By Marie Miguel
There seems to be an increase in the number of adolescents and emerging adults diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, so much so that it appears to have become a ‘catch all’ condition for what ails millennials and the stress they encounter in a rapidly changing society. The daily life of the average teen extends itself from one range of the spectrum to the other. Social media and the immediacy of information and response times may very well be a culprit in the onset of bi-polar symptoms in young people.
The rise of ADHD and bi-polar disorder seems to be commensurate with the rise of hand held devices and social media. Young people, and adults too, are inundated with information 24 hours per day. The average teen and young adult receives nearly 2000 texts in a single day, but not all of these bring positive affirmations. Given the fact that most teens are on a natural emotional roller coaster, the constant influx of ‘he said she said’ text messages, images, and even information regarding academics can be emotionally overwhelming and place young minds on overload.
Teens and young adults are in the developmental stage of immediate gratification. When they are under a deluge of information – this concert there, this event here, a party this weekend – no, make that three – they are in a constant state of decision making that, to be honest, their brains are simply not developed enough to handle. Teens of any generation suffer from the need for instant gratification. The Internet and social media have not only proven a means of satisfying that, but also increased the expectation for it. The adolescent mind cannot comprehend a parent or other authority figure who does not see the importance of a concert, event, party, or outfit when their greatest authority figure, Social Media, says it is important.
When teens do not get what they want, they become surly. This has always been the way it goes. They seem to be constantly depressed and pursue what÷ they want, when they want it. Just take Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Their demise would have come along a great deal more quickly than the three days that it did since they first set eyes upon one another, fell in love, and decided they could not live without the other.
When teens are flying high and suddenly reason or parents stop them in their tracks, it can bring them crashing down. With the high incidence of teen suicides, parents and mental health professionals are understandably concerned. However, this concern should not warrant a stigmatizing and potentially life threatening diagnosis in order to receive proper care. Most teens if given the proper outlets will outgrow their angst, their depression, and even their ADHD and seeming bipolar symptoms. The operative phrase here is “proper outlets.”
Parents need to be available and aware of what is going on in their children’s lives. It would be impossible to know or expect to know the content of 2000 plus text messages and notifications on a given day. If adults think back to their own high school and college years and think of the average day amplified and expedited through social media, then they should have a pretty good idea of the seriousness of it. Even to look at the average adult inbox at work or at home – if the mentality was one of instant gratification, that adult would feel too as if he or she were losing it mentally. If these feelings were presented to a mental health professional, he or she might deem a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and corresponding medications as necessary.
Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose, even in adults. There should be a documented history of behavior, and this should be monitored by a mental health professional.