Teen anxiety and depression: Why today’s teens are struggling more than ever

Teens today are facing a crisis: more teens than ever are struggling with anxiety and depression. The problem has become such an epidemic that pediatricians recently called for universal depression screening for all teens. Only about half of adolescents with depression get diagnosed before reaching adulthood. Even scarier, as many as 2 in 3 depressed teens do not get the care that could help them. Here at Shelterwood, we are on the front lines of this crisis, serving struggling teens as they overcome anxiety, depression and other challenges. Explore what makes this crisis unique to today’s teenagers, and what is contributing to this epidemic.

A quickly growing problem

In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Furthermore, an annual survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA points to the rise as well. In 1985, 18% said they “felt overwhelmed by all they had to do.” By 2010, it was 29% and by 2016, it surged to 62%. The startling landscape begs the question; why are more teens than ever suffering from anxiety and depression?

This spike in anxiety and depression is a truly recent phenomenon. Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. 48% more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27% more boys.

Suicide rates are alarming — although the rate increased for both sexes, three times as many 12-to-14 years old girls, and twice as many boys, took their own lives in 2015 as in 2007. All of this tragic growth has taken place in less than one decade.

Why today’s teens struggle more than ever

The impact of screen time cannot be underestimated. Today’s teens do not remember a time before the Internet. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone. Teens who spend more time than average on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.

Social media brings a host of challenges for young people. Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56% more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who use social media even less. Furthermore, those who spend 6 – 9 hours a week on social media are still 47% more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less.

Teens who spend three or more hours a day on electronic devices are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide.

The negative effects of social media are compounded when social and peer pressure are added to the mix. Teens are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying, isolation, perfectionism and comparison on social media. For previous generations, home was a welcome respite from the peer pressure of the school day. Even a child who was bullied at school, or who did not fit in with friends, could look forward to a “safe space” at home. Yet, the 24-hour nature of social media means that teens cannot escape

Parents who are worried about their teen’s use of devices are not alone. A Common Sense Media report indicates half of all young people feel they are addicted to their devices. Almost 60 percent of adults think their kids are addicted too, and a third of parents and teens say that they argue daily about screen time.

Today’s teens are under significantly more pressure than previous generations. Adolescence has always been a challenging time developmentally. What is new is the environment and this fast-paced, plugged-in society puts a unique pressure on teens. In spite of the constant connection through technology, teens get less face-to-face time with friends than ever. The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40% from 2000 to 2015. Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.

At the forefront of the crisis

Shelterwood offers real hope, real heart change and real restoration for struggling teens. We know that teens need to learn they are valuable, they are loved and they have a purpose. Teens facing anxiety and depression can find hope at Shelterwood. We are committed to bringing heart change to teenagers and restoration to families.

Is your teen struggling with anxiety and depression? Hope is found at Shelterwood. Shelterwood combines boarding school excellence with the best in therapeutic care for real transformation. Teens arrive at Shelterwood when they are at their worst, and often leave with a transformed heart and a life restored.

Are you ready for a new chapter for your teen and your family? We can help. Let today mark a fresh start. Connect with admissions today: 866.585.8939.

Does your life suck?

Does your life suck? Maybe your teen has suggested that their life sucks and somehow you are responsible.  When something sucks, it’s saps your energy and undermines the quality of your life. It makes you feel small and sabotage’s your joy. It’s a big wake up call. It’s an invitation to do something different – not more of the same.

If your life sucks; if the life you are living on the outside doesn’t match who you are on the inside or if you’re hurting and feel powerless – here’s your roadmap out. The following 10 reasons will help you find your way through. Enjoy and laugh as you go.

Reason 1 – you give your power away

You give your power away when you make someone or something outside of you more important than what is inside of you. If you do not value who or what you are, you will seek to borrow worth from the outer world.

The words ‘authority’ and ‘authentic’ derive from the same root word, which signifies that the route to genuine power is realness. Real power is not power over others; it is power to be yourself. Real power does not compete; it finds a way to synchronize.

Reason 2 – you expected it to suck

If you settle for less than what you really want, you will get exactly that. As children we are taught many erroneous, limiting and debilitating beliefs. Then, without testing these limits, we go on as if they were true.

Form opinions on what you feel and know rather than what you hear. If you approach life with the belief that it sucks, it stands little chance to be wonderful. If you approach it with the expectation that good can come to you, it will. Demonstrate your power to choose rather than settle.

