Teens suffer from so much anxiety and their anxiety symptoms are now more of an issue than depression; they are cutting and self-harming as a way to feel normal; they are super-stressed; social media and iPhone use is taking over their lives, and in general, they seem to have poor coping skills.
This article in TIME magazine is a sad and concerning read: Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright. It was written last year but is still very relevant. The author writes:
“Adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more overwhelmed than their parents were when they were growing up”
It’s an excellent article for creating awareness and to get an understanding of the extent of the issues and does highlight the crazy online world of teens:
It’s hard for many adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screens on their phones, but a CNN special report in 2015 conducted with researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Texas at Dallas examined the social-media use of more than 200 13-year-olds. Their analysis found that ‘there is no firm line between their real and online worlds.’
Here is my response to the article and how I feel we can do better.
No solutions other than coping mechanisms
These teens are hopeless and resigned to the fact that this is how they are going to have to live i.e. simply managing their symptoms. It breaks my heart and it’s not alright!
Unfortunately (like the recent Xanax anxiety article in the New York Times) it offers no solutions other than coping mechanisms.
No mention of the importance of diet or nature
I agree that these kids are under a lot of stress (certainly more than when I was a teen) BUT there is ZERO mention of a real foods diet (that includes quality animal protein), a nourishing breakfast with protein (balancing blood sugar makes such a difference for reducing anxiety levels), the removal of caffeine, gluten and sugar, the importance of addressing nutritional deficiencies and poor gut health.
No mention of DPA or GABA or tryptophan for self-harming, anxiety and addiction
The article makes the connections between the endorphin/opioid system and pain and the comfort these teens get from self-harming and cutting:
Scientists want to better understand how self-harm engages the endogenous opioid system–which is involved in the pain response in the brain–and what happens if and when it does
However, there is NO nutritional solution offered and NO mention of the amino acid DPA (d-phenylalanine), which can often be very effective for the cutting and self-harming, because it creates a similar endorphin boost that the cutting provides.
All the above amino acid also address addictions and may well offer neurotransmitter support to help with the addictive nature of their “drug-of-choice” i.e. their iPhones, games and other devices.
We have a plethora of nutritional solutions
We have a plethora of nutritional solutions to consider. Here are some relevant blogs that need to be part of the conversation for these teens:
- GABA for children: ADHD, focus issues, irritability, anxiety and tantrums
- My interview with psychiatric nurse practitioner, Zendi Moldenhauer, on the Anxiety Summit – Anxiety in children, adolescents and young adults: an integrative psychiatric approach
- My discussion with Dr. Nicole Beurkens at the end of one of Integrative Medicine for Mental Health conferences to talk about anxiety and the impact of both low zinc and low GABA. Nicole shares her perspectives on working with children and I share what I see with the adult women I work with.
Something as simple as a weighted blanket may help ease the anxiety some of these teens are experiencing.
We can do better than simply discussing the problem teens face. I’ve worked with both children and teens and we’ve shifted things in a matter of months. It really can be done but we need to share the powerful nutritional psychiatry solution, especially because research shows that most children with anxiety relapse, regardless of conventional treatment approaches.
Do you have a teenager who is experiencing anxiety and what has helped her/him?
Do you work with teens and do you incorporate some of these approaches?
How do we get this information into the hands of parents, schools, organizations, doctors, mental health practitioners and others those who can help make this happen?