Has Being a Girl Gotten More Difficult?

Riley Preiss , Editor

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You don’t know what is going on in someone else’s head. You can’t. The human mind is an extremely complex place… an even more complex place, however, is the mind of a teenage girl. Duh duh duh duhhhhh. We are living through a time in American history where we place a much greater emphasis on mental health than years before. A focus nationwide has been creating a safer environment for adolescents especially, to be more upfront about the things that are bothering them. You would think that this might help cut back on the number of issues and anxieties plaguing teenagers today. However, I can’t help but feel that people have more problems than ever. What has struck me as especially alarming as of recently, is the fact that so many people who are struggling with some really heavy things, are people you wouldn’t suspect.

Anxiety in teenage girls is actually being referred to as an “epidemic” in 2019. Ep·i·dem·ic, noun: a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. So yes, health professionals are referring to anxiety in teenagers as the equivalent to an infectious disease! THAT is the level we are at right now. It is estimated that approximately 10 years ago, the idea of anxiety basically spread through our society like wildfire. Psychologists say that today, more people than ever are showing up in their office, typically high school students who have been brought in by their parents, and beginning their sessions with the same phrase; “I am struggling with a lot of anxiety right now, how do I handle it?” What interests researchers, is that for the most part, they are girls.

It is pretty undisputed that girl power has been on the rise in our society. In 2018, we said Times Up to sexism and pushed for women’s-equality. There has never been a time where women have had such a powerful voice. So, why then, are girls from the ages of 12-19 experiencing record levels of stress and anxious behavior? A lot of it stems from this idea that in today’s world, girls are capable of, and expected to, excel in almost everything. They’re expected to be athletes, who are kind and and caring, who are social and helpful, who excel in school and work hard, and all the while meet the unrealistic beauty standards they see all over. Being a teenage girl was hard enough before it was normal to spend hours and hours scrolling through Instagram and believing that everyone else is prettier, or artsier, or has cuter clothes, or more likes, or more followers– and obviously more friends. As a teenage girl myself, I am a first-hand source that my friends and I talk about Instagram and trying to get a “cute pic” way more often than we should. It’s unhealthy! It’s addictive! It’s freaking depressing! I dare you to go into the settings feature on Instagram and track your daily use of the app. Or better yet, ask a teenage girl their screen time. I personally average two hours a day on the app, a number I’ve started to try to cut down on. I’ve asked some of my friends their times. One averages 40 minutes, one 25, another 33 minutes (she claims she isn’t that into insta- she prefers snapchat), another is at a record 3 hours. WE WASTE SO MUCH TIME LOOKING AT OTHER PEOPLE’S LIVES RATHER THAN LIVING OUR OWN!

Snapchat is a whole other monster. The idea behind it being, “let’s send pictures of ourselves to others rather than actually talking to them. Oh AND let’s post ‘stories’ of our daily lives and how much fun we are having with our friends,” a depressing concept if you are not in fact having fun with your friends. The worst part about Snapchat is that so many people think once you send it, it goes away. That is definitely not the case– any person involved in law enforcement will tell you. Studies show that this constant attachment to our cell-phones, not only is depressing and affecting our sleep habits, eating habits, and social interactions, is such a huge time suck, that it is also part of the rise of anxiety in our society. There is no benefit to constantly comparing yourself to your peers or your friends, now young girls are spending the majority of their day comparing themselves to an entire online community, people who get paid for advertising expensive brands, or using aesthetically-pleasing filters. There is no sense of normalcy, everyone sees it as a way to gain fame and followers.

By mid-adolescence, girls are twice as likely to develop a mood disorder or anxious behavior than boys. This could be in part due to the fact that emotionally girls develop faster than boys, but we must also consider the pressures of society weighing down on girls’ shoulders. “There is a growing crisis in children and young people’s mental health, and in particular a gathering crisis in mental distress and depression among girls and young women,” says Dr. Bernadka Dubicka, the chair of the child and adolescent faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “Emotional problems in young girls have been significantly, and very worryingly, on the rise over the past few years.” Increasing numbers of academic studies are finding that mental health problems have been soaring among girls over the past ten – and in particular five – years, coinciding with the period in which young people’s use of social media has exploded. Social media such as Snapchat and Instagram “can be damaging and even destructive” to girls’ mental wellbeing, said Dubicka. “There’s a pressure for young people to be involved 24/7 and keep up with their peer group or they will be left out and socially excluded.” Use of social media also contributes to a growing culture of sleep deprivation among young people, which could both be a symptom of mental illness and also increase the risk of one developing, including depression. Girls’ tendency to worry more than boys, and their greater sensitivity to criticism have also been pinpointed as potential triggers for distress. With all of this information at hand, it is no surprise that teenage girls today are showing off-the-chart levels of stress and anxiety. It’s sad to say it, but being a teenage girl has gotten a whole lot harder in 2019 with the assistance of all of this technology that is supposed to make life easier. Something needs to change!