Teenage Anxiety Epidemic
Keith Stenning, the chair of the charity No Panic, which supports people with anxiety disorders, is in no doubt that there is a true rise in the numbers affected. He says calls to the charity’s youth support line have increased by 70 per cent in the past year alone. ‘More than two-thirds of our callers are teenage girls,’ he says.
‘Their anxiety problems are predominantly panic attacks and symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), such as persistent and worrying thoughts.’
Cal Strode, a senior officer at the Mental Health Foundation, says: ‘Given the evolving pressures such as increased exam expectations and cyber-bullying, I would be stunned if things have not got worse. ‘We only have to think how hugely children’s lives have changed in the past 14 years.’
He believes a Devil’s brew of new social pressures including keeping up with a ‘perfect’ image means that adolescent girls are facing daily strains which raise their risk of anxiety-related disorders.
This may make them particularly vulnerable to breakdowns if they are hit by an additional traumatic experience, such as a bereavement, or not getting the right exam grades, he suggests.