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Why more US teens are suffering from severe anxiety than ever before — and how parents can help

Nearly one-third of American adolescents and adults are affected by anxiety, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s the most common mental health disorder in the country.

» RELATED: What is anxiety and how can you overcome it?

And when it comes to teens, severe anxiety is becoming more crippling each year.

In fact, over the last decade, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services, the New York Times reported.

» RELATED: Anxiety and depression do not define who we are

The data comes from the American College Health Association’s 2016 survey of students about the previous year.

Sixty-two percent of undergraduate students in the survey reported “overwhelming anxiety,” a significant increase from 50 percent in 2011.

A separate survey from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, asks incoming college freshmen whether they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year.

>> Read more trending news

In 1985, when the institute began surveying students on the issue, 18 percent said they felt overwhelmed.

By 2010, 29 percent said they did. And in 2016, the number jumped to 41 percent.

And since 2012, the Washington Post reported, the Boys Town National Hotline has seen a 12 percent spike in teens reaching out via calls, texts, chats and emails about their struggles with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

» RELATED: Teens and the distorted reality of social media

The rate of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers has also doubled over the past decade.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mirrored a national trend in suicide rates across the board.

» RELATED: The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame?

But the research found suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

That means for every 100,000 American girls in 2015, five committed suicide.

For teen boys, the rate rose by more than 30 percent.

» RELATED: ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ shows how adults can mess up teen angst

What’s causing the rise in teenagers with severe anxiety?

Anxiety, along with depression, cuts across all demographics, including both privileged and disadvantaged teenagers.

But privileged teens are among the most emotionally distressed youth in America, Arizona State University psychology professor Suniya Luthar told the New York Times.

» RELATED: How to keep your kids safe on social media 

“These kids are incredibly anxious and perfectionistic,” she said, but there’s “contempt and scorn for the idea that kids who have it all might be hurting ... there’s always one more activity, one more A.P. class, one more thing to do in order to get into a top college. Kids have a sense that they’re not measuring up. The pressure is relentless and getting worse.”

But helicopter parents aren’t always to blame. Many students internalize the anxiety and put the pressure on themselves, Madeline Levine, co-founder of Challenge Success, a nonprofit aimed at improving student well-being, told the Times.

» RELATED: The more social media you use, the lonelier you feel, study says

Another expert, psychiatrist Stephanie Eken, said despite the cultural differences, there’s a lot of overlap among teens regarding what makes them anxious.

Eken mentions factors range from school, family conflicts, what food to eat, diseases, how they’re perceived by friends and notably in the last few years, Eken told the Times, to a rising fear about terrorism. 

“They wonder about whether it’s safe to go to a movie theater,” she said.

A lack of close, meaningful relationships is also a major factor.

» RELATED: Should kids be watching new Netflix series on teen suicide? 

Experts have long said hormonal, mental and physical changes associated with puberty may leave teens especially vulnerable to anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.

And social media doesn’t help, Eken said, adding that teens are always comparing themselves with their peers, which leaves them miserable.

When Times reporter Benoit Denizet-Lewis visited Mountain Valley, a nonprofit that offers teens need-based assistance for $910 a day, a college student at the facility said, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities,” he said. “Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

» RELATED: This social media platform is the worst for cyberbullying 

But social media can also be used to “help increase connections between people,” CDC suicide expert Thomas Simon told CNN in August. “It's an opportunity to correct myths about suicide and to allow people to access prevention resources and materials.”

Still, Simon acknowledged that cyberbullying can greatly impact vulnerable youth.

More from experts at

How parents can help

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder are not getting treatment. And anxiety disorders are highly treatable.

While anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful environments and situations, there are specific symptoms associated with anxiety disorders.

Generally, someone with anxiety disorder would have fear or anxiety that is out of proportion to the situation or inappropriate for his or her age.

The anxiety would also affect normal day-to-day function.

Two questions parents should ask themselves: Is my child more shy or anxious than others his or her age? Is my child more worried than other children his or her age?

» RELATED: Nighttime cellphone usage linked to poor mental health among teens

According to Lynn Miller, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, those questions can help predict a child’s potential of developing an anxiety disorder.

If you notice overwhelming feelings of anxiety in your child, the ADAA suggests seeking help and talking to a professional.

While antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can offer relief from symptoms, they’re not treated as cures. Instead, talk therapy is often recommended.

More tips from

The snowman drawing from poorly reviewed film is the internet’s latest ice cold meme

A new horror movie “The Snowman” starring Michael Fassbender isn’t getting a ton a good reviews, and this poorly drawn snowman from the film certainly isn’t helping.

THE SNOWMAN (2017) DP: Dion BeebeDir: Tomas Alfredson — One Perfect Shot (@guy_dolbey) October 20, 2017

RELATED:  Man brings his own beanbag chair onto train, becomes internet hero

The internet exploded with laughter at a shot from the movie that features the bad snowman drawing and made sure to heavily mock it on social media. Twitter users in particular shared their homemade memes of the snowman, writing hilarious captions to go with it:

TFW Harold from Marketing forgets to bring hummus for the office party — Will Goss (@williambgoss) October 20, 2017 never getting tired of this. these posters should be mandated to stay up forever — David Sims (@davidlsims) October 9, 2017 The Greatest Snowman (2017) — Cameron Scheetz (@cameronscheetz) October 19, 2017 I forgot to put on pants today, Mister police — Danette Choppez (@BonMotVivant) October 18, 2017

The film, which is still in theaters, features a storyline in which “detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.” While the cast and crew may be disappointed in its mostly negative reviews so far, it looks like the snowman isn’t sweating it, according to yet another fitting meme:

The stick figure snowman from the Snowman movie poster responds to the overwhelmingly negative reviews for the film — Ghostface Vigillah (@HubertVigilla) October 20, 2017

RELATED:  The viral “Monkey Haircut” meme is back, but with an all-new twist

Robot writes a script for an episode of “Scrubs,” and Zach Braff just responded

“Scrubs” hasn’t been on the air since 2010, but thanks to a robot with a mind of its own, we’ve got a new script and star Zach Braff says he’s into it.

