Anxiety in teens after quarantine

Dec. 14, 2021, 4:10 p.m. | By Samuale Asefa | 2 years, 6 months ago

Anxiety has become rampant in teens transitioning out of quarantine

Having trouble making eye contact on a regular basis? Feeling nervous about being in large groups again? 

Anxiety in teens and adults alike has been on the rise post-quarantine. Adolescents, already prone to social anxiety, are vulnerable to the phenomenon.

The Penn State Social Science Research Institute (PSSRI) conducts a yearly study on anxiety in teens. The most recent study shows that general anxiety has risen by 45 percent in adolescents and school anxiety by a whopping 143 percent.

Struggling with interaction or performing in front of others falls under social anxiety. General anxiety is intense persistent worry over everyday life. 

A drawing of a student fumbling books. Photo courtesy of Luke Sanelli.

What about the pandemic causes this influx in teens' anxiety? One of the many contributing factors is how many of them had to quickly transition from the isolation of online learning to interacting with hundreds of people at school daily. 

The PSSRI also points out that different people have had different experiences with COVID itself. Many have had the disease, have loved ones that caught the disease, or have had loved ones die from the disease.

Those who had family members die or became sick would be more nervous getting back to everyday life. Blair’s school psychologist, Janice Campbell, says everyone has different circumstances. “Students at Blair have varying opinions on going back to school. Some are eager to come back while others are hesitant. Factors like having loved ones who lost their lives affect those opinions,” Campbell says.

Blair isn’t exempt from the COVID-influenced phenomenon, and is possibly more susceptible to it, considering the sheer number of students who attend the school. Campbell explains how students are still adjusting to being in large groups. “We are jumping from staying in the house all day to being around 3,000 kids. Of course, there would be some anxiety,” she says.

Certain symptoms that come with anxiety and social anxiety have also been rampant. Decreased eye contact, restlessness, and gastrointestinal problems are some of the most common symptoms. 

Keeping eye contact has been a common struggle for students at Blair. Junior Elias Beyene feels that eye contact has become awkward. “I don’t remember eye contact feeling as intimate and weird as it does after quarantine,” he explains.

Again, that weird feeling is due to the limited interaction with other people over quarantine. Campbell recommends going out of the way to make eye contact and try to practice it.

Practicing eye contact might feel forced and unnatural. “Saying hi to people in the hallway is another form of practicing interaction,” Campbell says 

Reaching out is also another thing Campbell recommends to help deal with anxiety, whether that be talking to a teacher, trusted adult or counselor.

Suffering in silence isn’t the right route, and there are many resources to help with anxiety. One way to combat anxiety at school is to schedule a meeting with a counselor through a Google Form on the Blair website. 

Blair also now has two designated school psychologists. Campbell explains how MCPS used to have psychologists travel around the county jumping from school to school, but now Blair is one of the schools that has two full-time psychologists.

The psychologists are busy due to there only being two of them and 3,000 students at Blair, but you can still schedule an appointment with them through your counselor. “I’m glad to be at Blair and I’m more than happy to help out our students,” Campbell says.

Masks have also made it harder for students and teachers to interact with each other. A simple smile to acknowledge one’s presence in the halls isn’t enough anymore. 

Junior Binayak Luitel says that more than one of his teachers has complained that they even have trouble figuring out who’s talking in their class with masks on. “I honestly agree with my teachers, I have trouble telling if someone is smiling with masks on,” he says. 

A chart made by the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows different emotions without a mask and with a mask. Luitel’s teachers definitely have a point: nonverbal communication is harder with masks on. 

Communication hardships, in general, have been rampant after quarantine. Whether it’s not being able to properly speak with a mask or making eye contact, the NIH has proved that it is becoming more common. Like Campbell said, practicing social interactions is a huge help; reaching out and talking to a trusted person can also be extremely helpful.

Last updated: Dec. 14, 2021, 8:05 p.m.

Samuale Asefa. Hello! My name is Sam and I'm a writer for SCO. I am a self-proclaimed movie buff and love listening to all types of music. More »

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