As a teacher, you may have noticed your students seem increasingly anxious—and the evidence isn’t just anecdotal. According to child psychologist Golda Ginsburg, “anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses in children….[and they’re] underdiagnosed and undertreated.”
In fact, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, while about 18% of adults experience an anxiety disorder in a given year, that rate is a higher 25% for children ages 13–18. This article will guide you through the definition of anxiety, its causes, how to recognize it, types of anxiety disorders, and, most importantly, how you can help as a teacher.
You can also learn specific skills as they relate to anxiety and the COVID-19 crisis, as well as find resources to help you along your way.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an emotion in which one feels irrationally tense, worried, or fearful, manifesting itself through physical or emotional symptoms, which will be further detailed below. While there is frequently a known stimulus, there may not be—some anxiety is purely existential. Like other emotions, anxiety usually lasts a short while.
However, if the feeling lingers for far too long, this can indicate an anxiety disorder. The term “anxiety” is often confused with—or casually used in place of—“stress”” or “nervousness”, but they aren’t the same things. Stress and nerves are usually caused by external, recognizable stimuli, and the responses are relatively rational and short-lived.
These feelings can even be positive, indicating that a person cares about a situation’s outcome and pushing them to succeed. However, if a stressor continues over an extended period or there are multiple nerve-wracking situations on top of one another, anxiety frequently develops.
Anxiety is often connected to suicidal behavior. As of 2017, suicide was the second-highest cause of death in people ages 10–34. Parents, administrators, and teachers must learn to recognize and address anxiety in young people—not only to increase children’s academic and social success but also to potentially save their lives.
Causes of Anxiety Among Students
While not all anxiety symptoms are signs of disorders, there are three general causes of anxiety disorders among young people.
However, evidence shows situations unrelated to these factors are also causing the rise in anxiety and anxiety disorders among children. While it’s easy to blame social media—and studies are mixed about whether it is or is not a major contributor—some school issues are considered partially responsible.
Students who bully and those who are bullied are at risk for mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Less expectedly, seeing peers being bullied is also a significant cause of these challenges.
Students today are busy, both in and out of school. Overscheduling—such as involvement in too many advanced classes and extensive after-school activities—can have physical and mental effects, including anxiety.
Pressure to Succeed
Students often feel pressure to excel at everything. “When kids feel like each homework assignment is going to make or break their future or that each soccer game could determine if they get a college scholarship, that pressure will have negative consequences,” says Amy Morin, LCSW. These feelings can result in battles with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.
At all ages, students worry about their interactions with those around them. If a child feels like their teacher “doesn’t like them,” they may dread attending class. Additionally, teachers are stressed—which can lead to anxiety for them as well.
Even if they never lose their cool, a teacher’s general demeanor can model anxious behaviors for students. Also, kids want to fit in with their peers. While a Pew Research Center study showed grades were the primary stressor for students, the following two were the pressure to look good and be socially accepted.
As of 2018, 57% of teenagers surveyed stated they were worried a shooting would happen at their school. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows that people become anxious and unable to self-actualize—that is, learn and grow—if they feel unsafe…..
Source: A Teacher’s Guide To Helping Students with Anxiety
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