With anxiety affecting up to 16% of the population at any one time, and most of us at one time or other in our lives, it’s important to realise that our gut reactions to anxious thoughts aren’t always the best things for us.
5 Things That Make Anxiety Worse
- Trying to stop the thoughts – Trying not to think about it will only draw attention to the thing that makes you anxious. Saying to yourself ‘don’t think about x’ will only bring ‘x’ to the forefront of your mind. Instead, try accepting and acknowledging your anxious thoughts, and try to be okay with their presence.
- Avoiding the things that make you anxious – If, for example, social situations make you anxious, it’s tempting to avoid them altogether, but that’s actually counterproductive. If you get into the habit of avoiding the things that make you anxious, it reinforces the idea that there’s something to be afraid of. It’s far better to face your fear and prove to yourself that your fears are unfounded – if you go to that party, nothing bad is going to happen!
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms – The phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ comes to mind here. If you’re nervous about something, it can be tempting to have a drink to steady your nerves. Other people might have a cigarette to calm themselves down. But regardless of the negative impact these have on our health, they can actually make your anxiety worse in the long run. If you use alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, etc., as a coping mechanism for your anxiety, you essentially create a psychological crutch which you will come to rely on – and you’ll be less able to cope with your anxiety without your crutch.
- Isolating yourself or moping – It’s tempting when we’re anxious to shut ourselves off from the rest of the world, but when we do that we’re also shutting ourselves off from the things that can help make us feel better. If you’re alone, you will focus on the things that are making you feel bad, but if you’re with friends or doing an activity, you have something else to focus your mind and energy on. Plus exercise and positive social interactions encourage the production of those chemicals in the brain that make you feel good, helping to overcome that anxiety chemically.
- Unnatural breathing – Panic attacks are often accompanied with hyperventilation or heavy breathing, but it’s a two way street. If you start to hyperventilate or breath heavily, you’ll panic more because you’ll start to think that you can’t breathe normally. Instead concentrate on taking steady, controlled breaths to try and return your breathing to normal. This will help slow your heart rate and calm you down.
These statistics are unsettling.
10% of children will experience a mental health problem, but it most cases, intervention comes much later than it should.
There are obvious speculations to be made about why this is – often children’s responses to mental health problems get dismissed as mere ‘naughtiness’ until the behavioural pattern becomes significant (or even dangerous) enough to warrant escalation by teachers or parents.
So What Are The Risk Factors?
- Long term illness
- Parents with a history of mental health problems, alcohol or substance abuse, or problems with the law
- The death of someone close to them
- Parents’ divorce or separation
- Being a victim of bullying
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Living in poverty
- Experiencing discrimination for their race, religion or sexuality
- Being a carer, or having other adult responsibilities
- Prolonged educational difficulties
This list is, of course, not exhaustive, and it is not to say that children who don’t experience these things don’t develop mental health problems.
What Are The Most Common Mental Health Problems in Children?
Children and young people can develop any of the same conditions that adults can, but there are some which have proved prevalent among children and young people. The following list contains some (though not all) of the most common, along with warning signs to look out for.
- Depression – as with adults, children with depression may withdraw from social activities, or experience difficulty concentrating in school (sometimes resulting in a dip in grades)
- Self-Harm – particularly common in teenagers, they may cut, scratch or burn themselves (often on the arms or legs)
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder – children may become reluctant to do particular activities, have difficulty concentrating, or become more fidgety or agitated
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – usually a response to a traumatic event or experience, which can be anything from a death in the family to abuse
- Eating Disorders – this can be purposely under-eating, over-eating, or purging. Look out for secrecy about food habits (either secret eating or hiding uneaten food), anxiety at meal times, or rapid weight loss or gain.
You may have seen Twitter explode this week with people sharing their experiences of depression using #WhatYouDontSee
This is all to do with Depression Awareness Week, and this hashtag is all about shattering stereotypes of what it’s like to have depression, and bring the reality of this widely misunderstood illness into the public eye.
Here are our top 10 contributions from Twitter users from around the world!
The shame still associated with a condition that affects 1 in 5 adults:
How depression affects daily life and work:
How even the smallest things can feel like a crushing disaster:
The problems of public perception of mental illness :
Depression isn’t just ‘feeling sad’:
Feeling bad about feeling happy:
The inherent contradiction of wanting and not wanting help at the same time:
You can’t know the struggles people face inside:
It’s not rudeness, it’s depression:
And finally, the proof of how important #DAW2016 is, and how good it is to know you’re not alone: