The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Teenage Anxiety Epidemic

Posted on | February 19, 2020 | Comments Off on The Teenage Anxiety Epidemic


For some reason, nobody was talking about teenage anxiety when I was a teenager. Of course, that was the 1970s, when we were threatened by real dangers like the Arab oil embargo, the Symbionese Liberation Army, Soviet aggression, and the presidency of Jimmy Carter. How did teenagers cope with anxiety back then? Speaking only for myself, it involved massive amounts of drugs and listening to Led Zeppelin albums, but maybe that’s not the advice I’d give kids in the 21st century:

Megan, 19, wants to stand out and be “the person,” but she perceives herself to be falling short. The problem began in high school. She attended an elite academy, where she began “to feel like I was mediocre or below average.” Earlier, at a regular school, she “was the smartest person in the class” and had been on the gifted and talented track since the fifth grade. This heady recognition made her feel special. But then came the academy, where she was surrounded by very bright, high-achieving kids. She began to “feel marginalized” and yearned to “feel special again.” These feelings carried over into college.
Although she is now a scholarship student at a first-rate university, Megan is frustrated and despairing of herself. She explains that she is attending her “safety school” and wants to “show that I should be somewhere better by acing all my classes and being president of 40 organizations.” But, she adds, “that is really not happening. I am, if anything, a mediocre student … and that just makes me so angry at the world and then me for not being the person.” Although she wants “to impress someone,” she says, “I end up being impressively unimpressive,” and that “crushes me.”
Megan is one of the many young people that I, with the help of my students, have interviewed over the past decade. Stories like hers are not unique. The distress of America’s young people continues to attract attention from the media and experts. Anxiety in teens is on the rise and constitutes the leading mental health issue among American youth. Frequently-cited surveys show that the number of adolescents diagnosed with an anxiety disorder is growing, more and more high school seniors are reporting feeling overwhelmed, and the past-month prevalence of college students feeling “overwhelming anxiety” surpasses 40 percent. . . .

You should read the whole thing. As the father of a teenage girl, I try to pay attention to trends like this. Our daughter (thank God) doesn’t have the kind of problems my parents had to deal with when I was a teenage dopehead, but as this article makes clear, the anxiety epidemic seems to be affecting nice kids worst of all. The one thing nobody ever accused me of being was a “nice kid.” So I had that going for me . . .

Otter: “Come on, Flounder. You can’t spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes. You f**ked up. You trusted us. Make the best of it. Maybe we can help you.”
Flounder: “That’s easy for you to say. What am l going to l tell Fred?”
Otter: “I’ll tell you what. I’ll swear you were doing a great job taking care of his car, but you parked it out back last night, and this morning, it was gone. D-Day takes care of the wreck. We tell the police. Your brother’s insurance buys him a new car.”
Flounder: “Will that work?”
Otter: “It’s got to work better than the truth.”
Bluto: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”
Otter: “Better listen to him, Flounder. He’s in pre-med.”


Did I mention Jonestown? Polyester slacks and disco? Man, there was a lot to be anxious about in the 1970s, but for some reason, nobody cared.

Probably it was the weed . . .



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