The Perfect Storm of Anxiety Builds Momentum in the Educational System
Although anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States most suffers do not receive help. This is because an anxiety disorder is the quintessential disease of resistance; especially social anxiety which is the largest subset. This resistance is due to the fact that most afflicted are ruled by embarrassment and shame and remain avoidant. The result is that the mental health profession has struggled to provide productive treatment strategies.
Conservative estimates put the figure at 18.1% of the population
School phobia, social anxiety, selective mutism, public speaking anxiety, panic attacks, and performance anxiety are some of the anxiety problems that students will bring into the classroom this school year, where schools are essentially clueless as to how to help. This is due to the complexity of the anxiety disorder spectrum.
Here’s an example. Selective Mutism which is a complex form of obsessive compulsive disorder is in essence a speaking phobia. Approximately 7 out of 1000 children are impacted. There is very little help worldwide. Public schools are mandated to legally accommodate this “disability”. However; the process of accommodating academically often inhibits the mental health of the child. It’s complex.
Berent says “the most common thing I’ve heard from thousands of patients of all ages is “I have nothing to say or I don’t know what to say. Society’s obsessive and compulsive technology dependence is inhibiting the neuroplasticity required for the social skill of verbal conversation. In essence it’s an epidemic of selective mutism on the rise”. Consider the fact:
Texting has replaced talking as the most common form of communication.
In a recent article “My patient said I understand why kids shoot up schools” Berent describes the psycho-dynamics of the school shooter. It’s worth noting that the majority of perpetrators experienced challenged social skills. Many have been described as noticeably or abnormally quiet.
The most common anxiety in the world is fear of public speaking. Many of Berent’s patients have traced the roots of this insidious problem back to school settings where the emotions of shame and embarrassment were raw. Closely associated with public speaking, in both formal and informal settings, is the fear of being noticeably nervous. This can manifest as erythrophobia (fear of blushing), hyper-hidrosis (sweating), panic attacks, and verbal freezing or stammering.
The fear of being noticeably nervous can create unbearable emotional pain for many. This pain often evolves into situational avoidance which is a phobia. Substance dependence and depressions are significantly co-morbid. Suicide is on the rise. In general the mental health profession has been remiss in understanding the depth of emotional pain associated with anxiety disorders.
Many children and adolescents experience school phobia. This is a combination of an anxiety breakdown and dysfunctional parenting. Finding a school- based program to help with this common disorder is next to impossibility.
Anxiety disorders, technology overdependence, and “FOMO” (fear of missing out, associated with social media addiction) mixed in with evolving hyper-vigilance associated with the school shooting epidemic create the perfect storm for our schools. Berent believes that while the schools are breeding grounds for anxiety disorders there is great potential for prevention if anxiety and stress management courses were integrated into the curriculum. He adds “anxiety disorders are evolving at a rapid pace due to society’s blueprint for increased performance and productivity”.
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W. author of “Beyond Shyness” (Simon & Schuster), “Work Makes Me Nervous” (Wiley), and “Social Anxiety: The Untold Story” (AKFSA). Berent’s extensive work and unmatched clinical success is evidenced in his clinical library and dates back to 1978 He is available to the media as an expert on social anxiety and related disorders.
By Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro
Panic attacks can throw you for a loop (quite literally — they can make you dizzy), especially if you feel one coming on at school, at work, on a date — basically, somewhere you’d rather not have one. Sometimes, it may feel unavoidable, but here’s the good news: There are techniques and skills you can use to stop a panic or anxiety attack in its tracks, according to mental health experts… Read More
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W., author of “Beyond Shyness” (Simon & Schuster) and “Work Makes Me Nervous” (Wiley) has identified technology addiction as the gateway to an alternate reality for individuals of all ages afflicted with social anxiety and avoidant personality.
Berent explains “the fact that texting has replaced talking as the most common form of communication characterizes a societal shutdown of the neural pathways required for verbal communication specifically, and social skills in general. Society’s massive and rapidly developing technology dependence is enabling a dramatic increase in selective mutism, which is a variation of obsessive compulsive disorder and a speaking phobia. Using technology to communicate rather than talking has become a way of life for many”.
