Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Our Kids -- On the Rise?

An article in the New York Times Magazine by Benoit Denizet-Lewis dated October 11, 2017 has been among the Times's most-emailed.  The article is about the seeming rise in anxiety disorders among United States adolescents.  The article describes the struggles of a number of teens with anxiety, including those of this young man:

Jake, at UNC-Chapel Hill, suffers from anxiety.
The Higher Education Research Institute has found that incoming college freshmen reporting that they "felt overwhelmed by all I had to do" had risen last year, to 41% of those surveyed, up from 18% in 1985.  See the report here.

The Mayo Clinic has listed several warning signs that young people may be suffering from mental illness.  Those include:

  • mood changes (sadness, withdrawal, or severe mood swings)
  • intense feelings (such as overwhelming fear for no reason)
  • behavior changes (including dangerous or out-of-control behavior, or frequent fighting)
  • difficulty concentrating
  • unexplained weight loss
  • physical symptoms (such as headaches and stomachaches)
  • self-harm
  • substance abuse
Many people with depression and bipolar disorder, including myself, first experienced symptoms of anxiety.  Dr. Susan J. Bradley, a child psychiatrist in Toronto, has written that "anxiety disorders precede mood disorders in most situations."

I first started experiencing severe anxiety in my second year of law school, at the age of 23.  I was doing everything I could to manage my feelings of panic, my muscle tension, sleeplessness, and constant worry.  (I went running so often and for such long periods of time that I was in the best physical shape of my life.)  But things got worse, instead of better, and I contacted a psychiatrist, who prescribed lorazepam, a tranquilizer, and propranolol, a beta-blocker, which reduces symptoms of panic.  The relief came right away, but soon my feelings morphed into depression.  I later learned that this is common.

lorazepam tablets
It used to be commonly accepted that the age of onset of mental disorders was usually in a patient's early twenties, but psychiatrists are revising that opinion.  "Roughly half of all lifetime mental disorders in most studies start by the mid‐teens and three‐fourths by the mid‐20s" write Kessler et al.

Parents and teachers should keep an eye out for the warning signs of mental illness in their children and their students.  Whether the prevalence of anxiety and mental disorders is truly rising or not, it is vital that people who are suffering get treatment.

Do you feel overwhelmed by all you have to do?  Do you have phobias, or obsessions mixed with compulsions?  Do you feel depressed?  Do not accept your suffering.  Seek treatment.  First, you are not alone.  And second, relief is out there.

The English Avocado

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