Adolescence has always been a challenging time. As teenagers make the rocky transition from childhood into adulthood, they face a range of physical, cognitive, and social changes, while seeking autonomy and struggling to establish their own identity (Villanueva, 2015).
In addition to these timeless challenges, however, teenagers today also face a wide variety of modern pressures around school, work, families, relationships, and social media, which have combined to put them under more stress than ever before (Villanueva, 2015). Research has suggested that unhealthy perfectionism has surged among young adults, with the biggest increase seen among those who feel as if they need to be perfect in order to win the approval of friends, followers on social media, and parents (Simmons, 2018).
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a counselling therapist, keep reading to find out how the pressure to succeed can affect teenagers’ mental health, and what can be done to help.
Teenagers Face More Pressures than Ever Before
A number of different causative factors have been suggested for the rising pressure to succeed that teens feel, each of which could play some role in pushing teens to hold unhealthily high expectations for themselves.
Social media, for example, has become a place for teens to display their success, putting pressure on them to appear effortlessly flawless in their school work, athletics, activities, and looks (Simmons, 2018). The pressure to attend a good university has also risen, while at the same time, acceptance rates at selective schools have plummeted (Wong, 2016). Along with rising levels of perfectionism, these factors could help explain why today’s youth feel such intense pressure to find—and display—success.
Rates of Anxiety and Depression Are on the Rise Among Teens
As you might discover during your counsellor therapist career, adolescents have been facing increasing anxiety and mental health issues. Youth in British Columbia, for example, have reported increasing levels of depression and anxiety, with the percentage of BC adolescents experiencing anxiety or panic attacks more than doubling between 2013 and 2018 (Eagland, 2019). In fact, many in the Canadian public are now describing depression and anxiety among teens as an “epidemic” (Goodger, 2018). Research has also shown that young people who are heavy users of social media are more likely to report poor mental health and psychological distress than those who are not (Fottrell, 2019).
How You Can Help as a Counselling Therapist
For adolescents, the pressure to succeed can not only lead to negative mental health outcomes, but also make success more difficult to achieve. Psychologically, success is associated with capacities like optimism, curiosity, and the ability to manage negative emotions and weather obstacles (Margolies, 2018). Teenagers who feel pressured to succeed, however, are less likely to develop the capacities and the internal motivations required to find success (Margolies, 2018).
When helping adolescents after counselling therapist school, there are several different contributing factors you can help address. For example, it can be beneficial to teach teens to avoid gauging their sense of self-worth through external sources such as likes on social media or grades at school. Teaching teens to use healthy coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques can also help them navigate stressful times (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019). Breathing exercises, healthy eating, physical activity, and creative endeavours can all help to reduce stress and navigate difficult experiences (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019).
Are you interested in a career as a counselling therapist?
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American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2019). Stress Management and Teens. Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/For-Teens-Creating-Your-Personal-Stress-Management-Plan.aspx
Fottrell, Q. (2019 Mar 14). All the ways American teenagers are under enormous pressure to succeed. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/all-the-ways-american-teenagers-are-under-enormous-pressure-to-succeed-2019-02-20
Goodger, K. (2018 Oct 3). Anxiety and depression is becoming an ‘epidemic’ in Canada. Retrieved from http://dialognews.ca/2018/10/03/anxiety-and-depression-becoming-an-epidemic-in-canada/
Margolies, L. (2018 Oct 4). The Paradox of Pushing Kids to Succeed. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-paradox-of-pushing-kids-to-succeed/
Simmons, R. (2018 Jan 30). Teens under pressure to be perfect now more than ever. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/life/2018/01/30/teens-under-pressure-to-be-perfect-now-more-than-ever.html Villanueva, S. (2015 Dec 08). Teenage Stress. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/how-parent-teen/201512/teenage-stress