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Why bad parents and tech may be to blame for anxious millennials

Adam Shapiro

No pain no gain is a common motto that covers everything from working out to building a successful career. But New York Times best selling author and New York University Stern School of Business professor Scott Galloway says the “struggle porn” as he calls it, “that you must be miserable before you can be successful” isn’t true. His new book “The Algebra of Happiness” offers advice and “notes” on the pursuit of success, love, and meaning during your lifetime.

“Happiness is waiting for you” he writes. “So if in adulthood you find you’re stressed, even unhappy at times, recognize that this is a normal part of the journey and just keep on keepin’ on” Galloway advises. A lot of people have trouble doing that.

In fact, 64% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 64 will develop an anxiety disorder at least once in their lives, according to a study by the Berkeley Institute for the Future of Young Americans at the University of California Berkeley called “The Anxious Generation: Causes and Consequences of Anxiety Disorder Among Young Americans.” The study also revealed that 32% of 13- to 17-year-olds will have met the criteria for an anxiety disorder at least once in their lives.

Why are Americans so anxious?

Part of Galloway’s book focuses on “the meteors that could take us off track” he told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move . “I think one the biggest threats to our happiness is that a combination of this concierge and bulldozer parenting being practiced in today’s society,” he said. It prevents children from developing, according to Galloway.

“They get to college, and they have this sort of this princess and the pea syndrome where they literally can’t handle adversity or any sort of struggle,” he says. We’re facing an emerging mental health crisis among young Americans, Galloway says, adding that emergency room visits for self cutting, self harm, and attempted suicide are up substantially among young girls.

Ruth Soukup knows about that first hand. She tried twice to commit suicide and suffered from depression. Soukup, who hit rock bottom at 24 years old, says she survived by taking life one day at a time, one step at a time and learning to confront her fears, a journey she chronicles in her new book “Do it Scared.”

Soukup told On the Move some of the keys to finding the courage to face fears, overcome adversity and create a life you love is to identify the type of fear that holds you back. She outlines seven fear archetypes; the procrastinator, the rule follower, the people pleaser, the outcast, the self-doubter, the excuse maker, and the pessimist.” For instance, the procrastinator she says, “is really the underlying fear of making a mistake. Likewise, the people pleaser is the fear of being judged, the fear of what other people are going to think,” Soukup said.

Tech’s role in anxiety

Galloway says the wave of anxiety that appears to be plaguing young people is a confluence of things that include smartphones and social media. He says, “Boys bully physically and verbally but girls bully relationally and we’ve put nuclear weapons of bullying relationally in the form of Instagram and Facebook.” The fear of missing out magnifies anxious feelings, Galloway says.

“The question I would put forward is what benefit does anyone under the age of 16 get from social media other than a lack of self worth and a greater over indexing around depression.” Galloway says he is not a big fan of regulation but he does think Congress should reconsider the Content Decency Act, which he claims exonerates big tech and social media from the negative consequences of their products and platforms.

Soukup is less critical of big tech and parents than Galloway. She turned her personal experience into a multimillion dollar business. She says it’s important for people to realize what they think they are experiencing is sometimes misunderstood.

“Sometimes we just call it being stuck,” she said. “And when we don’t realize that it’s fear, and we don’t know how it’s manifesting in our life, then we also don’t know what to do about it.” The key Soukup says is to identify the patterns and then she says, “we can start to do something about it.”

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance On the Move.

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