Maryn Miller: Stressed students, parents should stop and take stock
It’s that time of year again. We’ve gotten our schedules and our school supplies and are finally getting accustomed to our classes. Along with the fresh excitement of finding out who sits next to you in your Spanish class comes another thing: anxiety.
Around 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety disorders every day. A study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) showed roughly 1.76 million adolescents have some kind of anxiety disorder.
There are multiple types of anxiety, from social, to generalized, to panic disorders. Those with social anxiety have a fear of social or performance situations in which they believe they’re going to be judged or rejected. Generalized anxiety disorder is where you worry about everything pretty much all the time, and you can worry about that one thing for months. Panic disorders or anxiety attacks are periods of intense fear where your heart rate accelerates, you sweat, and you may feel as if you cannot control your body.
Imagine starting your first day of high school, not knowing anyone in your classes, surrounded by hundreds of people. For kids who suffer from claustrophobia as well as anxiety, this can make things 10 times worse. I’m not saying adults do not experience this, but they have had more time to acclimate to the busy world around them.
Anxiety has also been linked to depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) about half of the people who are diagnosed with anxiety suffer from depression, and vice versa. Another study shows that children whose parents have depression are more likely to have it. So what causes anxiety? It can be caused by mental conditions, genetics, even side effects from medication. One of the biggest causes of anxiety is stress.
As an honors student-athlete myself, managing three to four hours of schoolwork a night can be incredibly hard on my mind, as well as my body. Top that with extracurricular activities and a normal 16-hour day can turn into a 20-hour day. I’m not just speaking for myself. The kids who have zero and seventh periods at Nevada Union High School are arriving at 7 a.m. and ending their day at 4:30 p.m. Teens who work jobs still need to do their homework after their shift might end at 10 p.m.
Anxiety and depression are not always caused by schoolwork. Home and/or social life can greatly affect youth psyche too. Even something as simple as a parent working late and not seeing their child enough can cause this.
One of the biggest problems about anxiety and mental health in general is that it is often not addressed. Or it’s swept under the rug and never talked about. Of the U.S. population, 60 percent of kids with depression and 80 percent of with anxiety are not receiving treatment. I have had friends tell me their parents told them they were being “overdramatic” or “just doing it for attention.” I know people who have self medicated in the hopes that they’ll get better. I have had friends who have overdosed and nearly died because they needed a moment to not worry about anything.
I’m going to take a minute and actually call parents out. If your child says they are stressed, don’t say, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” If your child thinks their class is too much for them, don’t use the “You need to get into Harvard” guilt trip. Let us make that decision for ourselves. If your child says they are afraid to go to school, listen to them. If your child isn’t talking about school at all, talk to them.
Symptoms of anxiety and depression include:
• Obsessive thoughts
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Trouble sleeping
• Dissociation —detaching from normal thought processes and physical movements
• Poor appetite or a refusal to eat in general, excessive hunger
If you feel your child (or yourself) are going through any of these, please consult a doctor. Do not self diagnose. I am going to say this again. Do not self diagnose. Doctors have actual experience and you may diagnose wrong and make your mental health even worse. Even simply talking to someone can help. Connect with other families. Work with schools. Get a referral to a mental health specialist.
And please remember, this can be cured. Tell your child to stay alive.
Maryn Miller, a Nevada Union High School student, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinion is her own and does not necessarily represent the viewpoint of The Union or its editorial board. Contact her at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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