Breaking Down Anxiety: Analyzing the way school and social pressures affect anxiety

Odochi Akwani, Co-Online Editor

Tuesday. 2nd hour. Speeches are to be presented in front of the entire English class. For some, this is a breeze; they can’t wait to share what they’ve researched. For even more, they are a little nervous but know once they get started it will all flow naturally. Then for a handful of students, the mere idea of presenting is daunting. These students may suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)  as defined by The Anxiety and Depression Association of America is “persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.” Around 3 percent of the population suffers from this, more likely to affect women than men.

Although this disorder can surface at any time in life, it is most common during adolescence through middle age. Counselor Laurie Stackhouse believes there has been an increase in cases over the years at MN.

“I think schools tend to be very competitive these days, and that puts a lot of pressure on kids. There is also a lot more social pressure on teenagers due to social media,” Stackhouse said.

This competitive atmosphere has led School Psychologist Terrin Dorathy to see an increase in cases of  school anxiety/avoidance and testing anxiety. Anxiety disorder can be caused by genetics or through environmental stresses but, many times, there is no definite root cause for these emotions.

“I have had students that physically can’t get themselves to school for fear of being in a school setting, anxiety about interacting socially, or when unexpected changes occur throughout their day,” Dorathy said.

Generalized anxiety has no cure, but it can be treated. Treatments include therapy and medication that has the ability adjust one’s thoughts and reactions.

Our school helps students with anxiety by coming up with a plan for their teachers to follow if it starts to interfere with a student’s academic success. Goals are set for that student and parents are continuously informed of their progress in a grade format.

“We really emphasize a team approach and open communication in order to effectively help students.  We also communicate often with outside agencies that may be supporting students with anxiety as well.  If they have strategies that are working, we like to collaborate and try to incorporate some of those approaches also,” Dorathy said.

Students often come to the counseling center when they are struggling with anxiety or experiencing an attack. Depending on the student, counselors use different techniques to help them cope. It could be talking it out with the student or just letting them collect themself alone.

“That’s always going to be our goal: to help you get back to a frame of mind where you can be productive again at school,” Stackhouse said.