In the last decade, rates of anxiety-related disorders in teenagers have steadily risen, particularly in girls. Researchers and psychologists posit several hypotheses about why these rates are on the rise — from digital hyperconnectivity to heightened external pressures to simply a greater awareness, and therefore diagnosis, of mental health concerns.
Whatever the causes, Dr. Lisa Damour has hopeful news for parents and teens: first, some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth. And if those levels become untenable, there are tested strategies for reining anxiety back in.
Damour, a psychologist and author of the new book “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls,” has spent decades working with adolescent girls and their families. In recent years, she has noticed a change in how society views stress. “Somehow a misunderstanding has grown up about stress and anxiety where our culture now sees both as pathological,” said Damour. “The upshot of that is that we have adults and young people who are stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious.”
Anxiety is a normal and healthy function, according to Damour, and much of the anxiety that teenagers express is…