“Angst” didn’t raise awareness

By Stella Huang, Staff Writer

An estimated 40 million adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder, making anxiety the most common health concern in the United States. “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” is a 2017 documentary directed by Matt Skerritt that takes a closer look into the causes of anxiety and the experiences of living with anxiety as a teenager. Its directed audience mainly includes teenagers like me.

Although the documentary has good intentions, as someone with anxiety, the documentary was underwhelming.

The documentary was contradictory. The first piece of advice given in the beginning was that if a person has anxiety, they should just cope with whatever makes them nervous or uncomfortable. Yet in a later clip, a teacher said that students with anxiety should be allowed to leave the classroom and to do whatever they feel is best for them. While I do agree that these are both good pieces of advice, they contradict each other.

Out of my current experience, the best way to deal with anxiety is to be around what makes you anxious more often, and soon it will become more of an everyday occurrence. I had several types of social anxiety in the past. Whenever I attempted to talk to teachers, my heart would thump so loudly I couldn’t hear my own words. I realized this was an issue I needed to address, and I worked on what the documentary called “exposure therapy.” It started out with a simple “thank you” after class was over and accumulated into coming to office hours just to talk about our days.

The documentary also states that genetics play a factor in if a child is prone to anxiety and states how parents should help. Karin Gornick, a parent in the video, said that she needed to find a balance between letting her child have the space he needed and pushing him to accept his fears. This brings up the question of where the balance is, yet the documentary does not answer this.

Meeting my parents’ expectations was a big factor contributing to my anxiety. The first time I experienced an anxiety attack was in seventh grade. My parents had signed me up for a Mandarin class, and I was scared of my teacher because she would always pick on me, using me as a “bad example” for the rest of the students just because I sometimes did not finish the homework she gave. While some children would be motivated them to work harder to prove her wrong, I was discouraged to continue studying Mandarin and did my homework less and less often. I asked my parents if I could quit and told them about how I was always anxious in her class, they did not listen and told me that the anxiety was just temporary. I was falling behind, and I simply did not have the support to keep going.

My stress started to accumulate, and before class, I ended up hiding in a closet, my hands sweaty and trembling. I spent four hours in the darkness, and when my parents found me, they finally gave in and allowed me to quit the class. If I had known how to deal with my anxiety, and if my parents had known to empathize with me earlier, then this attack would have been prevented. If “Angst” had taught me and my parents what to do in terms of these situations, then it would have been more effective.

There is still a stigma surrounding the idea of anxiety, and more awareness and understanding needs to be brought to the disorder. While “Angst” is another attempt to do so, it is inadequate in in terms of explaining the topic and left me feeling disappointed and unsupported.