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american psychological association


Gen Xer explains sense of 'impending doom' that seems to define the Millennial generation

Somebody finally put it into words and a lot of Millenials are feeling seen.

A woman looks to the ground in dispair.

At the end of his YouTube video “Does Anyone Else Feel Like Everything Has Changed?” self-development influencer Stephen Antonioni makes a rather haunting observation: "In many ways, the world is a better place than it was yesterday, just judging by objective measures. But I can't help share the feeling that something is off and perhaps terribly so. And therefore, I have to ask the question: Does anyone else feel like everything has changed?"

The most popular comment on the video, which was liked over 28,000 times was written by a YouTuber named Tracy Smith. Even though, at 57, she’s a Gen Xer, her thoughts have resonated with thousands of Millenials.

“I am 57. Not only does it feel like ‘something wicked this way comes’ but there is also this feeling that the whole world is holding its breath. Almost as though we are all waiting for some catalyst or sign or event that puts an end to this feeling of being put on hold,” Smith wrote. “This vague, unexplained unease we feel. Something terrible lurking just out of our field of vision but we all feel it closing in. I cannot count the number of people who have told me they wish that whatever is going to happen would just get on with it. That this waiting for the thing in the darkness is unbearable.”

The comment was shared on Reddit’s Millenials subforum, where many said it perfectly expressed how they feel about the future.

"I have never had someone put into words so accurately a feeling I didn't even realize I was having. I am wondering if any of you feel this way? Like, I realized for the last few years I have been feeling like this. I don't always think about it, but if I stop and think about this this feeling is always there in the background," RedHeadRedeemed wrote.

"The current socioeconomic situation in the US is unsustainable. Something is going to give, and relatively soon," NCRaineman replied. "I turned 21 and graduated college right around 9/11,” Seasonpositive6771 wrote. “My entire adult life has been a sense that the world is untrustworthy and unsafe to a certain degree."

Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, have lived through a unique set of circumstances. Most were children when 9-11 happened, and many were just starting out as adults when the Great Recession hit. Once the world recovered from that financial catastrophe came the politically turbulent late ‘10s and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Millennials have also experienced a technological revolution with the advent of the Internet, social media, and smartphones and have lived under the specter of climate change.

The world can also seem more dangerous to Millenials because they’ve lived in an era where fear-mongering on the news and social media is rampant and can easily present a very skewed version of the world.

Even though the years that Millenials have been alive are among the safest in American history, it’s hard to feel that way when we are exposed to so many disturbing images in the media.

Even though many Millenials look towards the future with a sense of dread, for some perspective, previous generations have had it much worse.

"Relocate to 1915 and see how the punches can keep coming for real. Try WWI where daddy is killed or f**ked up in combat when you are a child. Then the depression beginning in’ 29 then WWII takes your kid. No wonder previous generations are rough they got it honest and did what they could to not ever be broke again. They did not comprehend the damage they were doing. They had been through hell and just wanted to be ok like everyone else," InfamousOccasion wrote.

One of the commenters noted that this feeling of dread may stem from a form of collective PTSD caused by the pandemic. The American Psychological Association agrees, saying people are still healing from the 3-year ordeal that killed millions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic created a collective experience among Americans. While the early-pandemic lockdowns may seem like the distant past, the aftermath remains,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “We cannot ignore the fact that we have been significantly changed by the loss of more than one million Americans, as well as the shift in our workplaces, school systems, and culture at large. To move toward posttraumatic growth, we must first identify and understand the psychological wounds that remain,” said Evans.

If the first step in recovering from the pandemic is recognizing the remaining psychological wounds, understanding Millenials’ sense of “impending doom” could be a key to collective healing.