What’s happened to generation Y? With the opportunities, technology and affluence around us, young people seem to be more anxious than ever; with a sense of void and emptiness despite their achievements. Ironically is seems the more technology youth have at their fingertips the less time they have and the more stressed they are! In comparison to previous generations, people in their 20’s appear to suffer from the highest levels of anxiety. In today’s age, information overload from internet and social media and increased financial and social pressure have dulled our ability more and more to react to our surroundings, resulting in a poor sense of direction and reduced ability for a majority of youth to handle anxiety. Anxiety is worry. It is an unpleasant emotion that we all feel when we are faced with challenges. Anxiety at times can be useful as it helps us prepare for and perform tasks. When anxiety becomes an ongoing problem it is called an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders occur when the anxiety becomes intense, causes distress, lasts a certain amount of time (not just a few days) and effects day-to-day living.
Some young people are very easy going and nothing seems to bother them. However many others in today’s generation worry about all sorts of things; and when these normal everyday worries turn into anxiety it can be very difficult for a young person to participate in relationships, daily activities and experience life in general to the full. It can also interfere with their overall mental/physical health and well-being, learning and development.
Causes and symptoms of Anxiety
It is normal for our bodies to prepare us for challenges by giving us an increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweats, shakes and the feeling of butterflies in the stomach (this often happens when making a speech or preparing for an exam) and this is anxiety. People with anxiety can experience these physical sensations often or can have repeated occurrences called panic attacks.
Some young people are more pre-disposed towards anxiety and for some there is a trigger event, which contributes to the onset of an anxiety disorder. Some common factors can be personality type, ongoing stress and learned anxiety. Other common symptoms of anxiety are: persistent worry and excessive fears, inability to relax, avoidance of feared situations, excessive shyness, social isolation or being withdrawn, difficulty concentrating and paying attention, poor sleep and problems with work, social and family life.
It seems many young people in today’s age who develop anxiety problems may also become quite depressed about their problem and may at the same time suffer from a depressive disorder. Some may develop unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking alcohol or taking drugs to ease the discomfort of anxiety or to make them feel more confident. Taking substances can make the feelings associated with anxiety much worse after the initial feelings of being “numbed” or sedated. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs can also lead to dependence where someone cannot function without these substances and can cause long-term physical and mental problems.
In general it seems a majority of today’s young people have higher self-expectations and become disappointed when they finally realise that they are not omnipotent and instead are stressed out! It is this discrepancy between expectations and the reality that becomes troubling; even with titles, status and money a majority of young people are feeling void and empty. Successful treatment of anxiety disorders is more effective if there is early intervention and a combined approach between all the systems involved in the person’s life such as family, friends and colleagues.
Even though it seems that Generation Y are more susceptible to anxiety it does not mean that you have to slip into burn out zone! If you are (or know of) a young person with anxiety, tell family and friends about your difficulties so they can be there to support you. Try to eat healthily, exercise and find ways to relax by listening to music, reading, and doing activities that you enjoy. Know your thresholds and when to stop stretching yourself, work on determining your value and life purpose and increase your self-care and self-awareness. Avoid alcohol and drugs as they often make anxiety worse in the long run and can lead to addiction problems. It may also be beneficial to seek professional help from a psychologist, counsellor or your local doctor.