she does it every winter when added pressures are happening,” Eisenbeis said.
There was agreement among the students that high expectations are one of the big causes of stress.
“I feel like one of the main causes of stress and anxiety in teenagers today is the expectations that we feel put on us by our society, the people around us,” Shuh said. “We feel like we need to perform to a certain level to succeed in this world.”
Fuller agreed, pointing to academic and career pressures.
“To add onto that, there’s a lot of pressure,” Fuller said. “With our generation, it’s like you have to go to college and you have to do all these different things and you have to be in all the upper-level courses and you feel like if you don’t do it, you’re disappointing everyone around you and then you’re also disappointing yourself in the future. Because if you don’t do it all now, how’s it supposed to happen later on?”
“I agree,” Siebert said. “You see all the social media, you see all these people and you think, ‘Oh, they’re perfect; they have such a great life.’ And then you compare it to yourself and that makes people feel like their life isn’t as good or not as perfect.”
In addition to the addiction and other issues involved with the internet, the idealized image their peers present on social media helps fan the flames of stress.
Hoehne warned that what teens see on each other’s Facebook, Sbapchat or Instagram pages is not necessarily real life.
“There’s kind of a consensus out there that what you get is a snapshot of everyone’s perfect life,” Hoehne said. “And we recognize and we joke about that … but is that very hard to internalize? Because when you know that’s what you’re seeing, but you yourself said that you feel guilty. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about that. Does that never set in that what we’re viewing is just somebody’s vision of their perfect life?”
See complete stories in the January 1 edition of the Herald.