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ANXIETY
Smile, Breathe, And Go Slowly

By the time Seth and I first met, he hadn’t left his house in over two months. “I just can’t stand to think about it,” he told me. “I’m worried all the time and leaving the house just makes me freak out. I’ve tried a bunch. It’s not that I don’t want to. I just can’t do it. When I try to walk outside I feel like I can’t breath and then I feel like I’m literally going to die. It’s not worth it.”

Seth was 17 years old and suffering from severe agoraphobia or, an intense fear of leaving his house. He had no idea why this had become an issue for him and neither did his parents. “Nothing happened. It wasn’t like I had something scary happen. I just woke up one day and went to leave my house and had this horrible panic about it all.” Seth had lost about 10 pounds over the summer and was desperate for help before school started back and he had to go.

Anxiety can present in many ways and Seth’s form of anxiety was one of the more severe forms. Often times anxiety disorders are triggered by a clear cause but, just as often, there is no clear indicator for why they begin. Anxiety does tend to run in families and Seth’s mother revealed that she had been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder as a teen although she no longer suffered from the condition.

Seth began medication to help him manage his severe anxiety and panic and within a few days reported an increase in his appetite and a decrease in anxious thoughts. He also began cognitive behavioral therapy to help him identify his unhealthy thought patterns and learn ways to replace them with healthier thoughts. After several weeks of treatment, he found the courage to leave his house for the first time. He slowly worked his way up, going further and further from home and, with the help of his therapist and medication, eventually returned to school successfully. Today if you ask him he’ll tell you, “I don’t even know that person I was that summer. I feel like it was someone else and I’m so glad that’s not me anymore.”

Facts About Anxiety in Adolescents

  • Nearly 1 in 3 of ALL adolescents ages 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder.

Self-Test For Anxiety in Adolescents

1

Do you experience intense anxiety or worry and find it difficult to control?

2

Does worry or anxiety interfere with your sleep or ability to concentrate?

3

Do you experience repetitive and persistent thoughts that are upsetting and unwanted?

4

Do you often experience strong fear that causes panic, shortness of breath, chest pains, a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, nausea, dizziness, and/or fear of dying?

5

Do you have fears about specific things, like spiders, failing an exam, or someone in your family dying, that keep you from enjoying life or doing what you want to do?

6

Do you often feel worried or anxious for no apparent reason?

7

Do you avoid doing things with your family or friends because of your anxiety or worry?

8

Do you have frequent nightmares?

9

Do you avoid certain people, places or activities because you fear they will make your anxiety worse?

10

Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night because you lay in bed worrying?

If you answered YES to 4 or more of the following questions, you should speak with a trusted mental health professional about the possibility of having an anxiety disorder.

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What WellPsyche Patients Are Saying

“I felt so helpless when it came to helping my daughter deal with her worries. She worried about everything and it was negatively affecting our whole family. Understanding that she was dealing with an anxiety disorder helped me learn ways to help her and let go of the guilt of not being a good enough mom. She is so much calmer and happier now. I’m so thankful we sought care for her when we did.”

Lena, Cara's Mom

“I was so anxious about going to school my junior year that I would wake up and throw up most mornings. Talking to someone about my anxiety helped me so much.”

Alex, age 16

Did You Know?

MANY famous and highly successful people have been diagnosed with Anxiety inlcluding Lady Gaga, Singer, Songwriter, and Actress, Kim Kardashian West, Reality TV Star, Mardy Fish, Former Professional Tennis Player and Current Golfer, Kesha, Singer and Songwriter, Lena Dunham, Writer, Actress, and Producer, and Oprah Winfrey, just to name a few.

Anxiety Resources

Websites:

Podcasts:

Videos:

Books:

  • My Anxious Mind: A Teen's Guide to Managing Anxiety by Katherine A. Martinez, Michael A. Tompkins
  • Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety: A Workbook for Overcoming Anxiety at Home, at School, and Everywhere Else by Christopher Willard
  • Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child's Fears, Worries, and Phobias Book by Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.
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