Take a Breath

The Sad Increase in Teenage Anxiety Disorders

Take a Breath

Abigail Troth, Contributing Writer, Brookhaven MS

Inhale for 4 seconds. Hold for 8 seconds. Exhale for 4 seconds.

My movement theory teacher called this “Anxiety Breaths.” Whenever we started to feel nervous about a performance, a rehearsal, a test, or just anything in general, we often practiced this. And it truly helped.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt anxiety or fear over absolutely nothing. I mean, seriously! Nothing. I have this bad habit of creating scenarios in my head that will never happen, can’t happen, or aren’t even relatively as bad as I made them out to be. “Making a mountain out of a molehill,” you could say. And for the longest time, I thought that I was the only teenager who was like this. But the sad thing is, I’m not.


Studies show that teenage anxiety and depression has increased within the last 15 years. The National Institutes of Health reported that almost 1 in 3 of adolescents from ages 13 to 18 will be plagued with an anxiety disorder. These numbers continue to increase. From 2007 to 2012, teenage anxiety went up 20 percent.


Within this new century, it feels like standards and expectations have changed. In fact, it feels as though people have changed. And not only have people changed, the world has changed entirely. Things that were taboo in the previous century are now seen in an entirely different view. The LGBTQ+ movement has overtaken the world and demanded the equality that’s rightfully deserved. The MeToo movement has changed the feminist movement for the better and has started to create a better world for women everywhere. And these two movements are only a few movements that have changed the 21st century.


So why are teenagers still suffering from such horrible anxiety disorders?

There’s many reasons, actually. As much as people don’t want to admit it, the same standards that existed for so long still exist. People still feel the need to compare others. People still feel the need to hold others to unattainable expectations. These disorders develop anywhere. They develop at home, at school, in a workplace, etc.


The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported an estimate that 264 million people in the world have an anxiety disorder. And anxiety can come from anything. Most commonly, it comes from school or at home.


A survey done annually by Higher Education Research asked rising college freshmen if they felt burdened by the things they have to deal with. 41% said “yes” in 2016, compared to 2000’s 28% and 1985’s 18%. And while this world is extremely progressive, it’s also extremely terrifying. Terrorist attacks, school shootings, the threat of nuclear war, and now with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, this world is even scarier. With the class of 2020 experiencing a virtual graduation, online classes for practically everyone in any type of school, it feels as though school has gotten even harder. I know that at my school it was extremely hard, as I am a performer and had to perform monologues on my phone while also typing at least 2 essays a week. Online classes changed a lot for students, and increased anxiety everywhere.


Social media is an entirely different subject on its own. I am willing to admit that I have seen many women on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, whatever, and I have compared myself to them. This topic is played like a broken record. We all know that social media causes horrible anxiety disorders, but it really is true. So many people envy something on social media and it creates some sort of feeling that you aren’t worthy, you aren’t good enough, and so many other awful feelings.


But as scary and crazy as this world is, there are ways to manage anxiety disorders. Firstly, we have to get a better hold on our world. This may sound incredibly difficult, but as long as we just come together and try to manage these hardships, so many minds can be put at ease.


And we have to stop holding such high standards for ourselves and others. If we feel a certain way, if we’re scared of something, if something hurts us, it’s alright. We don’t have to validate those feelings to anyone.


But I can promise you something:


It will be okay. It may not seem like it right now, but it is going to be okay. We are going to be alright.


Just take a breath.