The Quiet Epidemic

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A recent studyspearheaded by author and researcher Jean Twenge reveals that we have a Tsunami of psychiatric illness headed our way.

Compared to 1938, when the Great Depression gripped the nation, 600 percent more young people now struggle with mood disorders. Six times as many. Anxiety disorders and personality disorders are skyrocketing, too.

The study, conducted at five universities, analyzed data from more than 77,500 high school and college students. Each of them was given the MMPI, or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. That's a test that measures personality traits and detects signs of psychiatric disorders. The test is made up of 567 test items and takes between 60 and 90 minutes to complete. The results only confirm what I've observed in my practice and what other clinicians have been telling me for years: The impact of popular culture and technology on teenagers and young adults is literally making them psychiatrically ill.

There's a simple way to translate this: Our young people are drugging themselves by the tens of millions every single day with a combination of celebrity worship, dreams of unlimited wealth and handy ways to stay away from anything like reality. They're losing their ability to process genuine emotion, diving into in a Web of Facebook, YouTube, trophies for everything, iPhones, e-mail and Twitter.

When human beings use any drug to avoid mastering the swings of emotion that are normal during childhood, youth and young adulthood, they open themselves up to being overwhelmed by life's inevitable challenges. They are like untrained athletes trying to lift the weight of the world. They end up psychiatrically injured. It's happening. And it will be devastating to the American health care system as these young people emerge into adulthood, requiring a massive deployment of mental health care services, not to mention the costs of lost productivity at work, shattered marriages and crime.

Maybe it would be different if psychiatry as a profession were prepared to deal with what's coming. But my profession has been eviscerated by a combination of discriminatory insurance company policies and blunders by organized medicine that have turned too many psychiatrists into experts at dispensing medicines and nothing more. In order to safeguard the psychological health of a nation about to be hit by a crushing tidal wave of psychiatric illness, we need an army of true healers who actually listen to patients and reconnect them with their core thoughts and their feelings and make them masters again of their own emotions.

I've asked for it before, but I will here again. The President needs to create a Commission to address this public health nightmare. We are very late to the game and losing will devastate more than one generation and cost us trillions.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement including Dr. Ablow can be emailed at