Sammy, from Burlingame, California, was obsessed with her grades and strived for success. Her dreams were ruined when she got a B in Spanish class her freshman year of high school, devastating her and taking away her will to live; she had to be put in a psychiatric ward for four days . Sammy had been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive-disorder (OCD) when she was 13, and her obsession revolved around school . OCD joins panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as some of the disorders categorized as anxiety and/or depression, both of which are diseases of the brain that begin during one’s young adult years.
Though today Sammy is a thriving young adult and acts as an avid speaker for mental health awareness, her case is just one of many out of young girls all over the world. According to Mental Health Facts on Children and Teens, twenty percent of teens aged thirteen to eighteen will live with a mental health condition, and eight percent will have anxiety. Further research reveals fifty percet of all lifetime cases will begin by the age of fourteen, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ranging from ten to twenty-four years.
More specifically, Adolescent Health and Wellness: Anxiety and Adolescent Health and Wellness: Depression both report that anxiety and depression are twice as common among women than men , which begs the question: why are depression and anxiety so prevalent in women and not men? This statistic can be attributed to school work stress and identity loss stemming from social media use, and everyone ranging from teachers and parents to popular advertising companies needs to implement change in today’s culture to help young girls who may feel this way. Depression and anxiety in teenage girls can be escalated by social media use that creates identity crisis and low self-esteem, as well as high stress levels that stem from excessive school work.
Social media today can have negative impacts on girls’ attitudes towards their bodies and personalities, leading to depression and anxiety. Popular media today often depicts women with unrealistic standards: thin, fit, and impossibly beautiful. These images are displayed all over social media and put into the minds of teenage girls that they have to achieve those standards as well. Girls become frustrated when their bodies do not match those of celebrities they see plastered everywhere they go, and their self-esteem is highly affected. Survey results from a Child of Our Times Survey in 2008 conducted by Professor David Messer revealed while boys’ self-esteems stay mostly at a constant from ages eight to seventeen, girls’ self-esteems continually go down and hit a peak low around the time they are fourteen to seventeen years old . According to Teen Rehab, this change is caused by the contradictory marketing strategies used in media and advertising; girls are told to be sexy, but conservative; skinny, but not too skinny or they are unhealthy. This idea is further developed in a journal article that states adolescent girls are pressured to “put aside their ‘authentic selves’” and become “fragmented… trying on new roles each week.” Messer’s graph also shows girls are losing self-esteem as they are going through puberty; Mary Pipher credits this to the fact that “[girls’] bodies work against them… Everything is changing .
Girls with anxiety and depression are also more inclined to be addicted to social media, displaying the range of social media’s influence. The definition of social media addiction is the use of social media that can cause damaging behaviors despite the user knowing and experiencing its negative consequences . In a chapter of Addictions and Substance Abuse, the author explains how people with anxiety prefer online modes of communication, as they are given more control over how people perceive them while remaining mostly anonymous, therefore isolating them from their peers and loved ones .
School work can be detrimental to girls in high school by making them feel stressed out and as if they are not enough, which in turn may make them become depressed and anxious. In Childhood Stress by L. Eugene Arnold, the authors go on to explain how a certain stressor in teens is the learning practice of school- otherwise known as school work, and is particularly stressful for students. Girls, who are told to be non-competitive and only slightly smart, are reportedly more prone to being stressed by the threats of academic failure . A study conducted by Nayereh Shahmohammadi that aimed to find the cause of high school-related stress in eleventh and twelfth grade students showed about twenty-six percent of students interviewed were stressed.
When asked for the reasons behind their stress, the students replied they were stressed about competition, exams, difficulty understanding their subjects, too much homework, and not enough time to fit the before mentioned into their personal schedules. The findings also concluded that females were the ones more likely to have a bad reaction to this stress and did not turn to alcohol or drugs for solace. Psychologist Mary Pipher, author of bestselling book Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, stated in an interview, “Children need to grow up embedded in a network, a web, of caring adults…what I’d like schools to do is to take a lot of responsibility, to have teenagers working with each other but in supervised settings, where there’s adults around to help them negotiate with each other, behave properly with each other.” Continuing this conversation, Shahmohammadi recommended in her study that school staff develop ways to improve communication between administrators and students, and suggested further study be completed to create a new curriculum that would push students to do their best while not pushing them over their limits .
Depression and anxiety can be affected by negative social media use and school-induced stress, and is shown to be twice as prevalent in girls than boys. Negative social media use can cause young girls to become victims of bullying and humiliation that lead to low self-esteem and ultimately depression and anxiety. Meanwhile, school work can cause extreme stress in teenage girls in high school, making them feel depressed and anxious they begin to feel crushed under their piling responsibilities. Depression and anxiety are persistent cases that continue to affect the lives of girls everywhere, and have astonishing effects. Girls within the age range of ten to fourteen are highly at risk for suicide , and their statistic only increases as nothing is done. If people don’t want to see their daughters, nieces, granddaughters and/or more become just another number, more changes have to be made to promote positive social media use and a safe school environment.
Some warning signs of depression and anxiety include: feeling sad or withdrawn for longer than two weeks, severe mood swings and erratic behavior that causes harm to others or oneself, drastic changes in behavior and personality, sudden overwhelming fear accompanied by physical discomfort, and/or intense worrying or fear that causes one to withdraw from their everyday life (Mental Health and Wellness). Check in on people who suffer from these symptoms, and talk to them often to ensure they are not secretly struggling. Support is not a sign of weakness and people who are known to suffer from a mental illness like depression and anxiety should not have to hide their feelings for fear of being written off as “crazy.”
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