Current statistics put selective mutism as occurring in 7 out of 1000 children. Berent adds “I have seen countless adolescents and adults with this disorder. In fact many of my patients with public speaking anxiety, which is the world’s number one phobia, identify selective mutism as the driving force of their performance anxiety. The most common phrase that I have heard from thousands of patients in forty years of practice is “I have nothing to say” or “I don’t know what to say”.”
Individuals with social anxiety are the most at risk for phone addiction because of their tendency to avoid direct human interaction. The degree of interactive avoidance is an important diagnostic for measuring the degree of the overall anxiety problem. Over-dependence on technology sustains avoidance. Social anxiety is currently the most common anxiety disorder. It is driven by performance dynamics. Given society’s relentless pursuit for productivity and its technology dependence, social anxiety disorder has already reached epidemic proportions.
For insight into the connection between avoidance and technology consider the following case examples which are very common.
“Rob” age 26 lives at home with his parents. He left college after a few days because of social anxiety. While he has had a few jobs he has been unemployed most of the time. He stays up most of the night and sleeps most of the day. He has not had a “girlfriend” since junior high school. He does not have a social life. He spends over 70 hours per week gaming online. One of his biggest fears is having a conversation with someone outside of his family. He has no initiative for his mental health. He has no ambition. All he cares about is his online world or alternative universe!
“Janice” age 15 experienced a panic attack when her parents took away her I-Phone. Her FMO (fear of missing out) turned into a compulsion to always be on her phone at the expenses of her school work and other responsibilities. Not having her phone, on which most of her social life was based, caused her to be depressed.
Al, age 40, was human resources professional. For months he never verbally participated in his weekly staff meeting because he believed he had nothing to offer. He was eventually fired. In social situations his anxiety was so high that he often made believe he was talking on his phone to avoid conversion.
A free clinical library with rare interviews with individuals and families who have achieved life-changing results with The Berent Method is available.
Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W., A.C.S.W., has pioneered psychotherapy for social anxiety and has worked with thousands of individuals since 1978. His website www.socialanxiety.com has had over three million visitors.
Rob went to college for a week until his social anxiety got the best of him and he retreated home. At age 26 he worked sporadic jobs with no continuity, socialized occasionally with one friend, and spent most of his awake time playing computer games.
Jadine, age 20, like Rob, dropped out of art school after a short stint and retreated to her room where for two years she rarely communicated with her mom because of her selective mutism. She spent her days with various pursuits online. She had an online “boyfriend”. She had no friends with whom she socialized in person. She stayed up all night and slept for most of the day.
Mike at age 20 was school phobic since elementary school. He had no friends since age 7. He did not work. The only activities that were meaningful for him were video games and college football.
So; if you are a parent of an individual with similar profiles do you say to yourself “my child will grow out of the problem” or I’ll take him or her to a therapist to fix the situation?
Let me help you here. I can assure you that when the child reaches their 20’s there is no way simply growing out of the problem will happen. In fact; believing it could is either a cognitive distortion or delusion. And if you think taking your dependent to any therapist (if they will go) is a viable answer please consider the following content.
After thirty eight years of clinical experience with thousands of social anxiety patients of all ages I can say, with the utmost of integrity, that one of the primary reasons the mental health community has remained helpless in its attempt to provide productive treatment for social anxiety is the confusion regarding avoidance and dependence. In clinical terms I am addressing DSM V 301.82 Avoidant Personality Disorder and DSMV 301.60 Dependent Personality Disorder.
“Just the Way I Am”: Denial Is the Enemy of Social Anxiety Sufferers
Confessions of an “Avoidance Addict”
By Amy Lemley
No one would ever call me shy. In fact, I am “the extrovert’s extrovert,” an attention-seeker, a ham. I love public speaking, being interviewed on television and radio, and having my picture taken. I talk to strangers. A lot.
Yet through it all, I have suffered from extreme social anxiety. And I’m not alone. An estimated 37 million people suffer from it in the United States alone. You know some of us, though we are so adept at covering up our fears that you might never suspect.
We are crippled at times by symptoms such as obsessive worry, a racing pulse, clammy hands, and blushing and sweating to such an extent that we’d rather be alone than suffer—no matter what the cost. We may sacrifice relationships. We may sabotage our own careers. We may self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.
