According to a 2019 survey, the greatest struggle students face is anxiety and depression, with nearly 70% of respondents identifying these issues as their most pressing concern. There is a crisis in adolescent mental health, and anxiety in particular is on the rise due to many factors, including increased academic and social pressures, bullying, social media use, traumatic stress from situations at home, a turbulent political and cultural landscape, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anxiety manifests in a wide variety of ways in adolescents, but some of the most common anxiety-related mental health conditions include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder: Persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. These worries typically focus on everyday things such as responsibilities, family issues, and pending tasks.
- Social anxiety disorder: Significant anxiety and discomfort about being harassed, humiliated, rejected, or looked down upon in social interactions. Examples include extreme fear of public speaking, meeting new people, or eating/drinking in public.
- Separation anxiety disorder: Excessive fear or anxiety about being separated from those with whom an individual is attached. This can stem from persistent worry about losing someone important and can lead to reluctance or refusal to go out, go to school, or sleep away from home or without that person.
- Phobias, specific phobias: Persistent and excessive fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that is generally not harmful. These fears cause such significant stress that some people will go to extreme lengths to avoid what they fear.
- Agoraphobia: The fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, or help might not be available in the event of panic symptoms. This fear is out of proportion to the situation.
Anxiety is debilitating and has significant effects on social and academic well-being. Adolescents who are experiencing anxiety are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse, sex, violence, and self-harm, including attempted suicide. And with 11 being the average age of onset for anxiety disorders, it is critical that schools, counselors, and parents know how to support students with anxiety.
Anxiety is highly treatable—90% of cases respond positively to treatment—but only one-third of those who suffer from anxiety disorders receive the treatment they need. Treatment can be attained in a variety of ways, with coping strategies and cognitive behavioral therapy being some of the most common methods for treating anxiety disorders. Recommended coping strategies for adolescents include establishing a routine, setting small and attainable goals, prioritizing physical wellness, becoming part of a community, and finding creative outlets.
At Gaggle, our vision is that all schools are safe and all students get the mental and emotional help they need. Gaggle Safety Management can help districts identify students who are struggling with anxiety. When therapy is necessary for treatment of anxiety, Gaggle Therapy can provide students with support services discreetly through teletherapy. Through these channels of support, Gaggle helps to empower students to live their best lives.
To learn more about supporting students who are experiencing anxiety, watch our recent Student Wellness Series webinar, led by psychologist Dr. Lisa Strohman and educator and mental health advocate Christine Ravesi-Weinstein.