A for Anxious Adolescents, That’s The New Gen A

Not ma-ma. Not da-da. Guess what is the “first word” of Gen A? It’s… ALE-XA! Believe it or not, that’s what’s trending about a whole generation growing up on a digital diet alongside their infant formula.

Gunjan Pant Pande
New Update
kids anxiety

Not ma-ma. Not da-da. Guess what is the “first word” of Gen A? It’s…tadowwww… ALE-XA! Believe it or not, that’s what’s trending about a whole generation growing up on a digital diet alongside their infant formula. 


One digital step back and you stumble upon zapped adolescents struggling with the Vagus Nerve Dysfunction. An AIIMS study concluded that “nearly a third of 15-19 years residing in urban Delhi have had an episode of depression or chronic anxiety in their lifetime.” The drastic increase in anxiety issues among the youth is also evident in statistics that reveal “one in six youngsters (ages 6 to 17) experience some sort of mental illness.” In girls particularly, it was found that the rate of anxiety was directly proportional to the amount of time spent on social media. This was on average upwards of five hours.

Between Freud’s phallic to genital psychosexual stages then, adulting today is truly the Iceberg Metaphor where “feelings, beliefs and underlying emotions” of a whole new generation are completely adrift in the realm of consciousness. A scenario where even the tried and tested 333 Rule for anxiety fails to re-focus and ground overwhelming impulses. 

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt insists that this “rapidly changing landscape of childhood” is leading to the Anxious Generation perpetually in the throes of some phobia, panic disorder, social anxiety or generalised anxiety disorder. 

This is primarily because of the great re-wiring from 2010 to 2015 “when adolescents had their neural systems primed for anxiety and depression” by compulsive daily use of “experience-blocking” smartphones. And if things continue the way they are, Haidt’s trajectories point to a catastrophic future as post-pandemic kids spend less and less time on healthy one-on-one social interactions. 

Already cases of self-harm, panic attacks, poor immunity, muscle fatigue, behavioural dysfunctions, irritability, sleep deprivation, restlessness, negative thought patterns, eating disorders, attention deficit, obesity, phobias, high blood pressure and even heart disease among teens are on the rise. The NEET result breaking news is the latest proof of the pressure cooker environment teens are trapped in.

It’s the kind of persistent anxiety that has started affecting the coping skills of a whole generation usually thought to be entitled, self-centred, multi-taskers hooked onto technology. When actually, unrealistic parental expectations, peer pressure, relocation, brain chemistry, puberty’s hormonal whack, disturbed home rhythm, cyber-bullying, body shaming, substance abuse, unhealthy food choices, avoidant attachment and what is now being called the overwhelming “think positive” gaslighting have a huge role to play in affecting the rational thinking patterns of youngsters.


Add to that, genetic factors and any history of mental trauma due to childhood abuse of any sort in an unhealthy social, school or home environment and you have the toxic cocktail that is responsible for the rise in mental morbidity among teenagers, according to experts. 

Here one needs to re-emphasise that even though some anxiety and stress are emotions experienced by everyone, the 6 types of anxiety disorders are serious as they cause “great distress and take on a crippling effect, preventing a person from being able to live a normal and healthy life.” Blaming the digital diet majorly for this, Haidt urges people to “consider how many enriching activities were displaced when young people began spending hours a day online, chasing likes, following vapid influencers, substituting the richness of real-life friendship with shallow online communication.” 

After mental health awareness May, interestingly we are stepping into “self-care” June. Mental health professionals advise parents, schools, policymakers, communities, counsellors and young adults to “apply their energies creatively” to counter teenage mental morbidity. In India, only 41 percent of people aged 15-24 years acknowledged that it was good to get support for mental health problems, reveals a UNICEF-Gallup survey across 21 countries. Unfortunately, denial is among the top defence mechanisms used to reduce such tension, besides displacement, projection, repression, regression like Anna Freud pointed out. This needs major working on. Mental health is BAE. As such therapy, counselling, venting and open mic discussions on the issue need normalising. 

Experts opine that strict quality control when it comes to “mental health support systems will lead to a healthier population. The growing popularity of treatments like Somatic Therapies to get over traumatic experiences and unresolved emotions trapped in our body points to movement in the right direction.”  

For the rest, a basic care routine must be incorporated in adolescents’ lives which includes:

  1. Healthy eating: that’s ovio yes to healthy, home-cooked, wholesome, fresh, seasonal meals and no to caffeine, sodas, fatty junk and sugary snacks.

  2. Moving: you got to move it, move it bruh. Go to the gym, roll in the mud, run to school, climb a hill, swim, walk to the mall, play a sport, groove to your fav number, hop, skip, jump, go outdoors, feel the nurturing powers of nature.

  3. Getting the Zzzzz: the chemicals in the brain are abuzz, body’s battling raging hormones, mind is bombarded with info overload, life as a teen is non-stop TOUGH! Here’s where at least 8 hrs of sleep, regular rest and relaxation, break from routines for unstructured growth and “doing nothing” need priority.

  4. Being mindful: The calming effect of mindfulness isn’t for boomers only btw. Be done with that misconception. You and I and the teen over there need it as much as the fair-haired uncle practising breathe work in the local park. Be aware of everything you do, think, consume. How you react, how you internalize, how you eventually mindfully respond.

  5. Detox digitally: A media report found that 46% of adolescents are online almost constantly. Need we say anything at all here! Just get off that smartphone you! That literally should do it. Period! 

  6. Be kind to yourself: aka no negative self-talk, which means learn to spot and cherish people that motivate you, make you laugh, listen to you basically lift your spirits in their own unique way. Join like-minded socs and clubs. 

  7. Pursue a passion: the more creative it is, the better. Colour, bake, sing, draw, play the djembe, photograph, design, arrange flowers, learn Korean, make your own Swiftie bracelet or fashion your very own clay mug. Build your emotional blocks.

  8. And last but not least: go get therapy, medication and adjust your lifestyle if that is required. 


Extolling the virtues of real-world experiences, Haidt concludes: “Childhood evolved for physical playfulness and exploration… the great re-wiring has been a catastrophic failure… it’s time to end the experiment. Let’s bring our children home!” A for Abundant Adolescents, could that be the new Gen A peeps? 

Views expressed by the author are their own

mental health Anxiety