SALT LAKE CITY — Every day teenagers in homes around the nation and the world wake up and struggle to make it to school. They worry about what they should wear and what will greet them when they leave the house, if they do leave the house.
Parents try to cajole, encourage and do whatever they can to get them there, sometimes without any understanding of why it's such a struggle for their child, other times with full understanding, but lacking the tools to help their children.
Are the children too tired? Too obstinate? Just being teenagers?
Parent questions start, "What's wrong?" often followed by anger, "Just get going."
Fear emerges. Compassion can also emerge, but usually after a realization that more needs to be done to help the teen. It's the realization that this daily routine just may be a manifestation of anxiety, anxiety that can grow crippling.
"Thank you for this great article - I haven't been able to keep up on all of the articles, so this was helpful for me. Two of my four children have different levels of anxiety and I am like the mom mentioned, who gets her kids off to school by 7:15 and sits down and cries, because it is a daily battle."
So wrote a reader after this week's article was published online headlined, "We spent a year reporting on teen anxiety. Here's what we learned and why you're part of the solution." It appears in Sunday's Deseret News.
This week the Deseret News completed its yearlong look at anxiety, and we've heard the stories of hundreds of readers grateful for the solutions presented in the articles by our staff. Here's how we started the series earlier this year:
"Anxiety — the keep-you-up, leave-you-immobile variety — is this generation’s brick wall. Millions of youths struggle with it. Experts estimate one-fourth of teens — and as many as one-third of teen girls — have an anxiety disorder. That classification includes phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety. These are not insignificant problems, and they often travel with depression and other mental health challenges."
So wrote our reporters who first pitched the series in January. Since then we've traveled to schools across the state to show the compelling documentary "Angst" followed by frank conversations in a panel discussion with the filmmakers and professionals who are seeking solutions to anxiety disorder.
We've written articles detailing anxiety on college campuses and elsewhere. We've explored the role of medication and whether it can help.
Online you can find an interactive graphic that will give you solutions. The first item on that list:
"Anxiety is treatable and you can’t get better by simply avoiding the things that stress or frighten you. Face your fears." The experts we've spoken to tell you how to do that.
Here's the main reason for this column today. Our writers have produced a four-page document summarizing the tools and solutions you can employ to understand anxiety. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to battling anxiety. But there are real solutions and best practices, including clinical help. Much of the information appears in print in Sunday's Deseret News. It can be downloaded and printed and used to educate parents, teachers and all who are struggling to understand if their anxiety is the productive kind that helps us grow, or the crippling kind that requires help.
Here's one description on how to tell the difference, from our first story on anxiety:
"Fear is the brain’s natural, biological response to perception of a specific threat, the fight-or-flight order from the brain’s tiny, almond-shaped amygdala to the adrenal glands: 'React!'
Anxiety is the sense that something’s wrong, but with fewer or no specifics, says resilience expert David Pincus, a psychology professor at Chapman University in Southern California. Instead of a clear reaction, the body gets stuck on high alert. Telling yourself not to feel anxious usually makes it worse, while avoiding what triggers it maintains the unsettled emotion.2 comments on this story
For someone with a healthy anxiety response, an adrenaline boost motivates, allowing one to run faster in a basketball game or be alert to danger on the road.
Anxiety becomes problematic when the brain overestimates the threat, says Jonathan S. Abramowitz, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We hope this effort has been a public service. We are grateful for all who have shared their stories of anxiety and how to overcome it — and for the experts who guided us as we've brought it to the public.