Viral Humans Of New York Post Nails Why Talking About Anxiety Is So Important

by Jerriann Sullivan
Originally Published: 
Image via Facebook.

About 25% of teens have an anxiety disorder, study shows.

A Humans of New York post that was shared more than 11,000 times on Facebook in less than 24 hours highlights an often overlooked aspect of teenagers’ lives – anxiety.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25% of teens (age 13-18) have an anxiety disorder, and 5.9% of teens have a severe anxiety disorder. And while it is treatable, 80 percent of kids with a diagnosable anxiety disorder don’t receive treatment, according to the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children who have mental and health disorders. Anxiety disorders can often appear seemingly out of nowhere, which the student in the HONY post shared. “I was the best student in my high school. I put so much pressure on myself. I never failed a class. But I got sick during 10th grade and I started to fall behind. That’s when the panic attacks began,” she explained.

The teen goes on to detail the scary side effects of anxiety. “One day the teacher handed me my grade report, and I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating very fast. I felt disconnected. I saw people trying to talk to me but I couldn’t hear them,” the teen said. “Eventually I passed out and woke up in the infirmary. The attacks were almost daily after that.” The same thing happened to me. I remember feeling light headed and dizzy in my graphics class in 10th grade. After a few fainting episodes my doctor suggested I practice yoga and gave me an inhaler for the panic attacks at school. He thought it would be less attention-grabbing than a paper bag. Over the years, I’ve found a variety of coping mechanisms for my anxiety. Yoga remains high on the list as well as talking and writing about my struggles with the disorder.

For the student from Bogotá, Colombia featured in the HONY piece, college hurt before it helped. “Last year I started college. And I can’t be the best student here no matter how hard I try,” she explained. “Everyone is so talented. My panic attacks got so bad that I had to cancel my first semester.” Often times when we find ourselves in the thick of it, the best thing we can do is pause and find help, which is what this student did. “But now I’m working on acknowledging my anxiety. I used to try to hide it. I would log off social media. I wouldn’t answer calls. I thought that if nobody knew, it didn’t exist,” she said. “But the more I talk about my problem, the more I realize that other people experience similar things. So I’m trying to express it more.”

According to the Child Mind Institute, 4,600 adolescents commit suicide every year and 157,000 are hospitalized for self-injury. Providing help for our teens who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues is crucial to their survival. Relief and support can come in various forms including therapy, medication, stress and relaxation techniques, meditation, acupuncture, and yoga.

Creating art has helped the HONY student manage her anxiety. She explained: “I had a great teacher who told me: ‘Instead of letting anxiety keep you from doing your art, let it be the thing that motivates your art.'”

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