This is what teen anxiety and mental disorders can do.
OMG, remember the pressures of being a teen? Solome, from this TEDx talk about teen anxiety, certainly does.
Who hasn't played fun little games with their candy, right? But she took it a bit further:
She often felt that she "had to follow through on the compulsions, if I was not to face the consequences, whether they were real or imagined."
And in this case her anxious mind told her that the consequence was pregnancy...from eating M&Ms out of order.
While Solome's story might be a bit quirky (and, as she later reveals, evidence of obsessive compulsive disorder), she wasn't alone in being a teenager dealing with the weight of the world and a whole lot of anxiety.
Being a teen is stressful.
Getting good grades, trying to have relationships, dealing with home situations, body image issues, worrying about the future and whether or not you're the kind of person who even has one. Welcome to the life of the average teenager.
What are adults really doing to help teens with this?
Maybe we tell them to calm down, we offer perspective by telling them to just wait until they're adults and they have "real" problems, or we avoid talking about it because we aren't sure how to help them.
And how is that approach working out?
- 11% of kids have a "depressive disorder" by the age of 18.
- Persons from ages 12-20 drink 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the U.S.
- Suicide ranks third among causes of death for people ages 10-24, according to the CDC.
So, what should we do to help them deal with their anxiety for real?
Pretty much what you'd want a friend or mentor to help you with if you were struggling. Things like:
- Lend a listening, nonjudgmental, ear.
- Try to remember what it was like to be a teen, but without projecting your own experiences.
- Don't tell them how to fix it, but help guide them into devising their own plan for anxiety relief.
- Help them facilitate and stick to the plan they devise, whether it involves exercise, therapy, meditation, etc.
- Let them know their worth to you is NOT based on their achievements OR their missteps. Seriously. Sometimes you have to explicitly say those exact kinds of words, even if they sound all "after-school special."
And above all, let them know that what they're feeling is NORMAL, and there are a bunch of other people their age feeling it, too.
Solome finally got the help she needed when she confided in her dad and he would drive her to therapy. Then she went on to found her own organization for teens dealing with anxiety.
There is NO shame in asking for help if the pressures become too much.