However we respond, we do so under a veil of denial wrapped so tightly around us that we cannot move. We don’t know what is wrong. We don’t know there’s a name for it. Our secret is so shameful, our self-hatred so deep, and our belief in our power to change is so diminished that we feel hopeless and unworthy.
“It’s just the way I am…”
Many social anxiety sufferers are labeled “introverts” or consider themselves to be “just shy.” In their view, this is just how they are, an indelible part of their personality. But according to the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety, which reports that one in eight people suffers from social anxiety, a limited awareness of exactly what social anxiety is and how to detect and treat it sentences some people to a life of “less than”—less than happy, less than comfortable, less than successful. (more…)
October 16, 2012
By Cortney Casey, C & G Staff Writer
The approximately 250 strangers conversing amongst themselves fell silent and turned their attention to Patty Kukes as she stepped to the podium on Sept. 27.
It was the kind of setting that would have constituted her son Andy’s worst nightmare. But that was precisely the point of “Misunderstood No More,” a presentation put on by the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety and hosted by Macomb County Community Mental Health Services.
“I’m very nervous today. I’m not a public speaker, but I’m up here in front of all of you,” said Patty Kukes, flanked by her ex-husband, Jeff. “Our son, Andy, couldn’t have even walked into this room. He had social anxiety — and it literally killed him.”
Andy, she said, “had every chance at a wonderful life.” He was an athlete, valedictorian of his high school class and a Princeton graduate. But even after seeking help from a series of therapists, he became virtually homebound “because he was so afraid of being judged, how his performance would be perceived,” she said.
Andy Kukes fatally shot himself July 14, 2009. He was 30 years old.
His suicide prompted the family — originally from Bloomfield Hills, now living in Florida — to launch a nonprofit organization in his memory in hopes of preventing future tragedies.
Social anxiety is particularly daunting to treat because it doesn’t manifest itself as obviously or outwardly as a severe physical injury or disease, yet its consequences can be equally grave, said Patty Kukes.
“If someone is blushing when they’re talking to you and sweating and very distressed and can’t look you in the eye, they’re sick on the inside,” she said. “Is it best to ignore that? Can we help them? Is it best to walk away?”
Social worker Jonathan Berent, who’s worked with social-anxiety patients since the mid-1970s, addressed those questions and more during the presentation, before a crowd of health-care professionals and laypeople at the Best Western Plus Sterling Inn Banquet & Conference Center Sept. 27.
As social anxiety is a disease of detachment, the key is getting patients to attach — which means they need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, said Berent, author of “Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties” and “Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed.”
Social anxiety sufferers often develop a sense of hyper-vigilance in childhood, “a defensive radar that can cause burnout” as the nervous system works overtime, said Berent.
They start believing a never-ending internal script that tells them they’re inferior. Anxiety typically leads to avoidance, and sufferers often put off seeking treatment or turn to the Internet for “magic” remedies, he said.
Addressing adrenaline control is among treatment techniques, said Berent. Patients are encouraged to have realistic expectations: Instead of hoping an uncomfortable situation won’t spark an adrenaline rush, “accept the adrenaline-driven visceral response as a source of power and your friend,” he said.
Take one or two diaphragmatic breaths, then “surf” the wave of adrenaline instead of resisting it, he said.
“The surfer goes with the adrenaline; he or she is in control,” he said. “You do not go with it, you get smashed around. That’s a panic attack.”
According to Berent, working with enablers in the patient’s life also is crucial. If parents are contacting a therapist on their child’s behalf, they need to come in to get on board with the system of treatment, he said.
Besides events like the Sept. 27 community presentation, the Andrew Kukes Foundation offers two versions of a 10-hour intensive course helmed by Berent: one on DVD for professionals pursuing educational credits and one online for families, who can watch it for a donation, said Lori Blumenstein-Bott, the organization’s executive director.
Through its website, the foundation also is offering webinars with subject-matter experts, live-stream discussions with Patty and Jeff Kukes, questionnaires assessing social anxiety symptoms, aggregated relevant articles, links and other resources.
“Through awareness and education, the conversation begins,” said Blumenstein-Bott. “That’s how we want to build that message on a national level. The more lives you touch with this, the more people start talking about it.”
For more information on the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety, visit www.akfsa.org or call (561) 921-5151.
You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cortney Casey at email@example.com or at (586)498-1046.