In and out, in and out. In, and then out again. With every breath she felt a bit better. She told herself it would be OK, that it would all be over soon. After she calmed down, she slowly got up and made her way back to the class she was in. She sat back down in her seat, and carried on with the rest of her day in the best way possible.
Ever since she was a little girl, panic attacks have been a common occurrence in junior Abby Belea’s daily life.
“I’ll be in class and my panic attacks just come randomly,” Belea said. “It gets in the way a lot.”
Anxiety can be normal to an extent; for example, feeling nervous to make a speech or perform in front of an audience is a normal reaction in those cases. However, it becomes a problem when a person becomes so stressed out or nervous that they have an abnormal reaction, such as vomiting, difficulty breathing or a panic attack.
“[A disorder] can be crippling,” AP Psychology teacher Shelene Anderson said. “It could be caused by anything. It just depends on the person and how they deal with stuff.”
Roughly 25 percent of all teens suffer from some form of anxiety disorder at one point in their adolescent life. About 30 percent of girls, ages 13 to 18, experience an anxiety disorder. Junior Devyn Hinds struggles with anxiety that was originally brought on by her tough transition from middle to high school.
“I can’t focus on anything other than stress,” Hinds said. “If I didn’t get stressed out as easily as I do, life would be a lot easier.”
Breathing exercises are a technique used by many to help cope with anxiety. Inhaling deep breaths can prevent hyperventilation. Imagery, such as visualizing a happy place has also proven helpful for some.
“The easiest way I can deal with [anxiety] is get rid of [things causing] my stress,” Hinds said. “I’ll do my homework or have one of the debaters help me with my debate stuff so I don’t have too much on my plate.”
Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another, but the two do not mean the same thing. Stress identifies as a response to a threat in a situation, while anxiety poses as a reaction to that stress. Whether in good times or bad, most people say that stress interferes with their lives in some way. Chronic stress can affect health, causing symptoms like headaches, high blood pressure, chest pain, heart palpitations, skin rashes or sleep loss.
“Anxiety is normal to some degree, there’s a difference between normal levels of anxiety and an anxiety disorder,” Ms. Anderson said. “Anxiety disorders are higher in girls than in boys because girls generally have more self esteem issues, they handle their stress differently than boys.”
Different types of anxiety disorders include Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, PTSD, Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression. But regardless of the struggle, people can achieve recovery from anxiety. Friends and family can be a tremendous help, as well as therapists. Sometimes someone suffering with anxiety just needs someone who can help sort out their problems. When anxiety becomes overwhelming, it may be time for a more serious solution like a prescribed medication.
“[Sometimes] that’s really all they need is somebody to ask what’s going on with them,” Nurse Elisa Watkins said.
If you struggle with an anxiety disorder, get help by calling 212-673-3000 or if you have an emergency, of course call 911 first. Be sure that friends or family know where to find help and how to cope with anxiety if they begin to display certain symptoms or choose to come to you for help. Anxiety can very easily turn into to something much worse like depression, which could lead to suicide, so the importance of knowledge on the subject can be life-saving.
“I would just say that it gets better,” Hinds said. “The situation you’re in right now is like you can be really stressed out and stuff but the stress doesn’t last forever.