Considered by many to be the father of modern philosophy, Plato once famously wrote, “Nothing in the affairs of men is worthy of great anxiety.” Plato surely meant well with his optimism. Nevertheless, today his words can appear to minimize the extreme anxiety many people face. Today’s teens, for example, have anxiety in great numbers, including many who have diagnosable anxiety disorders.
Perhaps it’s nice to think of anxiety as some controllable esoteric feeling, but we now know that this is certainly not the reality. For teens struggling with anxiety, maybe the Roman poet Ovid better described their feelings. Ovid wrote, “There is no such thing as pure pleasure; some anxiety always goes with it.” There is some truth there. However, for teens struggling with something greater than anxiety like an anxiety disorder, anxiety doesn’t just “go with pleasure.” Instead, it often replaces it.
Differentiating Anxiety From Anxiety Disorders
It is pretty safe to say that everyone has or will struggle with some form of anxiety at some time in their life. This is natural and for the most part healthy. In fact, healthy anxiety drives many people to accomplish some incredible things. The poet T.S. Eliot once said “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity,” and for individuals who have manageable anxiety, this sentiment can ring true.
However, individuals struggling with anxiety disorders do not have the luxury of utilizing anxiety as a motivational tool. No, quite often anxiety disorders can be wholly debilitating and interrupt every aspect of day-to-day life. This is just one of the reasons why differentiating “normal” anxiety from anxiety disorders is important in getting proper mental health care for those who really need it.
The Types of Anxiety Disorders
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and various phobia-related disorders.” While all of these anxiety disorders have their own unique characteristics and symptoms, one factor they all have in common is they can be very disruptive and damaging to everyday life. Also, all of them exist among the teen population.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
First, generalized anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that makes an individual experience relatively constant feelings of dread and/or anxiety. These feelings impede everyday life and decision-making by distracting an individual with constant worry.
Next, panic disorder is perhaps best recognized by its primary symptom; the “panic attack.” Individuals with panic disorder live in fear of having a panic attack. This can cause people to avoid everyday activities and can wholly interfere with their life by creating a total pattern of avoidance.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This disorder is very common among young people because it involves an overarching fear of being judged and/or being watched by others. However, again, it is important to distinguish social anxiety disorder from social anxiety which is common and relatively healthy. The biggest distinguisher here is whether or not the intensity of this anxiety causes an individual to change their life with the purpose of avoiding social places.
According to NIMH, “A phobia is an intense fear of – or aversion to – specific objects or situations.” Now, while it is normal to have some fears about things, it is when these fears become debilitating that a disorder becomes potentially present. While phobias are perhaps one of the most recognized aspects of anxiety, it is important that they not be minimized, lest this discourages an individual from seeking help.
The Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders in Teens
Based on a study conducted by the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, “An estimated 31.9% of adolescents had any [type of] anxiety disorder (during the years the survey was collected).” Now, based on the U.S. adolescent population, that’s roughly 13.4 million young people who are struggling with some form of anxiety disorder.
Also, it appears that these numbers have only increased since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is now widely believed to have had a significant impact on the mental health of the teenage population. It is also important to note that anxiety disorders are “chronic” mental illnesses which means they do not get better without intervention. Individuals struggling with them only become more severely symptomatic.
The Importance of Individualized Care at Clearview Girls Academy
Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we have helped countless students recover from their mental health disorders. This includes many of our students who once struggled with anxiety disorders.
Many times, teenagers who struggle with issues of mental health can feel invisible. This is especially true for teens who struggle with anxiety disorders because many of them have probably experienced their disorder getting minimized as just “regular ol’ teen angst.”
That is why it is critical for us here at Clearview Girls Academy that our students feel seen. We see them as individuals, treat them as individuals, and our recovery plans are customized just for them. Plato also famously wrote, “Courage is knowing what not to fear.” We are here to be that courage until our students are ready to take it over for themselves.
The teen years can indeed be a very anxious time in our lives. However, when that anxiety begins to interfere with everyday responsibilities related to academics, family, and friends, there may be something more significant going on. There may be the potential for an anxiety disorder. It is not uncommon for teenagers to struggle with some type of anxiety disorder, of which there are many. This is why being able to spot the warning signs and understand the symptoms of anxiety disorders can be critical to getting a teen the professional help they need sooner rather than later. For more information on anxiety disorders, please reach out to Clearview Girls Academy at (888) 796-5484.