Latter-day Saint Life

Stress or anxiety? Advice from Latter-day Saint therapists on when to find help

female teenager feeling stressed studing at home.E learning.Home schooling
Almost one in five adults today experiences mental illness.
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In recent years, the Church has provided more resources for mental health than ever before. General conference talks regularly address this topic, and the Church’s website has a list of mental health resources, including sections with help for individuals, parents, families, and leaders. “Mental health challenges can impact anyone, regardless of education, geography, faith, calling, or family. They are nothing to be ashamed of and should be met with love,” the website reads.

And a recent article from Church News furthers the discussion with a recent article called, “Feeling anxious? Or is it anxiety? Here's how to find hope and help.” Read important highlights from the article below to help you and those you love better understand and alleviate anxious feelings.

Lauren Barnes, an associate professor in the Brigham Young University School of Family Life and a marriage and family therapist, told Church News she is happy that the Church is paying attention and giving much-needed support when it comes to mental health challenges, including the new emotional resilience self-reliance course. “I really think we are blessed that our Church has brought this program out of obscurity as mental health is greatly frowned upon or taboo in other cultures,” she says.“Having the Church support this with doctrine and inspiring quotes from leaders is such an amazing tool, especially in this time of uncertainty.”

► You may also like: Church responds to members’ mental health challenges with new self-reliance materials

And much-needed might be an understatement. Barnes says that statistics suggest that almost one in five adults today experiences mental illness.

“Young adults, aged 18–25, have the highest prevalence rates of other adult age groups, at just over 25 percent,” she said. “Assume you know somebody struggling with mental illness; this isn’t just affecting somebody somewhere out there. It’s likely impacting somebody you know.”

Roy Bean, a marriage and family therapist and BYU associate professor of marriage and family therapy, told Church News that anxiety is the most diagnosed issue when it comes to mental health.

“I would say anxiety has increased over the last 20 to 50 years, mostly because we live in a more stressful environment,” he said. “They have more technology but also more choices than ever before; they are over-scheduled and constantly connected to information and news about the scary things happening around the world; they see posts on social media with which to compare themselves. And you’re never completely removed from your email and your text messages, your boss, your most annoying neighbor—they can always reach you. We tend to get bombarded by things that are risk factors for us that 20 years ago we just weren’t bombarded by.”

And the pandemic certainly did not help things. Factors that usually protect against stress and anxiety such as social support and access to friends, family, activities, and school were almost completely taken away, and general rates of anxiety skyrocketed from around 4 percent to more than 30 percent.

“That’s not us being weaker or less resilient as a people. That’s us being exposed to such a new mountain of stressors,” Bean said.

According to Church News, clinical professionals look for the following when assessing for general anxiety disorder:

  1. The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least six months and is clearly excessive.
  2. The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.
  3. The anxiety and worry are accompanied by at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms. (In children, only one of these symptoms is necessary for a diagnosis of general anxiety disorder.):
  • Edginess or restlessness.
  • Tiring easily, more fatigued than usual.
  • Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank.
  • Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others).
  • Increased muscle aches or soreness.
  • Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep).

If you are experiencing at least three of the above physical or mental symptoms over a period of time, or if you feel your anxiety or stress has become crippling or debilitating, seek counsel from a trained and licensed professional.

“If you struggle with anxiety, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. It doesn’t mean you haven’t been faithful. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you,” Barnes said. “We live in a remarkable time with so much availability and access to help and support. Reach out to professionals. Reach out for social support. Get the help you need.”

“The interesting thing about anxiety is that some of the very solutions to anxiety are hard to do when you’re anxious,” Bean said. “The need for professional assistance—either neurochemical in the form of medication and or counseling—increases with the severity of symptoms. … Getting professional help is not a sign that you’re a failure or that God doesn’t love you. It’s because we have these tools. Let’s use them.”

Read the full article on Church News.

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