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Teens in the Age of Anxiety

In a recent Washington Post article the authors showed college students getting classes in “Adulting.” I wish I had that class! How to balance a checkbook, make a meal, change a tire, follow the stock market, sew a hem, and more. The task of your 20’s, according to psychologist Meg Jay, is to set yourself up for your 30’s. Personally, it was a terrible adjustment to go from being surrounded by my peers, thriving academically and socially, to being surrounded by no one. To find out what you DON’T want. But this is the decade to make mistakes, and boy did I make them. Here’s a list of mistakes and what came out of them:

  • 1. picking boyfriends who were too immature – check.
  • 2. picking jobs that were unfulfilling – check.
  • 3. picking the wrong college and grad school – check.
  • 4. making decisions based on fear – check.

All of these taught me to hone my skills at discernment, knowing and seeking the right fit for me (not for someone else). I have no regrets. Because how else do you know but from trying? This is not the time to retreat or withdraw from your life. Lean-in. Don’t you hate that expression? But it’s pretty on point. This is why I encourage my young adult clients to face their fears head on NOW. The fear of being alone. The fear of not working in your major. The fear that your parents are getting old. The fear that you are an imposter. ALL NORMAL. So get out there and do stuff. It’s a competitive world but you have a place in it, and that’s all that matters.

These are all real life examples of things teens and young adults feared in my office:

  • Fear of vomiting (emetophobia)
  • Fear of being seen as different
  • Fear that there’s nothing worth doing
  • Fear of climate annihilation
  • Fear of being shot at school/movies/stadiums
  • Fear of being bullied
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Fear of success/failure
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of deportation
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of having no structure
  • Fear of boredom
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of flying/driving/bridges (separation?)
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Fear of not being perfect


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