Anxiety is an often healthy response to potential danger and uncertainty. However, constant worry and apprehension are possible signs of a generalized anxiety disorder. This condition affects a substantial amount of people, with women being twice as likely to develop the disorder. There have been studies that hypothesize that generalized anxiety disorder becomes more prevalent with age, though it has been recorded that it may often begin in an individual’s youth (TK). As such, there has been a multitude of studies that assessed the presence of generalized anxiety in youth, such as high school or college students, with factors that can trigger the condition. The severity of generalized anxiety disorder in the youth primarily depends on social factors, academic triggers, and coping strategies available to them. These three aspects will be discussed in the disorder in this paper.
Social anxiety and the effects of social triggers on other variations of anxiety have often been cited as some of the most predominant causes of the disorders. In a time of constant interaction, for instance, via social networking, certain individuals have found an increase in their anxiety. This disproportionately affects the youth with such conditions. In a study where a group of young Facebook users related their experience within the network, six primary issues were uncovered about their anxiety disorders. These six were the fear of judgment, actively seeking approval, escalation of interpersonal problems, desire for privacy, negotiation between self and social identity, and connecting and disconnecting (TK). These stressors are unique to social networks, but when compounded with regular anxiety triggers, they can become hard to manage and cope with for younger individuals. Additionally, both in-person and online interaction often place expectations on youth with generalized anxiety disorder, which can not always be met.
Expectations and judgments are also common factors within academic settings for young people with anxiety disorders, and significant pressure from educational establishments can increase levels of stressors. Some triggers can include more simple and one-time procedures such as the enrollment process, course scheduling, available classroom equipment or resources, and public speaking (TK). Other factors are more abstract and can be ongoing, such as successful examination, maintaining a good faculty-student relationship, working well in collaborative environments, and finding appropriate employment after graduation. The issue becomes incredibly worrying when considering that anxiety is the most common mental health issue for college students in the United States (TK). Self-reports often cite the cause of distress in an educational workspace to be either generalized anxiety, social anxiety, or worry about academic success. Though there is a promising increase in resources offered to students who have these issues, not all young people with anxiety can find help to cope with their stressors.
Younger people without coping strategies and helpful resources find it harder to perform well in social and academic contexts. A study 2018 study examined the relationship between the self-perception of 62 students and their actual academic performance, with no known coping strategies implemented (TK). The qualitative results indicated that students with anxiety had more negativity in interpersonal relationships, felt more loneliness, felt impaired at school, and were less likely to enter higher education. However, quantitative data reflected that the student’s grades with anxiety varied in the same way the grades of the other students did. In college students, certain activities such as physical activity, lifestyle management, medication, professional intervention, and relaxation tactics have been known to assist with anxiety. As such, many young people likely suffer from the disorder on a very severe level due to the lack of adequate tools and assistance.
Generalized anxiety disorder within the youth is swayed by numerous factors. Social factors, especially with the advancement of technology, academic expectations, and the inability to access tools for coping, have day-to-day consequences for students and young people. Anxiety is a part of many people’s lives and should be kept in mind by faculty and educational leaders when planning, implementing, or teaching their courses.
Marini, I., Graf, N., M., & Millington, M., J. (2018). Psychosocial aspects of disability: Insider perspectives and strategies for counselors. Springer Publishing Company.