Debating Therapy Culture & Gen Z - Abigail Shrier

Debating Therapy Culture & Gen Z - Abigail Shrier

The Modern Mental Health Crisis (00:00:00)

  • The modern mental health approach is making the situation worse with excessive treatment, diagnosis, and medication.
  • Adults can usually handle their own mental health and make informed decisions, but children are more vulnerable and can be harmed by unnecessary therapy.
  • In 2016, the CDC reported that one in six American children between the ages of two and eight had a mental health or behavioral diagnosis.
  • Many children are diagnosed with conditions like ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, anxiety, and depression, even though they may simply be sad, lonely, or fearful.
  • This over-pathologization of normal emotions is convincing a generation of children that they are unwell, leading them to behave accordingly.
  • Over-medicalization is compounded by ineffective treatments that introduce new symptoms or worsen existing ones.
  • Normal sadness is labeled as depression, and normal worry becomes anxiety, leading to unnecessary treatment and medication.
  • Approximately 40% of the rising generation (Gen Z, born between 1995 and 2012) has been through therapy, and many more are receiving therapy in schools and from parents influenced by popular psychology books.

Are Therapists the Problem? (00:05:21)

  • Therapists are asking kids to constantly monitor and talk about their feelings, which can lead to a hyperfocus on negative emotions and worsen their mental health.
  • The modern world can be mentally tough, but it's important to distinguish between natural signals of unhappiness (e.g., due to unhealthy lifestyle choices) and genuine mental health problems.
  • Deleting the signal of unhappiness can be a sign of good mental health, as it prompts individuals to address and fix problems in their lives.
  • Major depressive disorder and other severe mental health conditions may require treatment, but overtreating anxiety and sadness that arise from unhealthy lifestyle choices can be counterproductive.
  • Environmental factors such as isolation, lack of physical touch, and excessive use of online porn can contribute to unhappiness.
  • Deleting the signal of unhappiness in response to these environmental factors is a natural and healthy response, indicating a need to make positive changes in one's life.
  • Over-diagnosing and overtreating mental health can worsen the situation and prevent individuals from addressing the root causes of their unhappiness.

Do We Just Need to Connect to Our Feelings More? (00:08:53)

  • Therapy culture has become prevalent among Generation Z, but it is important to remember that emotions are natural responses and suppressing them can be unhealthy.
  • Therapy can be beneficial for adults who can make informed decisions, but it can be harmful for children who are more vulnerable to suggestion and may be convinced of things that are not true.
  • Psychiatric medication should be a last resort, and learning to integrate emotions is a more effective way to deal with difficult situations.
  • Therapy can have negative side effects, such as inefficacy and rumination, which can be especially harmful to children due to their lack of life experience.
  • Children have remarkable natural resources for overcoming even bad childhoods, and extra support and better lives are important for them.

Does Therapy Make Mental Health Worse? (00:14:39)

  • Therapy can be beneficial for individuals with specific problems and motivation to participate, but mass prophylactic therapy for children may be ineffective and potentially harmful.
  • Therapy may not always be the best solution, as research suggests it can worsen certain situations like grief, where natural recovery is more effective.
  • Exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and social support should be prioritized before resorting to therapy or medication.
  • Bad therapy can exacerbate existing symptoms or introduce new ones, creating a dependency on mental health professionals and helicopter parenting, which discourages risk-taking and independent decision-making.
  • Excessive screen time and social media usage have further diminished Gen Z's social skills, contributing to a sense of illness and inadequacy, leading to a skewed perception of mental well-being and a lack of confidence in facing life's challenges.

