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Young People and Anxiety

Young people with anxiety

Anxiety is a condition that can affect anyone – it doesn’t distinguish between age, background or social group. Even some of the most confident people you know may be living with anxiety. Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives, this means that up to 5 people in your class may be living with anxiety, whether that be OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), social anxiety and shyness, exam stress, worry or panic attacks.

Many anxiety disorders begin in childhood and adolescence, and the average time a person waits to seek help for their condition (particularly for OCD and chronic worrying or GAD as it is known) is over 10 years! That is a long time to be feeling anxious. You can save yourself a lot of stress by getting help sooner rather than later. At Anxietywe have trained volunteers who have lived with anxiety themselves. They are available Monday to Friday 9.30-5.30 and can help you decide what a good next step is for you.

Prevalence of anxiety & depression 16-18s

1 in 10 young people experience a mental health disorder (Green et al 2005)

Increase in prevalence of mental health problems at 16-19 (Singleton et al 2001)

Over half of all mental ill health starts by age 14 and 75% develops by age 18 (Murphy and Fonagy 2012)

Anxiety and depression are most common mental health difficulties and these have high co-morbidity (Green et al 2005)

School learning, stress tolerance, confidence, motivation, personal relationships will be adversely affected (Layard 2008)

Untreated anxiety or depression can have a significant impact on employment, income and relationship stability in adult life (Goodman Joyce and Smith 2011; Green et al 2005)

It can often be difficult to discuss how you feel with other people, especially if you think that no one else feels the same, or that they won’t understand. You may feel that you don’t fully understand what is happening to you, which can make it very hard to explain to others exactly what you are going through. Often, experiencing anxiety can leave you feeling tired, upset and frustrated. This can make you feel that you are unable to cope or that there is nothing that you can do to improve the situation.

Anxiety can affect us all in very different ways. Experiences of anxiety can vary greatly from person to person and no two people are the same. If you feel that any of the experiences or symptoms described on these pages apply to you, then we may be able to help.

First of all, anxiety is completely normal! It is something that we all experience to some level. Anxiety is useful to us as it tells us that something is dangerous and that we need to be careful. However, if anxiety gets out of control or stops you from doing everyday things, then this can lead to us feeling unhappy, upset and frustrated.

Here are some examples of how you might feel if you are anxious:

  • Worried
  • Upset
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling shaky/dizzy
  • Feeling like you might faint/pass out
  • Thinking unpleasant thoughts
  • Thinking that you might “go crazy”

When anxiety gets really strong, you might experience what we call a “panic attack”. This is when your body is getting ready to fight, freeze or to run away from the situation that we are viewing as dangerous. This is known as the fight, flight or freeze response. Again, it can be quite scary to experience, although we know that it will not hurt you.

One of the ways to reduce the anxiety that you are feeling is to understand it better. By understanding how anxiety works, you can then understand why you feel that way and it will help you to break the vicious circle of anxiety that just makes things worse. The picture below can help to explain what happens when we get anxious.

The “fear of the fear” often makes us feel worse as we are literally on edge waiting for bad feelings to happen; we stop doing things that we link with the negative (bad) feelings or thoughts. This is called avoidance. The more that we avoid the thing that we link with feeling bad, the more we think of it as being dangerous.

This means that the next time we have to face the situation or event, our body tells us that it is dangerous and the fight, flight or freeze response kicks in. We feel that we either need to run away from the “dangerous” thing, fight it or we feel that our body is frozen to the spot.

Either way, our body is not happy when we feel all of these horrible feelings and think horrible things. By understanding why we feel this way, we can then take away the “scared” feeling because we know that it is just our body reacting to something that it thinks is scary, even though it is actually harmless. No-one ever died from having anxiety!

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