The Stressed Years of Their Lives: A Book Review

I’ve worked with people of all ages in my time as a therapist but I especially enjoy working with adolescents and young adults. I am passionate about working with these age groups because 1) I was an adolescent not too long ago 2) those were some of the most difficult years of my life and 3) being a young adult and a therapist enables me to easily build rapport with people navigating these life stages.

For this week’s article, I will be sharing some insights that I gained from the book, The Stressed Years of Their Lives, by Janet Hibbs & Anthony Rostain. In their book, Hibbs & Rostain provide valuable insights to help adults support adolescents (folx between ages of 10 and 24) through their various challenges and milestones.

Quick Statistics

  • 1/4 high school and college students surveyed reported struggling with anxiety and/or depression.
  • 1,100 suicides occur annually among college students and 80% of them were not participating in therapy at the time.
  • 1/3 of colleges surveyed have a waiting list for students to receive counseling services on campus.
  • Of the students receiving therapy at a college counseling center:
    • 50%+ surveyed were suffering from anxiety
    • Next highest was depression
    • Followed by social problems, academic stressors, attention/focus challenges, substance abuse issues, and sleep disorders
  • Having a mental health challenge is the #1 cause of dropping out of college.

Adolescence and Mental Health

These statistics align well with what I’ve seen as a counselor. Adolescents have a lot of pressure on them as they transition from childhood to young adulthood. They face the high stakes of academics, social pressures, and the need to assert their autonomy. All of this occurs in tandem with rapid brain and emotional development.

Though the brain is developing during the adolescent years, executive functioning skills such as reasoning, organization, prioritization, and decision-making develop differently based on a number of factors:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Parenting (over-parenting or negligence)
  • Culture
  • Peer influences

A part of the book that I found interesting involved the authors’ discussion of destructive perfectionismThis is a type of all-or-nothing thinking on the rise among middle, high school, and college students. Students are feeling the pressure to succeed without making any mistakes. Little thought is given to the fact that humans learn best by making mistakes. Destructive perfectionism paired with helicopter parenting (fear-based parenting) seems to exacerbate the mental health issues experienced by adolescents, hence the aforementioned rise in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse among young people.


The Stressed Years of Their Lives, is packed with great information helpful to teachers, parents, therapists, neighbors, or anyone with an adolescent in their life. To conclude, I’ll share some noteworthy quotes from the book.

  • “The best predictors of college and life success […] are social and emotional readiness.”
  • “Bias is the enemy of mental health treatment.”
  • Failure deprivation is the lack of natural learning opportunities prior to college to both experience and learn from […] stumbles and screw-ups.”

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