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How do we work with schools to prevent anxiety disorders?

Anxiety, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, can be characterized by overwhelming and persistent worrying, and some somatic symptoms like restlessness, insomnia, muscle tension, sweating, heart palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness, stomach pains, and difficulty concentrating. All of these symptoms impact students ability to succeed in school, as well as their ability to succeed after. According to research studies done in schools, it is “of great importance that people involved in the supervision, emotional growth, and well-being of children and adolescents be equipped to recognise anxiety disorders” (219). Children with anxiety disorders are at a huge risk for comorbidity with depression, social anxiety, and substance abuse. They are 4 times as likely to develop depression, than people who do not have anxiety disorders. Along with GAD, social situations and self-perception increases during high school because of puberty. Adolescents with anxiety and students in general can be anxious about social situations and tend to avoid them. “Social situations provoke anxiety due to their belief that they will act in a manner which is embarrassing or humiliating” (221). Social anxiety can cause overwhelming stress meeting new people, speaking up in class, talking to authority figures, giving presentations, performing in front of others, which greatly impact school achievements.

My story with anxiety is centered around social anxiety. I have been dealing with this problem since middle school. I have always found it difficult to make new friends, talk in class, and be outgoing with people I do not know well, without feeling terrified of being humiliated. I stutter when I am uncomfortable, like giving a surprise presentation or meeting someone new at a party. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes. It’s difficult for me to talk about it because I have to admit being horrible at navigating social situations, which comes easy to my friends. However, I have discovered that so many of my friends experience levels of social anxiety similar to me. They understand, and that has made me feel so much more confident. I feel more comfortable going out my my social comfort zone knowing that others feel the same way that I do.


What it is like… extremely interesting TEDTalks even though they’re long in length.

More for people with anxiety.

More for people who want to relate empathetically.

Objectives:

  • Teachers: suggestions
    • Self-report questionnaires: have students complete comprehensive questionnaires; these can help verify the severity of symptoms.
    • Teacher nominations: teachers are notoriously observant, so applying that skill to looking for anxiety symptoms. They directly observe children in class on a daily basis and experienced teachers have a good awareness.
  • Parents and Friends: tips and tricks
    • Allow us to be anxious and still have a deep connection with you.
      • Mental disorders do not stop people wanting to have connections; it just inhibits their ability
    • Depression isn’t contagious.
    • Don’t say: “just get over it”.
    • You cannot fix us, so please do not be upset.
    • You can be sad and you can be okay at the same time.
    • Talk to us normally.
    • It is okay to establish clear boundaries when you say that you’re here for us.

CALL TO ACTION:

FRIENDS PROGRAM

  • Universal prevention program that can be implemented as part of the school curriculum to all children in the classroom. It is 10, 1 hour, weekly sessions with all the classes.
  • It has the potential to enhance resilience in all children regardless of risk status, avoids the possibility of stigmatization (by selecting only certain children), it can incorporate peer support and it is often logistically easier to keep a whole class of children learning together. It also removes the need for time consuming screening of students for anxiety symptoms.
  • Focuses with students on: cognitive strategies, exposure exercises, relaxation techniques, preparation for anxious situations. Emphasizes: parent and peer group component, interactive works, peer learning and support, and encouragement

Works Cited

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