Generation Z is going to therapy far more than any other age cohort, according to a November 2023 survey conducted by the American Enterprise Institute.
While seeking help can look different for each individual, members of this cohort share similar experiences that they commonly bring up in a therapist’s office. Understand that you’re not alone. It’s normal to grapple with societal expectations (like finding a job post-graduation or balancing work with your personal life).
Therapy can be beneficial in learning techniques to better deal with these situations. Here, therapists share the issues that Gen Zers commonly bring up during their sessions, in addition to how to deal with those feelings:
With the constant stream of phone notifications, looming deadlines and family responsibilities — all while juggling their own identities — it’s common for Gen Zers to grapple with anxiety and stress. Data published by Deloitte in March 2023 found that nearly half — 46% — of Gen Zers surveyed said they felt anxious and stressed at work almost all the time.
Anxiety is often maintained by avoidance and self-doubt. For instance, if you are anxious about taking a test, this may result in you completely avoiding test-taking or believing you cannot pass an exam. Or if you are stressed about balancing your work and personal life, you may end up avoiding your personal goals and hobbies.
Erica Basso, a psychotherapist and owner of a group practice in California, helps her Gen Z clients unpack their anxiety.
“I encourage my clients to take a step back from being so aware ― which usually involves stepping away from the input of information on their devices. Ultimately, we want to feel present and in control of what we can to actively engage with their life in a meaningful, values-directed way,” she said.
The Pressure Of Finding A Job
According to Alyssa Mancao, a therapist and founder of Alyssa Marie Wellness, many Gen Zers experience stress and uncertainty about what career they want to pursue.
“While jobs are paying roughly the same as they did years ago, the cost of living has gone up, resulting in Gen Z experiencing increased pressure to not only find a job that is economically beneficial but also mentally and emotionally fulfilling,” Mancao said.
Mancao said she helps her Gen Z clients find a sense of balance and give themselves grace while they are navigating this transition in their life. She also recommends interviewing people who have jobs that they would be interested in, and exploring hobbies that excite them to help them with learning what it is they are drawn to in terms of work.
Indecision When Faced With Multiple Choices
With more options presented in front of them, it can become difficult to narrow it all down and choose one. This can feel overwhelming, especially when thinking about major life transitions like moving cities or switching careers, Nasir added.
To combat decision-making paralysis, Nasir has her clients reflect on their goals along with identifying their ideal version of themselves.
“I recommend exploring your true priorities, imagining the life you want, and then backing into decisions you need to make now for that to happen. People often begin to question why they are doing what they do ― so connecting with your values and vision for life is helpful,” she explained.
“There has been a consistent theme of Gen Z clients bringing up issues with body images and feelings of inadequacy,” Mancao said.
Given the rise of social media, many Gen Zers are exposed to “idealised” body types perpetuated by society. Oftentimes, looking at beauty standards that you may consider to be socially acceptable can result in you questioning your self-worth.
To help people in this situation, Mancao encourages steps toward body positivity and self-love.
“My recommendations to my clients are helping them zoom out to the other aspects of themselves that they appreciate, I also teach them how to scroll mindfully and with discernment, along with helping them grasp the falsities of the images that are portrayed online,” Mancao said.
Stress About Relationship Compatibility
Whether it’s nerves about asking someone out, moving in with a significant other, or just decoding your partner’s attachment style, it’s normal to be worried about compatibility. Many romantic relationship issues are often brought up by Gen Zers in a therapist’s office.
“Clients often come in saying they want to fix their attachment style, or are too focused on their partners’ attachment style, or want to know how it’s impacting their relationships,” Nasir said.
She added that the key to building a healthy relationship is not to focus on labels, but each other. “Your attachment style is a way you receive, give and understand connection. Use that as a starting point to understanding yourself and your partner better,” she said.
Gaining Support From Community
“One of the most common issues that arises when I have conducted a psychological evaluation with Gen Z individuals is the issue of feeling “different” with having a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or ADHD, for instance,” said Nekeshia Hammond, a psychologist, speaker and author.
Experiencing mental health struggles can feel isolating. However, understand that you’re not alone in what you’re facing and you don’t have to deal with it by yourself. Hammond encourages Gen Zers to reach out to friends or family and build a support system to count on when you need help.
“Recognising that many individuals share similar struggles fosters a sense of connection, reducing the isolation that often accompanies mental health disorders,” Hammond said. “Seeking support from mental health professionals, friends, or support groups provides a safe space to share experiences and gain perspective.”