Reason 3 – you get fooled by appearances

We have been programmed to think looking good is more important than feeling good. To what lengths will you go to look good rather than feel good? You will have to decide whether you are here to please the world or your spirit; others demands or your delights; prove yourself or be yourself. Looking good doesn’t always lead to feeling good. Feeling good always leads to looking good. But the real test of self-love is to feel good no matter how you look.

Reason 4 – you waste your energy on things that suck

The reason you’re not where you want to be is that you were doing things you do not want to do. Such as wasting your energy on: activities you don’t enjoy, attention to things of little importance, people you are with for the wrong reasons, goals that cause anxiety and disbelief of your talent(s). Rather then designating a specific situation as your goal, aim for how you want to feel about it.

Before you climb the ladder of success, be sure it is leaning against the right wall. While it is said that we can attain anything we set our mind to, make sure you set it to something you want.

Reason 5 – you keep trying to prove yourself

When you live or work to prove yourself to others, you will never reach your goal. The disease to please is a prevalent one. Ask yourself if your motivation comes from Joy or duty. Is this your idea of someone else’s, practice saying yes only if it matches your inner choice.

Forget about proving yourself, and just be your self. People who do not understand you will not settle for any proof, and people who appreciate you do not need any proof. Who and what you are is self-evident. Explaining, justifying and defending are emotional quicksand; the more you try, the deeper you get sucked in.

Reason 6 – you say yes when you mean no

If your lips say yes when your heart says no, you are driving with your foot on the gas and the break at the same time. Do not settle for halfhearted living – be total. Your yes must be total, so must your no.

If you sell yourself out to get approval, you will miss what you really want: authenticity, passion and aliveness. When you say no to what does not match your intentions, you’re saying yes to what you really want and are one step closer to it.

When you resist saying no because you do not want to reject someone or hurt their feelings you actually hurt them more. We diminish others by regarding them as weak, and we affirm their strength when we communicate to them honestly. Do not underestimate the power and importance of your honest no.

Reason 7 – you think you have to do it all yourself

If you examine your responsibilities closely, you’ll discover it is not the universe that has piled too much on your plate – it’s you. You’re trying to hard. Independence is good, but if you are drowning in responsibilities – you have assumed more than your share.

Loneliness springs from the belief you must do it all yourself. Nobody knows how, has the time or even wants to do everything. When you allow others to assist you, you bestow a great gift to them. Accepting support is a sign of strength and maturity. Receiving help does not mean you are defective; it means you are a real person.

Reason 8 – You try to fix other people

If you ever feel motivated to fix someone, save your time. Nothing is more annoying than someone who tries to change or coerce you to their way of thinking. Rather than trying to change them, upgrade your vision. Ironically, when you regard them as whole, you are in a perfect position to influence them toward positive change. When you regard others as empowered souls rather than broken toys, they are much more likely to stand on their own and be happy.

Reason 9 – you starve your soul

If your soul is malnourished, nothing works. When it’s well fed, you feel great; your health is radiant; you have energy and enthusiasm; your relationships bring you deep reward; and whatever you touch turns to success. Whenever you recognize that your spirit is withering, stop and do whatever it takes to renew yourself. Get outdoors, take a walk, listen to music, watch a movie, or take a vacation. Anything you do to feel better will shift everything else. You can have vast material wealth and be terribly hungry spiritually. Learning to feed your soul is one of the most important lessons of a lifetime.

Reason 10 – you forgot to enjoy the ride

Resisting the past is as much a distraction as resisting the future, and equally self-sabotaging. There are two ways to relate to the past that will benefit you: 1) appreciate it and, 2) learn from it. If you regret the past, you overlook the gifts it has bestowed upon you. If you see yourself as a victim, you deny your rule as a powerful creator. If you feel guilty and believe you should have done otherwise, you are being too hard on yourself. You learn to be yourself by having experiences. Yes, it is important to learn from your victories and mistakes; just don’t dwell on them. Give yourself some credit for the strides you have made rather then the ones you have missed.

No place is worth going if you miss your life along the way. Set your goals and strive to achieve them, but remember that the process is as important as the product.

When you are able to give thanks for everything that has happened, you are free. Resistance to what was diminishes what is. You’re not a victim – you are a powerful creator. Make the changes in your life that will get you the results you want. Along the way, you might even fall in love with yourself. As you unravel the knots in your life and reduce the size of your ‘but’, you will experience a new sense of freedom and exhilaration.

This article was excerpted from the book Why Your Life Sucks (2002) by Alan H. Cohen.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder might be the official mental health title, but many of us simply know it as the winter blues.  While the medical classification of this seasonal pattern has changed over the years, the recognition of this depressed mood has become more common.  It appears that its prevalence ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.

As Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years have all passed, winter is beginning to hit hard and maybe you have begun to recognize some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

– Difficulty waking up in the morning
– Nausea
– Tendency to oversleep and overeat, especially having a craving for carbohydrates
– A lack of energy
– Difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks
– Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
– Decreased sex drive

snow med 300x199 Seasonal Affective DisorderAs we struggle with the change in sleep patterns, inactivity due to the weather, and hormonal fluctuation due to less sunlight, it becomes much more appealing to stay indoors rather than drive through the cold to meet up with friends. Emotionally, it can become difficult when our schedules are controlled by the weather. So, how do we break out of the pattern of winter hibernation and isolation when it is so appealing? Here are a few ways for us to intentionally combat the emotional struggles that come along with the winter season.

  • Exercise! Exercise increases serotonin levels, helping us to feel excited and motivated. While it’s hard to get up the energy to go out to the gym on a cold night, families can unite during these times. Put in a game on the Wii or do a fun workout video in your living room, together. This approach is good for a few laughs as well.
  • Engage together at home. While it may feel like a chore to go out, bring the activities home. Playing board games together, baking, reading, watching a movie, or playing charades can be fun to do together without having to make the commitment to go out.
  • Build in time to relax too. Celebrate reading a book and having hot chocolate. Light a candle and listen to relaxing music. Take a bubble bath. Intentionally planning relaxing time rather than just isolating yourself can be a healthy way to combat the negative feelings associated with winter.
  • Be productive. When it is not appealing to be outdoors, take advantage of getting household tasks done. Celebrate completing goals, even completing household chores.
  • Intentionally plan outings. Winter introduces many activities such as sledding, skiing, etc. Go out to the movies, to a museum, or a play. Then, reward yourself later with some relaxation time.

The winter months can be long. They can feel exhausting. But, there are some practical things to boost our mood during these times. What are some ways you have found to combat with winter blahs or seasonal humbugs?

Teaching kids how to deal with their feelings

Well, the holidays are coming to a close and what we looked so forward to a few weeks ago flew by too quickly. Of course, vacations are like that. We plan and get excited, then we snap our fingers and it’s over. Suddenly we’re all planning to go back to work and school. We call it “going back to reality,” but it’s really just going back to life. Teaching our kids how to handle the “Disney Land to work” transition is a valuable life-long lesson.

I read a study once that 80% of people go through some level of depression after the holidays. No wonder. We plan and look forward to the lack of responsibility for weeks, even months. Then the break begins. We sleep late, have meals prepared for us, see movies and get hundreds of dollars of gifts. Then, the clock strikes midnight and we’re back to being responsible again. We have to get up early, fix our own breakfast and pay off the bills for the money we spent.

As a kid, I still remember that fun, exciting drive every summer heading east on I-20, driving from Fort Worth to Georgia for summer vacation with family. I also remember that long, boring drive heading back west on I-20 to Fort Worth after the vacation. It reminds me of the Norman Rockwell print “Going and Coming.” It’s two pictures, one headed out to vacation and one headed home. I love the detailed contrast between the excitement of heading out and the exhaustion of driving back.

It’s important that we process through these emotions and teach our kids how to talk about their feelings. These four suggestions might help:

1. Remember that vacations are not reality. It’s so easy to compare the holiday to the day-to-day. But that’s comparing apples with onions. Not having responsibility is always fun for a while. But in the end, we all find true fulfillment in having a goal. Though we complain about our work and about school, deep down we need that purpose.

2. Keep up with those you love. We all spend extra time with family we normally aren’t around during the week. Don’t let too much time pass before you re-connect with those brothers and sisters you were sad to leave. These days, with twitter, Facebook, and texting, keeping up with each other is easier. Keeping the lines of communication open helps keep relationships healthy.

3. Count your blessings “one by one.” I love that old Baptist hymn. It reminds us to count our blessings so that we can “see what God has done.” That is so important to do during and after the holidays. Everyone secretly compares to the relatives and we usually come away feeling inadequate. “Their kids are better behaved than ours; they make more money than we do; they seem happier than we are.” It’s okay to learn and grow from others, but comparison usually leads to envy and envy leads to jealousy and on and on. Realize the blessings you do have instead of what you don’t possess.

4. Live like there’s no tomorrow. A good friend reminded me of that challenge this week. Too often I fret and worry about what might be. Too often I worry and fret about what was. The Bible challenges us repeatedly to set my sights on today. When I correctly focus on today, it’s awesome whether I’m working or vacationing.

Ward off those post-holiday blues and embrace the excitement of another day of life. Live life to the fullest, whether you’re at Disney world or at the desk.