Being a teenager in 2023

March 9, 2023

The stereotype is true: teenagers are emotionally rocky. 

Clinical professor of psychology at the UCLA school of medicine Dr. Daniel Siegel found that the limbic area of the nervous system, which works with the brainstem and body to create emotion, exerts much more influence on higher-level reasoning from upper regions of the teenage brain than that of children or adults. This means emotions simply become more intense as children seep into adolescence. Teens can become more easily irritated and moody because of these intense emotions. 

Licensed Professional Counselor Marquia Caldwell works with teenagers in the San Antonio area, many of which struggle with anxiety or depression or are in the LGBTQ+ community. Caldwell said one of the most difficult things she sees her recent teenage clients struggling with is labeling themselves. 

“I’ve noticed that labels [are] something that has stressed them out a lot,” Caldwell said. “No one wants to be labeled this, or they want to be labeled this and they’re having issues with everybody conforming or understanding how they feel. There’s that struggle with being who you are, being comfortable with that and understanding a lot of people aren’t going to like it.”

Along with the many stressors teens process daily, school has become increasingly more competitive and stress-inducing the last few years. The National Assessment of Educational Progress found that 2009 graduates earned over three credits more than 1990 graduates. It also found 2009 had a greater percentage of graduates who completed higher curriculum levels with greater course requirements (13% in 2009 versus 5% in 1990). The difference has also, comparably, gotten much larger in the 14 years since 2009. 

“I’ve seen a lot of [students] stress [about] making certain grades,” counseling and mental health teacher Jacqueline Rans said. “They feel like they’re in competition with each other and their peers; they feel like they have to hold a certain standard for their family or their parents or they have to get to a certain college or career.”

Caldwell said she often hears students staying up until 2 a.m. to finish homework, something she never heard of when she was in school. 

“I have noticed with a lot of my teenagers [that] school is a lot different from when I went,” Caldwell said. “Remember to take care of yourself, put your homework down for an hour [and] give your brain and yourself [a minute] to relax. If there’s something going on in your household that’s toxic, find a safe space, because no one is more important than you.”

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