When a teen or adult has experienced trauma or if he or she has had an experience that left an impression, it’s quite possible that later the mind will be filled with intrusions. Perhaps negative thoughts, worries, self-blame, bodily complaints, or more will interrupt a train of thought or important mental processing.
The intrusions that people experience can be incredibly debilitating leading to an inability to function in life or it can be mild. However, they are intrusions nonetheless. It is as though the overwhelming moments of past experiences are imprisoned within one’s consciousness and at any possible moment flashbacks, tremors, nightmares, and frightening thoughts enter the mind. To return to a fluid state of consciousness, which fundamentally is a state of mind most everyone is seeking, the expression of what is imprisoned needs to take place.
Now, this is not to say that all adolescents and adults have experienced trauma or that they all experience a tumultuous mind. However, a rocky, unfocused mind can be difficult to bear in and of itself. It’s challenging if a teen cannot focus in school. It’s a hardship if he or she doesn’t have the ability to stay connected to him or herself. It’s well known in the study of psychology and brain research that improving performance in school, sports, or relationships requires focused concentration. When the mind is scattered, there’s more of a chance that a teen’s performance will be not as effective as when he or she is focused.
Although social media and the use of technology aren’t causing mental illness, it can certainly contribute to an already rocky mind. Let’s take texting for example. If a teen is constantly bombarded with texting communication, and he or she feels pressured to answer right away, then the interruption to a thought might erase that thought altogether. He or she might not be able to return to the task at hand, perhaps losing vital information or glossing over material necessary to do well in class.
An article in the New York Times points out that texting, which can be incredibly distracting, can take a toll on a teen’s mental health. From a study done by Pew Research Center, teens are texting over 50 texts per day, and one third of teens are texting 100 or more per day. One in seven teens send more than 200 texts. It’s easier, they say, to text than to make a phone call. Lack of concentration is a symptom of teen anxiety and depression, and as mentioned, an inability to focus can add to teen academic issues. More and more texting can disrupt a teen’s ability to perform at school, at work, and be present in relationships.
There’s a great disconnect that happens when teens and adults spend most of their time with technology. Whether it’s an Iphone, Ipad, smartphone, or laptop, the kind of connection between two human beings when they are physically in the same room cannot be replaced with the connection that comes through Skype or Facetime.
The truth is, in general, teens and adults are already distance from nature, from others, and from oneself. Rarely is there a real connection that is satisfying and psychologically nourishing. Instead, adults and adolescents tend to stay focused on their individual lives, lost in their Iphones, and shifting their attention from one piece of technology to another. Although this lack of connection and the constant bombardment of technology may or may not be the cause of mental illness, it is likely a contributing factor.
If you’re a teen or parent who finds that your mind is very active, try limiting the use of technology, especially one hour before bedtime. You might also try mindfulness, a practice of becoming fully present of your inner and outer experiences. If you want to find a peaceful mind and limit teen anxiety, don’t let technology and social media get the better of you.
Hale, J. (2012). The Benefits of Focused Attention. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/01/05/the-benefits-of-focused-attention/
Hafner, K. (May 25, 2009). Texting May Be Taking A Toll. New York Times. Retrieved on June 23, 2014, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/health/26teen.html?_r=0