Anxiety. Post-Partum Depression (PPD). Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These are very real disorders that have all been on the rise in the 2000's. There is an abundance of research on these conditions, just do a quick internet search and you'll find evidence that supports my claim.
This is a risky article to write because I'm not an expert on these matters. But I'm a citizen who lives, observes, analyzes, and it seems obvious to me that they would be on the rise. It's common to over-complicate sensitive matters. Instead, I'm going to share my "Captain Obvious" observations below. This is not at all to discount those who are suffering, but rather to be direct about our culture and ways it's harming us. Some things must change; we want the numbers to decline, we want better mental health.
Captain Obvious says the internet and social media are huge players in this epidemic, as well as American wealth and prosperity. Together, they have led to impossibly high standards and idealized online identities that crush us.
The millennial generation is suffering deeply with anxiety. I know lots of millennials, and I know many who experience crippling anxiety and panic attacks. Too much information, too much everything; more, more, more, and then it CRUSHES you. A Google search is a good illustration of this point: you enter one word, click search, you're given infinite results, you can keep looking at the results forever—but all you need is one quick answer. It's overwhelming. Then take social media: if you don't have an uncommonly strong self identity, the crowd on social media will exalt you and then just as quickly crucify you, leaving you on the floor to bleed. It's brutal. It's anxiety inducing.
And it isn't just millennials. The internet has led to standards being dangerously high for everything and everyone. Am I good enough? Am I keeping up? Am I being excluded? Is this party well decorated enough for online photos? I certainly experience these thoughts.
This is the last week of school for my children and I'm seeing plenty of evidence of standards and expectations being out of control. Kindergarten graduation, 5th grade graduation, 8th grade graduation—what the heck?! When I went to school there was only high school graduation. And these gorgeous elementary school yearbooks! I thought yearbooks didn't begin until middle school. Yearbooks are wonderful, but it takes a ton of human time and energy to create them, and we're being crippled by anxiety as we race to keep up. We celebrate every holiday imaginable until we are sucked dry trying to give our kids a dream childhood, when ironically it will lead them to have unrealistically high expectations of life that will then crush them with anxiety or depression. It needs to end.
Captain Obvious says unrealistic expectations and ME-centered living have been big players in the rise of PPD. When a woman isn't mentally prepared for the wrecking ball of a child entering her life, she will struggle with the transition and likely have signs of PPD. Modern life is all about making things easier and glamorizing life via social media, and there isn't much that's easy or glamorous about parenthood—it can be a beast. No app can do it for you. The internet is also responsible for ushering in an age where we are especially self-focused and privatized, each building our own little kingdoms; parenthood punches the "ME" syndrome right in the gut as you are relegated to cleaning up explosive poops and comforting a wailing baby who doesn't have an off button. Doesn't post well to Instagram; bad lighting, and not pretty. Of course PPD is on the rise.
Captain Obvious says screens have been a primary contributor to the rise of ADD/ADHD. Many children go from silicone pacifier to screen pacifier, and it's harmful to their mental health. These children come to expect constant stimulation, because they haven't been taught how to be bored—and this is not their fault. Parents, teach your children well (this is a link).
And these screens I'm referencing, they aren't showing Pac-Man style digital images. They are fast-paced, always changing images that act like a stimulant. Think about the simple act of scrolling quickly on a smartphone screen—it can make me motion sick. If a child's normal is lots of stimulating screen time, they will obviously struggle to focus and control themselves when they aren't adequately stimulated. We have some serious changes to make to protect children and increase our society's mental health.
This sentence is linked to an NPR article on screens and our decreased attention span. And this sentence is linked to another NPR article on how screen stimulation is similar to the stimulation from drugs and alcohol.
I look forward to engaging with you on these topics. When faced with a growing problem, it can be helpful to perform a Captain Obvious analysis. Yes, the danger is over-simplification, while over-complication can blind us to the obvious. To say it again, my reflections are on why these disorders are on the rise; I realize many people suffer from these conditions without the causes I've addressed above. Let's do all we can to pursue mental health and to share that gift with others.