Taken from the November edition of YCW Magazine (Youth and Childre’s Work
Recent research suggests that as many as 1 in 6 young people will experience an anxiety condition at some point in their lives. Liz Edge looks at how we can encourage the children and young people in our groups to talk about these issues and seek help where they need it.
If the Bible tells me not to worry, then why am I so anxious all the time? It was questions like this that flooded my mind as a teenager after being diagnosed with anxiety.
I attended a loving church, but no one wanted to answer – or even explore – these sorts of questions. Church members would discourage me from thinking this way and unintentionally pour guilt into my mind for even contemplating these thoughts. Surely I couldn’t be the only teenage Christian living in the void? During my adolescence, I quickly learnt that emotional health and God didn’t mix. Over a decade later, after becoming a professionally qualified youth worker, I realised that young people were still asking similar questions. This void in conversation still exists, yet anxiety in the younger generations is on the rise. The responsibility is ours to help close this void and create a culture of resilient children and young people.
What is anxiety?
Definition: Anxiety is a word we use to describe feelings of unease, worry and fear. It incorporates both the emotions and the physical sensations we might experience when we are worried or nervous about something. Although we usually find it unpleasant, anxiety is related to the ‘fight or flight’ response – our normal biological reaction to feeling threatened. (Mind, 2015).
Anxiety is experienced by everyone at different times in their lives. It is often an unpleasant experience, but it is completely normal in most cases. Common times when a young person may experience bouts of anxiety are sitting an exam or starting a new school. After the exam is sat or the first few days of a new school have passed, the anxious symptoms usually stop and you can continue to normal life.
Signs and symptoms
There are all sorts of physical and physiological indicators that show a young person might be suffering from anxiety. Here’s a list which includes some of the most common factors to keep an eye out for:
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling ‘on edge’
- Hot flushes
- Feeling a sense of numbness
- Pins and needles
- Fearing the worst/sense of dread