Anxiety in Older Young People
SeeSaw works with young people up to and including the age of 18, and over the past few weeks many young people we have worked with have started college or university for the first time. A lot of them have been looking forward to it as a chance to learn something new, to make friends, to experience some independence and to feel they are entering more fully into their adult life. For some though it is an experience that can be tinged with anxiety, as not everyone finds new settings and new friendships easy to negotiate. For those who have a solid base of home, family, friends, and interests they may find this is enough to help them to manage the unfamiliar. However, for those young people who may not have all those things in place, or may be leaving them behind, it can be a very tough time.
Bereaved young people may have developed strategies for managing their grief over time, and feel they are quite adept at recognising it. However, leaving home for the first time to start college or university, or perhaps to start a job, can surprise young people with how wobbly they might feel. Home, family and friends are all further away and it is common for young people to experience strong feelings of home sickness, loneliness, anxiety or low mood. Local lockdowns, self-isolation and social distancing may all reinforce these feelings.
Bereaved young people have already experienced the death of someone they love and can become worried that the same thing will happen again when they leave family and friends. The current daily news reports of deaths and infection rates can fuel worries that something will happen to loved ones.
On Monday we shared some recommended techniques for managing stress and anxiety and for this blog we thought it might be useful to help reflect a bit more on types of anxiety. We have written this for young people so please share this with any young people you know who might find it useful.
Helping with separation anxiety
Leaving home and friends and family behind can feel quite lonely. Whilst you may feel too old for ‘pocket kisses’ the principle can still be very reassuring.
- Having an object or an image that is a reminder of home, family, or friends is often very helpful. It can be something small that can be carried around discreetly and touched or looked at in situations when you are feeling anxious (key rings, photos, lucky charms, fidget toys may all work well).
- Be creative in the ways you can feel in touch with those who are important to you – use smells, textures, sounds to make them feel closer. You may find making a self-care box helps too.
- Regular scheduled calls can also be helpful – knowing that you will be hearing from someone each day/week can help to manage the feelings in between.
- Care packages from home or family are also good reminders that you are being ‘held in mind’, as some bereaved young people can worry that they have been forgotten. Receiving a package of your favourite things is a good reminder them that family and friends are still there for you.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
With so many new experiences to process, leaving home can feel a little overwhelming.
For some people who have already experienced challenges and adversity the overwhelming nature of the unfamiliar can make you want to impose as much certainty and order on the situation as possible – to make it manageable. Young people who have been bereaved have experienced a life changing event, sometimes quite suddenly. This can lead to wanting to ensure you are never unprepared again.
In order to be prepared for the worst, some people might try to anticipate and prepare for every eventuality. At home in a secure and supportive environment this tendency may not have been particularly apparent but in a new and unfamiliar situation it might become more developed.
If you find you are looking for problems all the time, planning ahead for problems that may not exist, catastrophising small issues or overreacting to setbacks or unforeseen events you may want to look for some support.
NHS website has some useful information on GAD to help you decide if your worries may need more specialist support https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/generalised-anxiety-disorder/
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Whilst this is not very common it can be experienced by those who have been bereaved in traumatic circumstances or lived through other very traumatic situations. If you suspect you might have PTSD it is important to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible. PTSD is unlikely to have been brought about by leaving home, but you may have been managing it with the support of family and friends up to now and further away from them your coping strategies may not be working so well. For information on PTSD please check NHS websites https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/
For many of you any initial anxiety will recede over time as you settle into new routines, make new friends and enjoy the opportunities your new lifestyle brings; however, for some the anxiety may continue for a while and it is important to look for help and strategies. Our post on Friday will suggest some more sources of support.