Gen-Z Are Learning to Be Avoidant (00:22:17)

  • Therapy culture has become prevalent, emphasizing emotional integration and avoiding emotional avoidance.
  • Gen Z individuals frequently discuss their feelings in schools, raising concerns about over-validation and excessive focus on emotions.
  • School counselors and therapists may inadvertently contribute to emotional dysregulation by excusing students from challenges or encouraging excessive rumination on emotions.
  • While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) are effective therapeutic approaches, some practices under the name of CBT may be harmful.
  • Schools have implemented emotional regulation and CBT techniques, but they may inadvertently lead to an excessive focus on negative feelings.
  • A meta-study on anti-bullying programs revealed that the constant focus on children's negative emotions increased anxiety, depression, and alienation from parents.

Finding a Sweet Spot With Therapy (00:27:31)

  • Therapy can be beneficial but can also be harmful if therapists encourage rumination or create conflict within families under the guise of exposure therapy.
  • There needs to be a balance between validating emotions and assessing their appropriateness.
  • Children need to be taught emotional regulation and that not all emotions are appropriate in certain situations.
  • Emotional dysregulation can be observed in various situations, such as when someone is ejected from a nightclub and goes through a range of emotions from anger to resentment.
  • Gen Z individuals, who have been protected from many failures and disappointments, lack emotional regulation and tend to overreact to disappointments, perceiving them as significant injuries and demanding extreme responses like firing their boss.

The Paradox in Depression Treatment (00:33:27)

  • Despite increased accessibility and prevalence of depression treatment in the West, rates of depression have risen.
  • Current treatments for depression seem ineffective.
  • The rise in depression rates may be linked to cultural therapy practices, not just formal therapy.
  • People are exhibiting more depressive behaviors, such as talking about their pain and pathologizing normal life.
  • Young people understand themselves and their lives through the lens of psychopathology.
  • Social media contributes to this issue, as young people identify with their diagnoses and feel limited by them.

Therapy Culture Vs Bad Therapy (00:37:47)

  • Therapy culture, characterized by self-diagnosis and the use of therapy-speak, has become prevalent online, particularly among Gen Z.
  • Pathologizing normal emotions can undermine individual agency and control.
  • The rise in therapy culture may not directly cause declining mental health among young people, as other factors like obesity, economic concerns, and broken households could be contributing factors.
  • Using therapy language in relationships can create artificial dynamics and diminish personal agency.
  • Young people in therapeutic environments may be vulnerable to the influence of unqualified or incompetent therapists.
  • The author suggests seeking support from friends, teachers, or family members as an alternative to therapy, as they can provide a listening ear without the potential drawbacks of therapy.
  • Therapists may not always set limits on the time spent discussing problems, which can be problematic for adolescents.

Are Smartphones & Climate Change to Blame? (00:43:19)

  • Smartphones and therapy culture contribute to the rise in mental health diagnoses among American children.
  • Therapy culture, particularly bad therapy, can exacerbate mental health issues by allowing individuals to avoid challenges and accommodate every whim.
  • Excessive focus on climate change, especially when presented in a fear-inducing manner, can induce climate anxiety in young people, leading to a demand for climate therapists.
  • Climate activists may withhold positive information about the benefits of cheaper energy to motivate people to support their agenda.
  • Economic instability, such as student debt, is a significant challenge, but excessive pessimism and inaction are not helpful responses.
  • Certain forms of climate activism, such as gluing oneself to the Mona Lisa, are ineffective and potentially disingenuous.
  • The widespread sense of powerlessness and lack of agency among young people may be rooted in the belief that they are unwell, leading to overtreatment and misdiagnosis.
  • The problems faced by this generation are primarily due to their life circumstances rather than mental health issues, and overtreating children with diagnoses is a significant concern.

The Impact of Single-Parent Households (00:51:23)

  • The speaker suggests that the increase in single-parent households may be a significant factor contributing to mental health issues, particularly in young girls.
  • Research is needed to examine the emotional impact of single-parent households on mental health outcomes.
  • The speaker acknowledges that single mothers often face difficult circumstances and can raise remarkable adults, but suggests that the current cultural narrative of trauma and lack of control may be counterproductive.
  • The speaker argues that telling children they are traumatized and have no control over their outcomes can hinder their development and contribute to unhappiness.

