Anxiety is a large part of students’ lives today, often taking up more of their attention than the school work they have to complete. Elements Behavioral Health reported, “Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses and affect 25 percent of all teens…” This number has risen with the increase in school work, parent separations, and social standards. While many teens suffer from anxiety, unfortunately only 36.9% receive treatment according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America. This leaves many students suffering without any help or support.
Anxiety in many teens is often brushed off as a normal feeling and part of growing up, when in reality it could be part of a much larger issue. Over time, the untreated symptoms of anxiety disorders may lead to emotional changes, social changes, physical changes, sleep disturbances, poor school performance, and even panic attacks, reported Psycom. Psychology Today stated while many different components contribute to anxiety in students, some of the largest are associated with the pressures of doing well in school in order to ensure a good future.
A junior at Cedar Cliff High School said anxiety is a large part of her daily life. One of the main causes of anxiety for her is “Being accepted by others is a huge problem for me,” she said. It also inhibits her from doing her work and other activities. “If I’m too freaked out, I do absolutely nothing, especially after panic attacks.”
She said it is hard for her to explain to others how she is feeling and when she is becoming overwhelmed. She also feels pressured to perform a certain way outside of her home, which contributes to her anxiety. “My parents know my limits. It’s more during school and sports where teachers and others are not understanding of how overwhelmed I am. Only I know my limits in these situations.” In order to combat her anxiety she tries to stay positive as much as she can. “When I know I’m not emotionally strong, I take a break and let others know or I just stay to myself. I’m a naturally shy person, so staying to myself is a normal thing.”
A sixteen-year-old from Cedar Cliff said she experiences and is overwhelmed by anxiety every day. School is a large cause of stress for her.
“Tests, presentations, and people are the main sources of my anxiety.” She is also overwhelmed by how these everyday parts of school will affect her academic success overall.
“Class rank is awful too because it gives me anxiety that if I drop even one spot, my life is over. This is compounded by doing badly on one test as well, because when your grade drops, your average drops, and when your average drops, your class rank drops.”
She said this could be detrimental to collegiate success. “Those go on your transcript, and that could make or break a college acceptance. And if you’ve been working your whole life to be accepted by the college of your dreams and you aren’t because of one mistake it’s horrible.”
Since she is so concerned about performing well in school, her anxiety does not keep her from completing her work. “It motivates me to do everything at once which is the worst because then I get even more overwhelmed.”
She said she is her worst critic, feeling badly when she even gets one question wrong because she knows she could have done better. “I pressure myself to perform to the best of my ability one-hundred percent of the time, which also contributes to a lot of my stress and anxiety. It’s not even my parents pressuring me. In fact, they wish I wouldn’t put so much pressure on myself, but I do because I hate the feeling of not doing as well on a worksheet, test, or quiz as I know I could have.”
A freshman, 14, at Cedar Cliff experiences anxiety in a different way. “I have OCD [Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder], which is slightly different than most anxiety disorders. I get anxiety over germs and the thought of even being dirty.” This largely prevents him from being able to do his work.
“In the middle of doing my homework or studying for a test, I will have to get up to go wash my hands or another part of my body.” He said these acts take a lot of time out of his day. “Sometimes it feels like I haven’t gotten anything done because I have spent so much time worrying about being clean.”
His activities outside of school also contribute to his OCD. “When I have practice, I will come home and immediately feel like I have to take a shower. It usually takes me at least twenty minutes before I feel even the slightest bit clean.”
He said this puts stress on his relationship with his parents. “They get angry when I spend so much time in the shower and waste so much water.” He said this can compound his OCD and make it worse.
“When I get stressed over things like homework or my family, my OCD becomes a hundred times worse. I feel like I can’t focus on anything besides being clean.” This anxiety disorder is a large part of his life. “While my OCD isn’t commonly thought of as an anxiety disorder, it affects me the same as any anxiety disorder would affect anyone else. It largely controls my life and prevents me from doing everyday things.”
Anxiety impacts students’ lives. It prevents them from enjoying everyday life and keeps them from doing simple things others do not think twice about. The stress they are feeling often gets the best of them and prevents them from living life and having fun like students should.
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