Childhood anxiety, even severe and chronic, doesn’t necessarily stand in the way of success and achievement. But caring parents will do anything to help relieve their children of misery. Scott Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic magazine, tells his story of struggling, coping, and living a very productive life.
It started at the onset of puberty, when I was 11 years old. I was at school, watching my older sister load the school bus to be taken away to 6th-grade camp. Suddenly a wave of panic overcame me. I don't recall my physical symptoms other than a racing heart and nausea.Read
An excellent student, a talented singer and musician, a competitive athlete. That’s how I appeared on the outside as a young child, but I felt as though I were trapped in a nightmare that would never end. Years later, and after a lot of hard work, my bad dream is finally over.
Fear of Being Alone
As a child, I was gregarious, outgoing, and happy-go-lucky. Then something went horribly askew at about age 12. I did not know why I was unable to focus when I had been the best reader in school. I had been talkative, but I kept to myself, remained silent, and let bullies pick on me. I hadn't the slightest idea what was going on with my body and mind. Eighth-grade was probably my worst year because I was taunted, harassed, and bullied.
“Hi! I'm Jack. And I have an anxiety disorder.”
Merely talking to other people makes me anxious. I often experience "phone fear." I avoid social gatherings (particularly parties), which I find excruciating. Crowded settings, especially without a perceptible escape route, cause me uneasiness, sometimes panic.Read
I had all the typical life stressors of a married working mom. One spring I had a birth control device implanted that apparently threw my hormones and mental well-being out of whack. I switched to part-time work that summer because it allowed for a bit more rest and less stress. But when I returned to work full-time in the fall, I began having odd flashes of fear. And when people around me felt sick, I did, too.Read
I have suffered from social anxiety disorder since I was about 10 years old, or about 34 years. I was a very intelligent child, but when teachers noticed a difference in me, I started trying to be invisible. Social situations, including school, were torture. I bulldozed my way through life, including dabbling in alcohol and substance abuse for relief of my anxiety and depression. I find it very interesting that the disorder is marked by a morbid fear of authority figures. And here I thought I was just being a rebel!Read
I am a middle-aged woman, married with two children. I was diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at age 25. I am grateful to say that I have had tremendous support, terrific professional help, a strong will to recover, and a resolve to do whatever work necessary to overcome all of my trauma. Other miraculous help has been my spiritual beliefs and practices.Read
I experienced my first bout of what I now know was depression when I was 11—uncontrollable crying, not wanting to get out of bed and go to school, and feelings of worthlessness. I was more sensitive than ever about being “left out” and the mercurial slights that characterize preteen girlhood. Nevertheless, I remained the consummate perfectionist. For instance, anything less than an “A” in school would validate my sense of inadequacy.Read
“I’m back!” That was the phrase I’d said to myself starting in middle school when my malaise lifted and a cycle of joy came around. I seemed to live in a world moving in slow motion. It was only when “I was back” that I returned to normal life speed. This slow-to-normal oscillation went on well into my thirties. But I had no idea I was depressed.
I have learned that anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, and there is no shame in having either — although it’s tough for many people to get their arms around that concept. When I struggled with both in my last couple years as the Texas Rangers’ baseball play-by-play announcer, the few people in whom I confided expressed genuine shock. “Depressed? About what? You’ve got a great job! Legions of adoring fans! A wonderful family! Dude, what’s your problem?”
Back in 2006, I had it all: A loving fiancé, a coveted publishing job, a supportive network of friends and family. I was living in Washington, D.C., where I went out almost every night to press parties and trendy restaurants. In my spare time, I delivered meals on wheels and counseled Alzheimer’s patients at the local senior center. Perfectionistic and ever so vigilant, I could’ve won the Perfect Life Olympics.Read
My descent into GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) began the morning I received the call bringing the news of my mother's accidental death. It was the same week that my husband was laid off. We had moved across the country for his new job, and eight months later he was laid off. After only two months out West, we moved back, and I had a nervous breakdown.Read
I had my first experience with severe long-term depression at age 23 when a series of events converged simultaneously. I couldn't sleep, and my lack of appetite had me losing such a significant amount of weight that I feared I would end up in the hospital. I forced myself to eat and eventually gained back the weight, and later an appetite. Being on my own at this age in the late 1980s with limited knowledge of depression, I wouldn't realize what was happening to me until years later.Read
I’m 21 years old, and besides my busy schedule as a full-time student the University of