Schools Making Parents Into Enemies (00:55:04)

  • Social-emotional programs in schools, intended to teach emotional regulation, can lead to rumination and rehearsing past pain in children, causing alienation from their parents and degrading trust.
  • Children are more vulnerable to this negative impact because they rely on their parents for safety and security.
  • The idea that school counselors can replace the role of parents in providing support and guidance is unrealistic and can increase fear and mistrust in children.
  • Therapy culture has seen a rise in young adults seeking therapy for non-severe reasons, such as feeling emotionally unsupported by their parents.
  • Therapists have been involved in encouraging young adults to cut off ties with their parents in higher numbers.

Overuse of the Word ‘Trauma’ (01:01:28)

  • Overuse of the term 'trauma' is a problem.
  • A study by Kathy Weam found that the most important factor in whether individuals developed adult psychopathology was whether they made childhood incidents a part of their narrative.
  • Trauma-informed care should aim to help individuals transcend their trauma rather than perpetuate it.
  • Some people may benefit from talking about their traumatic experiences, while others may find it exacerbates their pain.
  • Dwelling on and reinforcing past events can become a part of an individual's character.
  • There is a need for more research on the side effects of therapy and to measure its effectiveness.
  • Good therapy can be beneficial for the right people, but bad therapy can be harmful.
  • There is a lack of tracking and measurement of the side effects of therapy.
  • People often feel a sense of relief after therapy sessions, but this may not indicate actual improvement.

Is Mindfulness a Better Way? (01:05:57)

  • Mindfulness practices in schools can be beneficial for regulating emotions and providing downtime, but the constant monitoring and focus on mental health can be unhealthy.
  • Modern parenting styles, influenced by the belief that parents need to understand complex psychological concepts, undermine parents' confidence and abilities.
  • The mental health establishment often misleads by comparing children's ordinary distress to that of combat veterans with PTSD, which are different neurological events.
  • Diana Baumrind's research in the 1960s showed that permissive parenting, characterized by few rules and excessive freedom, has negative effects on children's behavior and mental health.
  • Authoritative parenting, which involves setting rules and boundaries while being loving and responsive, is the best parenting style for children's mental health, success in life, and relationships with their parents.
  • Modern-day "surveillance parenting" involves parents acting like therapists, constantly affirming emotions, and avoiding enforcing rules or giving genuine independence, which hinders children's development of important life skills.
  • Therapeutic-infused parenting methods, used to avoid punishment, distract children from facing challenges and developing resilience.
  • Parents must maintain authority, even while being gentle and emotionally attuned, as permissive parenting, even if done gently, can lead to poor outcomes.
  • Parents should not abdicate their role and allow children to be in charge or disrupt important family events to cater to their every whim.

Kids Are Too Over-Medicated (01:14:34)

  • Overmedication of children and teenagers with psychiatric drugs, especially antidepressants, can have severe consequences on their developing brains, affecting their sex drive, ability to form intimate relationships, and emotional development.
  • The lack of opportunities for young people to develop emotional resilience through natural experiences and self-regulation is a significant concern.
  • Therapy culture has gained popularity among Gen Z, with some critics suggesting that it may be due to a lack of resilience and coping skills, as well as a tendency to overpathologize normal emotions.
  • While seeking help is important, it is crucial to consider alternative coping mechanisms and avoid over-relying on therapy as the sole solution to problems.

A Better Way Forward (01:19:31)

  • Focus less on mental health, wellness, and feelings.
  • Encourage exercise, outdoor activities, human connection, and reduced tech use.
  • Prioritize involvement in meaningful projects and community contributions.
  • Parents should take the lead in implementing these changes, as they are most invested in their children's well-being.

Where to Find Abigail (01:23:35)

  • Abigail Shrier can be found on Substack under the username "the truth fairy" and on Twitter as "@AbigailShrier".

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