From Gen Alpha to boomers, what each generation talks about in therapy

We love immersing ourselves in other generations, but we have more in common than we think.
4×6/Getty, Tyler Le/BI

  • Different generations love to complain about each other, but therapists say we’re all struggling.
  • Younger generations fight for identity, friendship and forging their own path.
  • Older generations face challenges when it comes to parenting and balancing responsibilities.

baby boomers he inherited a prosperous economy and ruined it for the rest of us. Millennials are eager avocado eaters and will never own property, while Gen Zers do. depressed snowflakes taking liberties at work. as for Generationalmost no one even remembers that they exist.

It’s too early to say how Generation Alpha They’ll be judged, but they practically came out of the womb watching TikTok and already use anti-aging skincare products, so things aren’t looking good.

Or so the stereotypes say.

So, in the spirit of finding common ground amid all the backbiting, BI asked six therapists what their clients of different generations commonly talk about in therapy. Topics include feeling inadequate, relationships, and difficulty coping with life transitions.

Result Generation Z is not the only one struggling with their mental health. In 2022, nearly a quarter of American adults visited a psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist, a Gallup poll found. That’s a 10% increase since 2004.

The reasons aren’t all grim: There is less stigma around seeking treatment, particularly among younger people, and a greater emphasis on the importance of good mental health than in previous years, Gallup found. But the stress of the pandemic likely played a role, she said, and women, young adults and people with lower household incomes were the least likely to rate their mental health positively, according to the survey.

No matter how old we are, we are all dealing with something, whether personally or collectively. International relations are tenseand it seems like we are constantly on the verge of entering a recession or seeing AI steal our jobs, not to mention the text bombs we send each other.

“Every generation is really struggling to make sense of what their life should be like right now. What it looks like for different age groups is different,” said Israa Nasir, a New York-based psychotherapist and author of the upcoming book “Toxic positivity“he told Business Insider.

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But each generation goes through the same stages of life necessary to become a fully formed human being, he said.

Thus, while the headlines and online trends It will make you believe that Generation Z is from Venus while boomers are from Mars, we are probably more similar than different.

Generation Alpha

Members of Generation Alpha They were born around 2010 and after. The oldest ones turn 14 this year, so they are still children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one in five children has a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder, with ADHD and anxiety being the most prevalent, but of them, only 20% receive mental health treatment. CDC data is based on children ages 3 to 17.

According to the CDC, there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD since 2003, and anxiety has also increased over time. Between 2016 and 2019, more than 9% of American children were diagnosed with anxiety.

Georgina Sturmer, a UK-based counselor registered with the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, told BI that this age group was “hit hard by a perfect storm”: COVID-19 pandemic It plunged the world into turmoil and uncertainty and separated them from their peers, he said.

Generation Alpha is learning to deal with emotions.
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In a more general sense, children under 13 often become more stressed by things happening in their immediate environment: “often what happens that day or that week,” Amanda Macdonald, a registered therapist at UK based BACP.

Parents often play an important role in their children’s lives at this age, and there is a push and pull between what is allowed, how things are done and the child’s desire for more independence, she said. Generation Alpha is also forming friendships outside of their family and independently of their parents or caregivers, and that is reflected in what worries children.

Thai Alonso, a clinical psychologist based in New Jersey, told BI that the most common concern among children in late elementary or middle school is conflict with their parents. Parents’ expectations about their children’s behavior and how they handle emotions can cause conflict, she said.

Among Gen Alpha preschoolers, who are too young for individualized therapy, Alonso said he receives many referrals of children struggling with behavioral difficulties such as emotion regulation, anger and ADHD.

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Generation Z

Members of Generation Z are typically between 14 and 26 years old. The therapists said that identity, body imageand friendship problems are common concerns for this age group and they often struggle with anxiety and bad moods.

Younger members of Generation Z who are in high school or college worry about hierarchies and social dynamics, such as who is “cool” and who is not, which can lead to distress and a feeling of not being good enough , Jill Owen, a clinical psychologist in the United Kingdom, told BI. Clients often compare themselves to their peers, particularly when it comes to how “popular” or attractive they are. She believes the rise of social media over the past decade has made the situation worse.

Generation Z grew up on social media and often compare themselves to others.
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“Young Gen Zers are developing their own sense of identity, in the way they dress, talk and spend their time, essentially what it means to be ‘them,'” Owen said. “With this sense of independence comes anxiety about becoming an adult and awareness of broader issues such as climate change and global injustices.

Diana García, a therapist in Florida, works primarily with older members of Generation Z, between 18 and 26 years old. “At this stage of life, they are beginning to explore what is important to them, whether they have similar or different values ​​than their family of origin,” she said. They are thinking about careers or the beginning of that journey and that can create feelings of anxietyshe said.


Like Generation Z, millennials, who are between 20 and 40 years old, also feel insecure because they compare the “perfect lives” they see on social media with their own, Owen said.

Many are too become parents for the first time or consider having children, which can bring up many different feelings.

Past generations were not so aware of the extent to which parenting styles can affect a child’s mental health. Social media has popularized this information and millennials are thinking more about how their upbringing affected them emotionally and how they can avoid harming their children, Israa Nasir said.

Millennials are under pressure to get married, own a home and have children.
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“I have seen a lot of motivation to look inward and begin to unravel childhood traumas in an effort to protect their own children,” Alonso said.

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Nasir has seen it too. “People actually come to therapy saying straight up, ‘I think I had a lot of emotional problems with my parents when I was younger,’ or ‘I need to deal with my problems with my parents,'” Nasir said.

Many millennials are also reaching traditional milestones like buy properties, get married and have children later. Those who have not met these social expectations or have simply chosen a different path might seek therapy to discuss those pressures, Sturmer said.


Members of Generation X are between 44 and 59 years old.

They have higher incomes than millennials, but many still have college debt to pay or are paying it on behalf of their children. They also care for aging parents, have larger families than millennials, and are expected to “step up” as community leaders, according to a 2019 study. Gallup Analysis found. “It’s a perfect storm of financial stress, emotional stress and time pressure,” Gallup said.

Members of Generation X have to take care of their children and elderly parents.
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Sturmer, who works primarily with women, said all of these pressures, in addition to dealing with the emotional impact of menopause, take their toll mentally.

Many of their Generation X clients are also trying to help their children deal with mental health challenges.

She said she sees “tired, overwhelmed and stressed parents who are doing everything they can to help their children navigate mental health services, while also dealing with everything going on in their own lives.”


Baby boomers are between 60 and 70 years old. BI previously reported that Boomers own half of America’s wealth., but it is not distributed evenly among them. Many members of this generation consider themselves financially insecure and do not have enough savings for retirement and long-term care.

Boomers are adjusting to a later stage in life.
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They are adjusting to a later stage in life and some fear that as they age, they may begin to lose their identity or feel a loss of direction.

“Retirement can bring a loss of identity, confidence and sense of purpose. Empty nest situations can have a similar impact,” Owen said.

As people’s children grow up and start their own families, this can lead to difficult feelings. “If we’ve always understood our role in terms of our work or our family life, then it makes sense that this would leave us struggling to understand who we are,” Sturmer said.

“We often hear people joke about how lucky boomers are (free college education, rising housing prices) leaving us with a stereotypical image of a debt-free couple heading toward retirement. But not this one. is necessarily reality,” he said. .

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