16.4% or 4.3 million young adults (persons between the age of 12 and 18) have a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression. That works out to close to 1 in 5 teens between the age of 15 and 18. For many of us, teens are supposed to have a carefree time – with few responsibilities, no work, and the most opportunities to develop themselves and their social lives. But, for many teens, that simply isn’t true and being a teenager is a period of intense stress and trauma. Depression is extremely common and many eventually need treatment including therapy and medication. Many more are vulnerable to self-medication, with over 1.2 million young adults qualifying as having a substance use disorder.
But, what’s going wrong? And why are teens so depressed? Factors vary and can include family life, bullying, and hormones. But, there are often common reasons.
Today’s teens are facing the same “always-on” pressure that most adults are now facing in the workplace. It’s not enough to go to school, experience social life, and go home. You go to school, face stricter and higher study standards than ever before, engage with people in high school and then go home to social media and pressure.
There, social media can be an extreme thing. For example, in the 90s and early 2000s, most people could escape from bullies by going home and simply removing themselves from the physical presence of bullies. Today, that’s no longer the case and students may find themselves being bullied online in forums, private messaging groups, and in new ways – such as by having private information and photos shared across the internet.
Teens are also under more pressure than ever to look, dress, and behave in a certain way. Most people have experienced that to some extent but for anyone growing up pre-Instagram and TikTok, most of that pressure was offline in ads, movies, and magazines. Today, it’s an always-on pressure of constant images of successful people who look and act perfect. Trying to live up to those often-fake ideals of body image, lifestyle, and success can be intensely stressful.
Young adults experience hormonal changes where they have to deal with fluctuating hormones, changes to their bodies, and emotions they aren’t familiar with. Navigating that can be stressful, even in a caring home with all the tools they need. Fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause intense depression. That’s visible in adults, where people who menstruate typically show depression they don’t experience when not menstruating. But rates of depression skyrocket from 2% in children before puberty to about 5-8% during puberty. Hormonal changes cause mood disorders and getting treatment and support can help those children learn to manage and regulate those emotions.
Children are children. That means they’re not skilled at every aspect of life. Many of the life skills that allow them to navigate emotional turbulence, social turbulence, and relationship problems haven’t been developed yet. That can mean that every problem is extreme and everything that comes up is major. A child may go from feeling fine to feeling depressed from one interaction to the next – because they don’t have the emotional regulation to deal with those issues yet. Here, time and experience are the best way to improve emotional regulation. But, if your young adult is struggling, getting them counseling and therapy to teach those skills can be valuable as well.
High school literally takes a group of people who are experiencing hormonal fluctuations and who don’t yet have the skills to navigate emotional problems into a room together – with the high pressure of social popularity, studying, and being good at everything. In addition, high schools are vastly unequal, and people can compare themselves to others who have more money, what they think are better looks, and more opportunities than themselves – which can result in feeling bad about themselves.
From the housing market to the environment, many teens feel that they have a poor life outlook. Changes to work (automation, AI), rising global temperatures, increases in drug addiction and mental health problems, and increases in stress can make the future look hopeless to many. And, that makes dealing with insecurity around the future much harder than if those situations were improved.
Teens are under a significant amount of peer pressure. That’s true whether they are doing well in school, are popular, or aren’t. However, the more popular and center of attention someone is, the more likely it is they’re experiencing a significant amount of stress to look and act perfectly. Peer pressure extends to appearance, fashion, grades, relationships with family, romantic relationships, sex, drug use, and how people spend their time. And, that can impact every aspect of a young adults life, because even though it might not seem important, social life and peer esteem is the center of a young adult’s life.
Most teens have significant issues with self-esteem. That can be because of feelings of not fitting in, because of family breakups and divorces, because of feelings of personal failure or not being good enough, or simply because they’re teens. These self-esteem issues go on to affect academic achievement, growth patterns, investment in self-development, anxiety, depression, and interpersonal relationships.
Fortunately, self-esteem is something that can be worked on. However, it can be difficult to diagnose if self-esteem is a problem without therapy. Most schools offer counseling support and assistance and can help your teen to work towards building that self-esteem. However, self-esteem also depends on home environment, personal achievements, sense of self, and attaining goals, which means it can be difficult to build without long-term engagement and support.
Teens and young adults are in the most difficult period of their lives. Fluctuating hormones means that emotions are hard to regulate and people going through puberty can experience intense mood swings. Social and romantic relationships become the center of existence – but most teens still don’t have the skills or experience to navigate those relationships well. And, peer pressure, an inability to get away from social lives (even when they are negative), and constant pressure to look and be a certain way can all cause intense stress and depression. For many teens, getting out of that period simply means growing up. For others, it means getting help and therapy to learn coping mechanisms, to learn how to regulate emotions, and to improve interpersonal relationships.
Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.