Anxiety sucks the life out of you, and yet, with time and support, you can learn to push it aside on the good days and get through the bad days.
More and more people are feeling the awful effects of anxiety than ever. Anxiety has many different forms. It can poke its ugly head into someone’s life by excessively worrying them about social interactions, school, home life, relationships, and more. During the pandemic, it has been worse than ever. While social media has raised awareness about mental health, there can still be confusion and incorrect information being spread about what anxiety is, what it looks like, and how it can feel. This can be difficult because according to the Anxiety and Depression American Association, 1 in 5 people suffer from anxiety, but up to 71% of people with an anxiety disorder go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed.
According to the DSM-5, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the top five most experienced forms of anxiety are: General Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Social Phobia (Social Anxiety).
General Anxiety is excessive feelings of anxiety, worry, and stress over normal day-to-day things. Extreme conditions can induce anxiety attacks, which are overwhelming amounts of anxiety causing an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, feelings of doom, and uncontrollable shaking.
OCD is usually misunderstood. According to the DSM-5, It isn’t being a neat freak, or wanting things to be organized, it is a serious disorder that induces odd compulsions and they must perform them or else it causes them large amounts of anxiety.
PTSD is a trauma related mental illness. The DSM-5 reports that this can look like repeated nightmares and memories from the event, nervousness or avoidance of situations that remind them of the event, disinterest in activities, angry outbursts, or even self-destructive behavior.
Social Anxiety, according to Mr. Visser, the school therapist, means, “Social Anxiety plays on our fear of being watched or judged by others which can affect our day-to-day activities. It also can make it difficult to make friends. With both of these disorders, as well as most anxiety disorders, it increases the chances that we recluse ourselves and avoid contact with the outside world. As this increases it allows more irrational thinking and more moderate depression to sink in.”
Panic Disorder is when people feel extreme fear, often accompanied by physical pain, according to the DSM-5. When someone starts to panic and feels as though they can’t breathe or even feels as if they are dying, this is called a panic attack. Panic attacks also cause increased heart rate and breathing, chest and stomach pains, shaking or numb hands, and sometimes, nausea.
Throughout the pandemic, anxiety levels rose across the globe. The possibility of getting Covid, or just dealing with quarantine are easy reasons to feel more stress than ever. Additionally, the stress of an abnormal routine, and more or less time with the people you love might cause added stress. However, an important thing to remember is that feeling more anxious than normal these past few years is not uncommon.
Mrs Dalebout, our local psychology professor recommends, “Stay present, live in the moment, one moment at a time. Trying to fix the past or worrying about the future only zaps you of the energy you need to get through difficult things. Limit how much time you spend on social media… try to keep things in perspective, and realize more people value you, love you, and are cheering you on than not.”
“Learning skills that will help reduce the influence anxiety has over you. A few things that can help is to learn how to focus on things we have control over versus focusing or fearing the things we do not have control over.”
Our school therapist, Mr. Visser says , “Another tip is to use positive coping skills such as music, breathing, drawing, exercise or any other interest that creates a positive relaxing atmosphere. Learning to use our senses (touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing) will help ground us and reduce irrational emotions.”
It’s important to note that not all stress means you have anxiety, especially during the stressful times of the pandemic. If you experience symptoms of anxiety, you should ask a professional and get an official diagnosis. Medication and therapy can help a lot, and so can just knowing that it isn’t all in your head.
Mrs. Dalebout adds , “If [anxiety] is starting to interfere with your ability to live your fullest life, then you should seek help from trusted individuals and professionals. There is help and healing!”