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November, 2021 Add comment

Psychological disorders and the relationship with nutrition: I

Why are there so many mental health problems among the youth?

Psychological disorders and the relationship with nutrition, is there any truth in this? Last week, much attention was paid to the growing number of psychological disorders among the youth. 1 out of 7 experience psychological complaints, which are accompanied by panic attacks, sleep issues and reduced school results. The government expects that in 2040, mental health issues will put the greatest pressure on the health care system. In the past week, many specialists have given their opinion on the reasons why young people develop complaints.

The main reasons according to these specialists for the psychological complaints among young people were:

  • The enormous social media pressure;
  • More perfectionism, especially in terms of appearance and lifestyle (Instagram);
  • The increased pressure to perform (normal is not good enough anymore);
  • Very increased number of impulses that our digitized world  gives young people;
  • The feeling of being an in-between generation, not fitting in with the older ones, but nor with young people;
  • Having no future prospects, for example, in buying a house and starting a family;
  • Substance use getting out of hand.

The changing world is also a reason for these psychological disorders

That this rapidly changing world is a reason for these psychological disorders is, in our opinion, only partly true. There have been several periods in the last decades, when life changed at an astonishing rate, and yet this was no reason for an increase in mental health problems.

If we look at the sixties, the world and our lives also changed dramatically. Sexuality was suddenly open for discussion, people were allowed to express themselves, even in public: think of the “flower power” era! Music changed, many norms and values were thrown overboard, cars became faster. Relationships changed, feminism and rights for women created a whole new dynamic. Drug use made its appearance, especially alcohol use among young people. Hair could be worn longer for men, and it was suddenly possible to dance for days at a festival. Work? Was this really necessary? Many old stigmas were thrown overboard in a very short time.

The only thing that was different was that the circle was limited to your real friends. The massiveness of the internet and social media was not there in those days. But our point is, the mind is very resilient and grows at pace with the changing world. Provided the mind maintains that resilience, and therein lies the punch line!

The biggest mistake that is made is to look at the environmental factors

Environments and lifestyles change constantly through the ages, yet decades ago, centuries ago, there were far fewer mental health problems. Reasons of getting mental health issues were there just as well, sometimes the environment we had to grow up in was harsh. Our parents didn’t do a very good job in bringing us up, certainly not in the previous centuries and even in the 50s and 90s. Mistreatment was common, also sexual abuse, oppression, lovelessness and hard work (also as a child). Let us say first of all that many children did have a very happy childhood in those years, as they do now in our time. We do not want to generalize, it is about comparing the stress that children then and now could have experienced in their lives and the effect this had on developing psychological issues.

One interviewee, who grew up in the 1960s and prefers to remain anonymous, tells a story that many from that time can recognize themselves in 

“My personal environment was a family of ten children in a very small house and a very aggressive father who always had a one too much to drink. A mother who could not get all the work done by herself, but did what she could. There were five girls of us in a two by three m2 bedroom. When my father started to be physical abusive, she would abuse us with him too, and later on she could be nice, what was so confusing. There were always arguments in my family, my parents couldn’t stand each other. If they didn’t argue harshly, it was my brothers and sisters fighting among themselves or them all against me. Sexual abuse was hidden, but it was there and not a bit. In the girls’ bedroom, we simply witnessed what was happening and knew we were next.

Playing with toys or with friends was out of the question for me

“I remember very well that playing with other children was out of the question for me, I had to come home straight after school to help my mother with cleaning the house and cooking. On Monday mornings, I was invariably kept at home, because the house had to be cleaned from top to bottom. In the lunch break, I could just about finish a sandwich, because the enormous dishes from that morning were waiting. Afterwards, I always had to sprint to school to get to class just in time. Don’t get me wrong; I was a girl of less than ten years at the time, but you didn’t know any better.

“I was beaten up all the time and for absolutely nothing, hands were not only used. Belts, wooden slippers, glass bottles, I was regularly knocked unconscious. On Sunday afternoons, my parents always took a nap, and from the age of six I had to keep my younger brother and sister quiet. I never succeeded, so I got beaten up again. Next to that I have also seen the constant physical abuse to the two sisters above me”. 

Back in these days our food was very simple and that seems an important factor

“I did not know toys, never had them, nor did I have good food and snacks. We ate very simply and little, no chips, no biscuits, no sweets, no soft drinks. Father thought it was more important to drive a big, expensive car and gave my mother hardly any money for groceries and for our clothes”. 

It turns out that simple food was actually quite important, more on this later. Read our article about this subject

“Yet I was and am always mentally completely healthy, for example when I was beaten I refused to cry. No matter how young I was, I just realized that if I did that, I was giving away my power, and honestly I didn’t want to give them that pleasure.” 

With me, there were many children around me who had just as hard a time at home

“Children around me had it just as tough at home, and I don’t want to belittle the problems of today’s youth. But the stress, hunger, abuse, insecurity, poverty and the constant feeling of not being safe with which we grew up was really intense. You didn’t talk about it, but sometimes you talked with classmates, because everyone was going through it at home. Children in my class, like me, often came in beaten black and blue, but nobody did anything. There was no teacher who stood up and reported it. Was there any child protection in those days? All secrets stayed in the family, because if it came out, you knew that the punishments would be even worse.

As young adults, you left the parental home as soon as possible, so you got married very young. In my case, I ran away at 16, never to return. 

Of course there will have been children in our childhood with a nice and secure family

We don’t want to generalize, of course there were also safe fine families in those days. But real love, warmth for you as a child, was shown much less in those days. What matters to us is the comparison. The children of today sometimes still grow up in a very unsafe family, where unfortunately everything happens. But the standards of parents have changed in general, you don’t hit children anymore. You give your love to your child and try to let them grow up as safely as possible. The digital world has just made it so much more public that very little can be held in the dark. Children are also much more likely to find their way to a confidant, or to online groups where they can find a lot of support and understanding.

Children between the 50s and 90s were also under a great deal of pressure, always being careful not to do anything wrong, that could get you punished. Emotional manipulation, domination and pure oppression were the order of the day. It was never safe at school either, where hitting and corporal punishment were commonplace. You had to be perfect, keep your mouth shut, have no opinion and adapt; if not, you literally had no life. It was very difficult for your own personality to develop under those immense conditions. 

The youth now and then lived with similar daily stress, pressure, fears and insecurities only from another source

Our only point with this enumeration and comparison is, that although the living worlds were really totally different, we lived now and then with daily stress, pressure, fears and insecurities. Yet the mental health problems in childhood were much less than what they are now. Of course, we can imagine that psychological issues among the youth of the past were also kept in the dark. This will also be partly true, but you can never make an equal mass of mental complaints then compared to now invisible. We believe that there really were fewer mental health complaints. 

Again, looking at the environmental factors is in our opinion the biggest mistake made by the specialists in this field. If you want to be ahead of the mental health boom in 2040, you have to look for other reasons why these growths in psychological disorders are there. Read about the real cause of psychological complaints in part 2 of this article, namely psychological complaints and the relationship with nutrition. Also, we suggest this fascinating book about this topic

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