*A brave true story by a young Teen anxiety sufferer called Anna*
Everyone gets anxiety from time to time, whether it’s doing a big exam, meeting new people or having an argument with someone. But what about the people who have chronic anxiety on a daily basis? People who struggle to get out of bed in the morning and can’t leave the house for no reason at all. Well,that was me once, and still is sometimes. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, borderline agoraphobia and panic disorder which is something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody.
You don’t truly know what anxiety feels like unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s something that tears you apart, an ongoing battle with your brain resulting into you being physically ill. Research shows that 1 in 6 young people will suffer from anxiety at some point in their life and it usually starts in childhood or adolescence. Looking back, I was an anxious child but I didn’t think anything of it. I used to get worked up over small things such as birthday parties or friends coming to see me, I had a little knot in my tummy every single time but I thought that was normal.
Teen Anxiety – Anna’s Story
When I was 16, I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder, borderline agoraphobia and panic disorder which is something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody. You don’t truly know what anxiety feels like unless you’ve experienced it yourself, it’s something that tears you apart, an ongoing battle with your brain resulting into you being physically ill. Research shows that 1 in 6 young people will suffer from anxiety at some point in their life and it usually starts in childhood or adolescence. Looking back, I was an anxious child but I didn’t think anything of it. I used to get worked up over small things such as birthday parties or friends coming to see me, I had a little knot in my tummy every single time but I thought that was normal.
Mental health is something that isn’t picked up on enough, it’s dismissed because it isn’t visible. I went to the doctor’s back in February 2015 because I knew I was ill, I’d written a list because I had so many symptoms but she refused to look at it even though I felt so anxious that I couldn’t talk. I felt uncomfortable and scared. My own doctor didn’t understand me properly, so how was I supposed to understand myself? However, after some talking and my Mum chipping in, I managed to get a referral to counselling (CAMHS). I got a doctor’s note to prove I was too unwell to go into school but that was another barrier I had to face. My School didn’t cope with the situation well at all, they were banging on my front door every day giving me work to complete, constantly asking when I’d be back and stressing over how much work I was missing.
I’d try my hardest to complete work but sometimes I was just too ill to do anything, and if anything, they made me more anxious, Constantly worrying if they were going to be at my front door again. I did miss my exams due to anxiety and I don’t have many grades but I didn’t get upset about that because everyone needs to remember that your health is way more important than a piece of paper.
Signs of Anxiety
So what are the signs of anxiety? Many people will vary in symptoms, and there are different types of anxiety but here are the main signs to look out for:
- Feelings of panic, fear or uneasiness over small things or for no reason
- An inability to stay still and be calm
- Dry mouth
- A choking feeling in your throat
- Trembling or shaking
- Chest pains
- Muscle tension
- Lack of concentration
There are many more symptoms that people experience but the best advice to give is that if you’re feeling only a few of these symptoms, and you have been through stressful or traumatic situations then go to your doctor before things get worse and talk to your family about how you’re feeling. Not only will it be a big relief for you knowing you aren’t alone but it will also help your family to understand what you’re going through.
How to recognise Panic Attacks
panic attacks for me, are something that I’ve learnt to handle more, however, they can be extremely terrifying the first time you have one. I remember my first ever panic attack like it was yesterday. I was sitting in a restaurant with my boyfriend and I felt fine until I realised that the more I ate, the more anxious I became. I felt so distant from everyone, I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t speak. I was so scared, I needed to escape; my brain was going into overdrive; I was uncontrollably shaking, an intense amount of pain making me numb. I couldn’t breathe; I started hyperventilating to the point where I threw up. Why couldn’t I breathe? Was I dying? I felt like everyone was staring at me, I couldn’t stop crying. I just needed air.
Luckily for me, my boyfriend managed to take me to a quieter place to calm me down but even afterwards I felt shaken up, I had no idea what had just happened but I knew that I never wanted it again. But that attack was one of many more to come, in fact, I had them every time I had to leave the house for several months to the point where I became agoraphobic. I’d been stressed over the previous year with many distressing family problems occurring and with exams coming up I never had time to relax. I felt like I was coping when I really wasn’t. Parents don’t always realise the amount of pressure they are putting on teenagers and when they express their feelings they can sometimes feel like they’re overreacting and arguments can cause more damage than you think. School don’t always understand that shouting at students and giving them such a big workload can affect them mentally. It’s unneeded pressure and teenagers need to have a break and a social life at the same time.
Recognise when someone is suffering from a panic attack:
- Stay with the person, do not leave them until they’re calm
- Move the person to a quieter place, preferably outside or where you can be alone
- Tell the person to take deep breaths and make them focus on their breathing to prevent hyperventilation
- Do not panic when the person panics
- Offer a drink of water if you have any
- Do not pressure the person to speak, just let them get through it in their own way
- If they have medication to help with anxiety then try to find it and give it to them
Panic attacks can vary from 5-20 minutes, each person is different and it depends on the situation they are in.
Where to get help with Teen Anxiety
There are many organisations and websites to visit if you want to find out more information about anxiety. I am now with a great counsellor and slowly recovering. It does take a lot of time but make sure you do everything your way. Don’t wait too long and seek help when you’re in a really bad/when you first get symptoms because it makes it so much easier for yourself. Stay positive and tell the people around you how you are feeling. Remember to push your boundaries because that’s the key to recovery, one step at a time.
Have you or anyone you loved suffered from Anxiety or stress as a Teen or Adult?
Do you have any advice you can share, If so, please leave your comments I would love to share your advice and thoughts.