Teens and tweens are facing more pressures than ever before, with overbooked schedules, standardized test performance expectations, college requirements and the minefield that is social media. Not surprisingly, with these pressures, anxiety disorders and depression in teens has increased.
For Brittany Bryant, a seventeen year old Saline High School senior, the anxiety became apparent in her dance performances.
“As a teenager involved with competitive dance, I constantly felt pressure to try my hardest and strive for success. I thought too much about what other people were thinking, especially in the dance world,” Bryant said.
“This paranoia eventually got to me. I found that I was no longer dancing for myself, but dancing with the fear that someone else was watching and judging me.”
Soon, these feelings affected not only her dancing, but also her school work and everyday life, to the point where she had difficulty completing even simple tasks. “This obsession completely consumed me and I knew I had to do something about it,” Bryant revealed.
Saline Area Schools recently addressed the topic of teen anxiety with a screening of the independent documentary “Angst”. Parents and students from Saline and neighboring school districts were invited to attend. The hour long movie shows the struggles of young people, while also offering information from professionals. Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who also struggles with anxiety, appears in the film. The screening was followed by a question and answer session featuring a community panel made up of students, school counselors, administrators and area psychologists.
Dr. Aimee Kotrba, a clinical psychologist and owner of Thriving Minds Behavioral Health in Chelsea and Brighton, was one of the featured panelists. She offered insight into this disturbing trend in mental health.
“There has been a large increase lately in anxiety disorders overall, including teen anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety,” Dr. Kotrba said. “We aren’t sure specifically what is contributing to this, but there is evidence that increased busyness and demands on teens is impacting anxiety, as well as the use of social media.”
Where to turn for help
“The most important thing that schools, teachers and communities can do is to reduce the stigma around anxiety by talking about it, and communicating that it’s okay to get help,” Dr. Kotrba offered. Bryant agrees. “Sometimes, all it takes is asking for help,” she said. “At Saline, student-run organizations such as Minding Your Mind Matters and the new therapy dog are just two examples of the incredible support in our schools. If students don’t know where to turn, the school is a fantastic place to start.”
Dr. Kotrba pointed out that research shows a reduction in anxiety in communities where schools and families work to build relationships.
Hope for the future
Dr. Kotrba was encouraged by the film, as well as by the support shown by the community for this film screening. “It was a fantastic, heartfelt movie with such a solid core of research-based information for parents and teens,” she said. Bryant was also impacted by the film. “Angst does an incredible job of depicting anxiety. It is heart-wrenchingly real and honest. The whole time, I felt so much hope. I felt hope because I knew that this film can reach out and touch so many students as it has touched me.”
For more information, visit the website angstmovie.com,
or Dr. Kotrba’s website at thrivingmindsbehavioralhealth.com