So, why am I writing about anxiety? Because anxiety is a reality for all of us — and a state that can be debilitating for some. And, maybe … just maybe … by writing about the topic I might help to increase our collective awareness about this issue.
Anxiety is a normal emotion — one that can actually be healthy. Anxiety warns us about something that we should be worried about — a danger that may be lurking nearby. But, when you regularly feel a disproportionate level of anxiety — when it becomes an impediment to your progress through your day, anxiety can become a problem — something your doctor might diagnose as a medical disorder.
People with Anxiety Disorders can have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. For some of our students, these can translate into avoidance or panic — an inability to speak up in class, participate in group work, join sports teams or other activities that we know are healthy.
For a few, they may not even be able to enter into our learning spaces — our classrooms, hallways or schools — simply out of worry.
And then there are the physical symptoms — things such as sweating, nausea, trembling, dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, or performing repetitive actions.
So, what are Anxiety Disorders? They are a subclass of Mental Health disorders and are broken down into several categories:
- Panic Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
They alter how a person processes emotions and they can often result in changes to one’s outward behaviors. They are believed to be the most common of all mental health problems with some estimates having approximately 1 in 10 Canadians affected by them.
People who suffer from Anxiety Disorders can have long, intense periods of fear and distress which are out of proportion to real events. Their brains interpret things to be much riskier or dangerous than what the risk actually represents. Their worlds are full of unease and fear, which interfere with their personal and professional lives.
All too often, people mistake these disorders for mental weakness or instability. The social stigma that can be attached to mental illness often prevents those with anxiety disorders from asking for help.
The good news is that anxiety disorders can be successfully treated once they are recognized, acknowledged and addressed. Many of our children and students are dealing with anxiety and some of them are dealing with it as a disorder. The more we know about the signs and symptoms the better we are able to direct them towards possible medical support.
And while I’m not going to spend time discussing the various treatments that are available, if you suspect that you or someone you know suffers from an anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor or health care provider. They can recommend a specialist in anxiety disorders or direct you to a specialized anxiety disorder clinic.
The most important thing is to seek assistance. Here in BC we have a number of resources to help those who need more information. Two excellent sites I’ve found include:
Disproportionate anxiety is treatable and there can be positive outcomes. This is Mental Health Week in Canada — It’s time to speak up.