By: Clare Rayment
Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. Lyrics to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, as well as a few of the symptoms of stress and anxiety that many people experience on a daily basis. Anxiety disorders affect about 12 per cent of all Canadians (Canadian Mental Health Association), and according to Health Canada and Statistics Canada, around 8 per cent of adult Canadians will experience severe depression and anxiety at some point in their lives.
While anxiety and stress are nothing new, especially for students, studies show that levels have increased due to higher pressure on success and well-roundedness in school. There are many factors that can cause stress and anxiety, such as school or work pressure, social situations, confrontation, etc.
“For me, personally,” says one student from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Oakville, “some things that set me off are being under pressure, such as people asking me to do things on the spot; being in a place with a lot of people, where it’s overcrowded; and oral presentations or talking in front of people I’m not comfortable with.”
The student continued to tell us that these situations can also cause anxiety attacks that range from minor to major intensity.
“Having an anxiety attack feels like every wall in the room is closing up on you and the air is running out so you can’t breathe. And when you can’t breathe you begin freaking out about that and it just spirals downwards from there. I get symptoms such as heat flashes, itchiness, and irritability.”
These attacks can become quite severe and develop into other evils, such as PTSD, depression, and OCD. Emergency room visits for medical issues caused by stress and anxiety have increased drastically over the past few years, according to Registered Paediatric Nurse, Sheila O’Reilly.
“Teens are presenting to the Emergency Room with complaints of abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches and migraines, vomiting, diarrhea, and other issues. Although, in the Emergency Room, all of the symptoms would be dealt with based on their severity, often an anxiety component rings true and must also be addressed.”
O’Reilly goes on to say, “Kids deal with so much in real life, all the while, becoming more and more isolated with cellphone usage. Cellphones alienate, and most will not realize this until the anxiety is in full swing. Parents don’t even understand this yet. At any age, people need coping mechanisms. It’s important that children are taught early so that anxiety in teenage years isn’t given a change to escalate.”
The Bayridge Anxiety and Depression Treatment Centre found that, overall, 54 per cent of people view depression and anxiety as a personal weakness, and are therefore less likely to go out and search for treatment, and are more likely to pretend as though nothing is wrong and “suck it up” as people say. However, stress leads to anxiety which can lead to depression and, if it continues on, can lead to suicidal thoughts and suicide itself. And while it may end the pain for that person, it only ends up transferring it onto others.
Mental health has become a huge focus in the past few years, as it was formerly looked down upon as a weakness or something that was “all in one’s head”.
“The hardest part about having anxiety is that it stops you from doing the things you want to do- even simple things,” says the student from STA. “I tend to feel ashamed that I can’t do simple things, because my anxiety tells me that I can’t.”
It’s not in the person’s head. It’s not something that needs to be kept to oneself. Everyone deals with stress; it’s when it escalates and develops into something worse that it needs to be treated. However, remember to monitor your own mental health and don’t be afraid to speak up if you think you need help. Most things we worry about never happen, however, so take life one day and one moment at a time.