Hello. We trained predictive keyboards on 'Scrubs' scripts and wrote the exact average episode of 'Scrubs' — BOTNIK (@botnikstudios) October 19, 2017

The script was created by Botnik, a bot (essentially a fancy word for an algorithm) that automates content that’s fed into it or that it finds online. They’re actually becoming rather common, though sometimes they can go off the rails like the time Microsoft created a bot that started praising Hitler and saying disgustingly naughty things on Twitter.

RELATED: Kramer didn’t cave to the bloopers, but the rest of the Seinfeld cast was in stitches

The “Scrubs” script that the bot churned out was short but unexpectedly funny, and Zach Braff, a star of the show, even tweeted that he would love to do a reading of it.

I would very much like to do a reading of this. — Zach Braff (@zachbraff) October 20, 2017

“Scrubs” reruns used to be on Netflix, but unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.

The bot was created by a former Clickhole writer, according to Motherboard, but it’s not always as witty as it was in the “Scrubs” script — somebody fed it “Seinfeld” scripts and the result didn’t make a bit of sense.

New study finds ‘alarming’ 76 percent decline in insect populations

Insects are in serious danger. Insect populations have decreased by about 76 percent in nearly 30 years, according to a new study.

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from Germany recently conducted an experiment, published in PLOS One, to determine how much populations had declined and why. 

To do so, they measured the total flying insect biomass, the weight of the insect catch, by using tent-like nets called Malaise traps. Those were deployed in 63 nature protection areas in Germany over the course of 27 years. 

After analyzing the results, they found that flying insect biomass had decreased by 76 percent and up to 82 percent in the summers during the time of the study.

In fact, the scientists say their findings suggest “the entire flying insect community has been decimated over the last few decades,” the study read. 

Scientists noted the drop occurred regardless of the habitat type, but changes in weather, land use and habitat characteristic were not the reason.

»RELATED: Can this plastic-eating bug save our planet? 

Despite the unknown explanation, researchers say the dip is “alarming” as the disappearance of “field margins and new crop protection” have both been associated with insect decline.

“Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services,” the study read. 

That’s why researchers hope to continue their studies to pinpoint the exact cause and ways to prevent it. 

“There is an urgent need to uncover the causes of this decline,” the study said, “its geographical extent, and to understand the ramifications of the decline for ecosystems and ecosystem services.”

Sugar can fuel cancerous cells, study says

Different types of foods have been linked to cancer, including saturated fats and processed meats. Now, scientists say sugar can fuel the disease, too. 

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from universities in Belgium recently conducted a nine-year experiment, published in Nature Communications, that revealed how sugar stimulates the growth of tumors. 

They explained that healthy cells receive energy through aerobic respiration, a process that transforms digested food into energy molecules. To complete the process, oxygen is required so that carbon dioxide can be released.

>> Work the night shift? You may be at higher risk for breast cancer, study says

On the other hand, cancerous cells get energy from fermenting sugar, which causes tumor growth. This is called the Warburg effect.

For the study, they examined the correlation between “the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness” by observing the sugar fermentation of yeast, which is similar to that of cells. They both “share the unusual characteristic of favoring fermentation of sugar over respiration,” the study read.

The scientists not only confirmed that sugar causes tumors to grow, but that it also makes cells multiply faster. They believe the sugar produces more of the most common cancer-causing genes, also known as Ras proteins, which fuel aggressive tumors. 

>> Related: Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

“Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth. Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness. This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences,” co-author Johan Thevelein said in a statement

While the researchers do not understand why the cells react this way to sugar, they think their findings can help treat cancer with low-sugar diets. 

“This research in yeast and human cells has led to a new very valuable scientific hypothesis,” the authors wrote. “The next step is to find out whether these results also apply to patients.”

Man brings his own beanbag chair onto train, becomes internet hero

Earlier this week, a man brought his own beanbag chair onto a subway train and immediately became a star after a picture of him went viral.

One of the man’s fellow passengers snapped a photo of him and tweeted it out, writing, “A dude on my train has brought his own beanbag and is sitting on it.”

A dude on my train has brought his own beanbag and is sitting on it — Holly Brockwell (@holly) October 16, 2017

RELATED: Mom tries to use slang while texting her daughter — and the internet collectively gasped

Twitter users applauded the man’s genius idea with one person writing, “We’re living in 2017 while this guys [sic] living in 3017.”

“Not all heroes wear capes,” another wrote.

Many, many more shared their reactions:

Sometimes the best subway seat is the one you bring with you. — Trammell Hudson™ (@qrs) October 16, 2017 — Tom Pritchard (@tepritchard) October 16, 2017

RELATED: Girl gets pulled over by cops for dressing like Shrek — and Twitter had a field day

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