Teen angst? I smell bullshit.

I’m in one of those moods again. Well, “again” is probably inaccurate, because I’m almost always in one of these moods, but I digress. You see, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and when I do that, bad things happen. Been browsing some MySpace blogs too (yes, my life sucks THAT much). I’ve noticed that there are quite a few teens like me, who have problems and don’t want to talk about them. Things bother us, and we don’t bother to share what’s eating at us.

Why do we feel like this? Well, the classic answer is “teen angst.” It’s just part of growing up, right? Those crazy teens and their crazy hormonal imbalances, they can’t figure out how to keep them under control! Not quite. The problem here is there’s a whole generation of parents telling a whole generation of children that their problems are all in their head. Teen angst is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Imagine that you have a semi-serious problem. Say someone in your family is constantly treating you like crap, calling you all sorts of nasty things, flying off at the handle, that sort of thing. Now, normally, a healthy response to this would be to talk to someone else about your problem. Even if your only aim is to get something off your chest, talking to someone else can be very therapeutic. However, if you are a teenager, you’ve been raised around the notion of “teen angst.” You start to think, “Well, maybe my problem isn’t so bad, after all. Maybe it’s just in my head.” Rather than dealing with problems, teens are taught how to ignore them. That’s definitely a healthy alternative!

Speaking of healthy alternatives, I wager that teen angst was designed as a healthy alternative to everyone’s “favorite” teenage stereotype: the drama queen. Teen angst was driven into the skulls of kids growing up so that parents wouldn’t find manifestations of the drama queen in their own children. Ironically, by teaching children to ignore their problems, drama queens are more likely to surface! They wallow in their own problems, unsure of how to cope, and so end up in a chronically sullen mood. This mood can lead to dramatic outbursts when something goes wrong for the teen. Of course, if parents would just teach their children the difference between minor and major problems (i.e., what’s worth bitching about and what isn’t) rather than create this myth of teen angst, there’d be far fewer depressed teens in the world.

Teen angst isn’t just something that parents instill into their children; it’s something that the children take to heart and help spread amongst themselves. When a friend has a problem, the most typical teen response I’ve seen is “will this really matter when you’re all grown up?” (Such a comment is obviously hinting at the fact that one’s friend is undergoing a slight bout of teen angst.) Granted, the problem isn’t likely going to be an issue once fully grown, but does that justify ignoring it in the present? If something is affected your mood and making you sad, it’s probably best to confront it head on and get over it rather than write it off as teen angst and hope your hormones fix themselves. We don’t tell depressed adults that their brains are just out of whack and that everything will be fine when their chemicals go back to normal, so why should we feed depressed teens the same line of bullshit?

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as “teen angst.” There’s depression, there’s sadness, and there’s people who over-exaggerate their problems. Adults are capable of all the same behaviors as teens, yet we don’t say that there’s “adult angst.” The very notion of teen angst is an incredibly dangerous one, one that is rearing a whole generation of people who don’t know how to cope with their own emotions.

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