This article is part of a series designed to introduce the program Mental Health First Aid for Adults Who Interact with Youth to the community. The articles focus on the different mental health issues addressed in the program. Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a program of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, but the articles are not a substitute for participating in the MHFA course. The articles are informational only and should not be utilized to diagnose yourself or others. Only a qualified professional can diagnose mental illnesses.
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Anxiety is a normal feeling that everyone experiences at some point. It can occur in a variety of situations. Anxiety is a natural response that helps us avoid danger and motivates us to solve everyday problems. Anxiety is experienced on the physical, cognitive and emotional levels. It varies in severity and can range from a mild uneasiness to an intense panic attack.
Because anxiety is a common experience, it can be difficult for people to recognize when their level of anxiety has become a disorder. People with anxiety disorders have excessive levels of anxiety that significantly interfere with day-to-day living. The anxieties they experience are more severe, longer lasting and occur when the person is not in a state of danger.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in children and adolescents. There are many different types of anxiety disorders that young people experience. Panic attacks, agoraphobia (the fear of having a panic attack where appropriate assistance may not be available), separation anxiety, specific phobia disorders, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute stress disorder and post-traumatic disorder are some of the more common ones.
Unfortunately many do not seek professional help for anxiety disorders, even though there are effective treatments. The usual reaction to anxiety is to avoid situations that trigger or provoke anxiety. This pattern of avoidance can lead to complicated and difficult situations. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can become chronic and put the person at risk for depression, substance abuse and even suicide attempts.
Anxiety levels can be aggravated by the use of substances like alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, opiates and other drugs (prescription and non-prescription). It is important to understand and monitor the use and effects of the various substances present in one’s lifestyle.
Recognizing the signs of an anxiety disorder is important. Treatments can be very effective. Mental Health First Aid for Adults Who Interact with Youth offers more in depth information and effective strategies of intervention. If you would like more information or would like to host a course, please contact myself, Tim Charrette at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Mental Health First Aid Canada website is www.mentalhealthfirstaid.ca.
Tim Charrette is a Mental Health Promotion Specialist with The Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent Branch.