Feb 21

“Under Pressure” and “Untangled”: Teenage Girls

Though anxiety has risen among young people overall, studies confirm that it has skyrocketed in girls. Research finds that the number of girls who said that they often felt nervous, worried, or fearful jumped 55 percent from 2009 to 2014, while the comparable number for adolescent boys has remained unchanged. Publisher of Lisa Damour‘s Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls

Psychologist Lisa Damour‘s new book Under Pressure was preceded by her 2016 Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood.

Just for starters, here’s an essential Untangled quote: You must work with the assumption that every teenager secretly worries that she’s crazy.

And parents worry about the girls. Damour ends each chapter with advice for parents about “When to Worry” and what to do about it.

The new Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls Under Pressure opens with a normalization of stress and anxiety. As Damour stated in an interview with Mary Louise Kelly, NPR, “Anxiety is protective. Stress is what happens when we operate at the edge of our capacity…But if we respond to all stress and all anxiety as if it were harmful, we actually run the risk of raising a generation that becomes stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious.”

On the other hand, “Anxiety is no longer healthy,” she told Erin Jensen, USA Today, “when the alarm breaks – when it goes off all the time for no reason, or when it blares over minor concerns such as when a student has a panic attack over a quiz.”

As Kirkus Reviews notes in its Under Pressure critique, “Adolescent girls have always struggled with anxiety, but it’s even more of an issue now with the rise of social media, cyberbullying, and the cutthroat competition to get into elite universities across the country.”

In sum, an apt excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review:

Damour astutely notes that, as awareness of psychological terminology increases, parents have begun to pathologize their children, such as by referring to simple shyness as ‘social anxiety.’ Tackling the stereotype of backbiting teenage girls, Damour clarifies that young girls are most often supportive and kind to one another. Her instructions largely stress effective communication techniques, including responding to ‘meltdowns’ calmly and empathetically and not offering ‘hollow reassurances.’ Damour also considers thorny technology issues, such as how much social media monitoring by parents is actually healthy, and advises having shame-free conversations about sexual harassment and consent.