The Anxiety Epidemic Among America’s Youth

American teens and young adults appear to be struggling with mental health issues in increasing numbers. According to research published by the American Psychological Association, the percentage of teens and young adults with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems has increased dramatically over the past decade—a pattern not seen in older adults.

The researchers found the rate of adolescents reporting symptoms consistent with major depression in the last 12 months rose from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 13.2 percent in 2017. In young adults age 18 to 25, it increased from 8.1 percent in 2009 to 13.2 percent in 2017.

In her 2017 book iGen psychology professor Jean Twenge describes members of the generational cohort “born in 1995 and later” as being “at the forefront of the worst mental health crisis in decades, with rates of teen depression and suicide skyrocketing since 2011.”

That crisis seems to have reached college campuses already. “Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services,” The New York Times reported in 2017. “In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting ‘overwhelming anxiety’ in the previous year.” At Boston University, clinicians reported that the number of students seeking help for behavioral issues doubled between 2010-2014.

Young people in the United States increasingly view mental health as a major problem for their generation, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. In the survey of nearly 1,000 teens ages 13 to 17, a troubling 70 percent said anxiety and depression are critical issues among their peers.

All of this is really bad news for the addiction crisis currently ravaging America because anxiety and depression are strongly correlated with substance use disorder. A 2017 study revealed that people with anxiety and depression are consuming a disproportionate share of opioid prescription painkillers. Researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan found that nearly 19 percent of patients with those two mental health disorders received at least two prescriptions for opioids during a year. Adults with depression and anxiety receive 51 percent of the 115 million opioid prescriptions distributed each year in the United States, the study found.

A large number of people with addiction are actually self-medicating co-occurring mental health issues. Frequently, substance use disorders are driven by underlying anxiety, depression, and trauma. Often, the underlying mental health conditions are undiagnosed.

Addiction is a complex bio-psycho-social-spiritual disease requiring comprehensive treatment that addresses all the needs of the patient at the same time. At the Farley Center, patients work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team of highly qualified professionals to design a plan of treatment that is focused on their individual needs. During their stay, our patients receive psychotherapy—individually and in a group setting—experiential therapeutic interventions, integration into a 12-step recovery program, education, and sober-life skill-building.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and could benefit from addiction treatment services, please contact The Farley Center at Williamsburg Place at 800.582.6066 or fill out our admissions request form.