Along with providing counselling and psychotherapy in Plymouth and online for adults, we at Personal and Relationship Counselling work frequently with teenagers. If you are a parent, or a teenager yourself, you will know that this age bracket - between 13 and 18 - encounters a unique series of challenges, such as exam stress, body dysmorphia, bullying, self-harm, gender and sexuality issues, and social anxiety.
When it comes to these aforementioned problems, there is an underlying factor that makes all of them worse: isolation. Being alone causes these issues to inflate and warp inside one’s head, and this is a particular problem with young people who are alone far more than their parent’s generation ever used to be, or even those in their twenties today. In this blog post, we will look at the two main reasons for loneliness among young people and how they have exacerbated mental health issues.
While COVID-19 had far more serious implications for senior and vulnerable citizens, the effect of lockdown on teenagers was considerable and shouldn’t be ignored. Adolescence is a time for having adventures, making new friends, spending time with people outdoors. The pandemic and its enforced isolation meant that a generation of teenagers were unable to leave their rooms and meet friends for the best part of the year, which naturally led to some developing social anxiety and withdrawing into themselves.
In terms of the school environment, COVID-19 also had a deeply damaging effect. Not only is school a vital social hub where lifelong connections are made, that in-person teacher-student dynamic is so important for getting the most out of an education. Going from being in the classroom every day to doing everything online at home caused considerable stress, especially for those sitting exams. There is a whole age bracket - those who were 16 in 2020 - that did not sit GCSEs but have now had to face the stress of sitting A-Levels, with many understandably worried about handling an exam environment - which isn’t easy in the best of circumstances. Having to do everything at home, in front of a screen, without the company of friends or support of teachers, meant that loneliness became a considerable problem.
Even before the pandemic, which dramatically increased our screen time, the overuse of social media was a major issue among teenagers. It is now the norm for young people to spend a major portion of their day in front of a screen of some kind - phones, TVs, tablets, or laptops. Some young people spend up to eight hours a day on their phones alone.
While there are benefits to connecting with others online, the main outcome is the extent to which it induces anxiety, low self-esteem, and a feeling of envy, or FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Platforms like Instagram cause children to constantly compare themselves to others and, in turn, feel inadequate in some way. This is particularly the case with teenage girls, who find themselves endlessly subjected to unrealistic standards of beauty through being exposed to so many ‘perfect’ profiles on social media and in popular culture. Cyberbullying has also been a problem for years - especially on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat.
Social media, in this sense, consigns young people to their own lonely bubble, making them more susceptible to more serious problems like anxiety and depression.
At Personal and Relationship Counselling, we give young people a space to receive the precise kind of counselling in Plymouth or online that they need - with a specialist they feel comfortable with. Get in touch to arrange your initial consultation.