Chloe Kiriluk of Bloomfield Hilks knows the signs all too well — anger, negative thoughts.
The relentless effects of anxiety were so overwhelming that it left the 17-year-old questioning herself until she decided to get help.
That intervention made such an impact that she ended up making a documentary about it: “The Epidemic of Teen Anxiety.” The film is available on YouTube.
“I wanted to start a conversation that it is OK to talk about mental health,” she said.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, anxiety can interfere with work, school and relationships. It varies by type — panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobia, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.
About 70% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 said anxiety and depression are a major problem among their peers, followed by bullying and drug addiction, according to a February 2019 survey from Pew Research Center. Only 4% did not see anxiety and depression as a problem.
“What we have today is a greater degree of visibility,” Sonia Livingstone, a social psychologist at the London School of Economics and Political Science, told USA Today. “It very easily looks like an epidemic in mental health problems, but 10, 15 years ago, these were shameful things that nobody mentioned.”
More: Pew survey: Teens say depression is greater problem than bullying, drugs or drinking
As a teen, Chloe said it can be difficult to talk about mental health issues with parents. But she encourages people to talk to an adult, including a therapist.
Birmingham clinical social worker and therapist Michelle Belke, who works with teens diagnosed with anxiety, said self-care is the most important thing when it comes to treatment. Talking to a friend can also be beneficial.
“You have to be careful where the friend is pulled into the role of the therapist,” Belke said. “But friends can be a good distraction.
Belke said she would walk with a patient outside during a therapy session and ask about well-being, such as if they are eating and socializing.
Chloe’s advice to other teens: “Just because you may have a disorder, it does not mean you are broken or damaged.
“It’s totally normal and it’s fine. It may mean you should seek someone.”
Chloe said she plans on producing an extension to the documentary this summer that addresses how children can help themselves deal with anxiety.
She hopes the film is an “eye-opener.”
“This is an issue that can happen to anybody,” she said.
More: Tiny Michigan town copes with third teen suicide in 8 months
Feeling anxious or stressed? Here are coping strategies, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- Take a time-out. Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep. When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise daily to help you feel good and maintain your health. Check out the fitness tips below.
- Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved. Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety. Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone. Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.