Anxiety Disorders

Supporting Mental Health

Who is affected?

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders and is experienced by children, adolescents, and adults alike. Recent research findings show that approximately 8 per cent of people have an anxiety disorder of some type at some time in their lives. They occur in both girls and boys but are more frequent in boys. Left untreated, some anxiety disorders which begin in childhood may last a lifetime. (p. 38, Supporting Minds)

What is an anxiety disorder?

In an anxiety disorder, a student’s anxiety changes from a typical adaptive response into a more exaggerated reaction that can interfere with the student’s social, academic, and/or emotional functioning. Anxiety-related problems exist on a continuum from mild to severe. For most students mild worries and fears can be managed and are not long-lasting. However, for some students feelings of worry become persistent and intense. These feelings can have a paralysing effect, disrupting the student’s engagement in classroom activities, learning potential, performance, and social relationships. (p. 28, Supporting Minds)

There are several types of anxiety disorders including:

Separation Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Specific Phobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. More specific information on each of this disorders can be found on p. 29 of Supporting Minds.

What are the signs of an anxiety disorder?

Regardless of the type of anxiety and its origin, there are many different signs to look for which may occur at different ages. In general, some common signs include the following.

The student:

o has frequent absences from school;

o asks to be excused from making presentations in class;

o shows a decline in grades and is unable to work to expectations;

o refuses to join or participate in social activities;

o has physical complaints (e.g., stomach-aches)not clearly attributable to a physical health condition;

o worries excessively about things like homework or grades or everyday routines;

o has frequent bouts of tears and is easily frustrated;

o is extremely quiet or shy;

o fears new situations;

o has dysfunctional social behaviours.

(p. 30 of Supporting Minds)



• Create a learning environment where mistakes are viewed as a natural part of the learning process.

• Provide predictable schedules and routines in the classroom.

• Provide advance warning of changes in routine.

• Provide simple relaxation exercises that involve the whole class.

• Encourage students to take small steps towards accomplishing a feared task.

(p. 32, Supporting Minds)

Classroom Strategies for a Range of anxiety-related behaviour:

Classroom Strategies for a Range of anxiety-related behaviour:

o Work with parents, the school team, and others involved with the student to establish consistent expectations for the student at school, at home, and in other areas of activity. This provides predictability and reduces confusion for the student.

o Reward brave, non-anxious behaviour. Notice when the student is being brave in attempting something he/she finds challenging.

o Check in with the student at the beginning of each day.

o Learn what situations the student can handle and determine how to respond when she/he is unable to cope.

o Check with the student that assignments have been written down correctly.

o Reduce schoolwork and/or homework based on information from parents and the school team about how much stress the student can handle.

o Maintain the student’s regular schedule as much as possible.

o Ask the student’s parents what strategies work at home to relieve the student’s anxiety.

o Encourage and reward all positive steps in managing anxiety

(p. 34, Supporting Minds)

Outline of Lesson Plan on Anxiety

A Sample Lesson for Intermediate Students

Minds-On (5 minutes)

Small group discussion/brainstorm session of causes of stress for students their age.

Action (30 minutes)

1. Teacher asks for students to share their answers from their discussion and records shared answers on a concept map on the smart board.

2. Their answers lead teacher in facilitating a large group discussion addressing two important questions:

1. What is the difference between good stress and bad stress.

2. What is the difference between stress (or anxiety) and an anxiety disorder?

Again record student answers on a SMART BOARD.

3. In small groups, students will be asked to come up with a top ten list of strategies they use to help them cope with stress (Stress busters). Students will record their answers using markers on large chart paper. Display their answers around the class for a gallery walk.

4. Teacher will show a brief video clip or power point outlining effective strategies to help teens deal with stress.

CONSOLIDATE (45 minutes – plan today, complete next class)

Each student will them come up with their own stress response kit. They will list what they think are the main stresses they face on a daily basis (3-5 stresses). They will then come up with a list of 5-8 strategies that they can use to help them to cope with these stresses. The product that they will produce to demonstrate their understanding can be a brochure, poster, video, an original piece of art work or other produce of their choosing.


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