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Is Anxiety A Forever Thing?

Published: January 21, 2015
Dear Is Anxiety A Forever Thing?,

Is anxiety a forever thing? I am in college and was diagnosed with anxiety a couple years ago. I was told I have generalized anxiety disorder and separation anxiety. I had a really hard time being away at school my freshman year. I felt lost, lonely, stressed, and upset and found myself crying A LOT. I didn't know how to deal with the feelings so I started seeing a counselor in the student health center. I hated seeing her at first. It was so hard to tell her the thoughts and feelings that were on my mind. After a while, once I got comfortable (it actually took me a god two years before I feel like I was completely open and honest with her), I realized that it was actually really helpful for me to have someone to talk to about everything. I have gone through some rough times with my feelings over the past couple years. I still continue to see the counselor during the year while I am at school. I've learned many things that help me deal with anxious feelings. But, the anxious feelings still get to me sometimes and I find that I get "stuck" in them and don't know what to do at times. I have seen a psychiatrist twice and was told he could give me a prescription for lexapro both times; however, I never took the prescription. For some reason I'm scared to be on medication, it just makes me nervous. I continue to go to counseling, but I will be graduating in May and won't be able to see the counselor anymore since I won't be a student. I'm worried about dealing with my anxiety after college. Will I have to deal with this for the rest of my life? Is medication the only way to make it go away? What will I do after college when I can't see the counselor any more?

Dear Is Anxiety A Forever Thing?,

TeenHealthFX can appreciate what a struggle it has been for you to be dealing with your anxiety for so long. Given how your anxiety affects you, and how long it took for you to feel comfortable with your current therapist, FX can also understand how concerned you must be about what is going to happen with all of this after you graduate college.

FX doesn’t think that you will have to deal with your anxiety to this degree for the rest of your life. But we think it would be helpful for consider the following so that your anxiety levels can continue to improve over time:

  • Have an appointment scheduled with a reputable therapist, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, for after you have graduated college. Your current therapist should be able to help you to find someone with experience in working with people with anxiety disorders. If you can, it might even be helpful to meet with this person prior to leaving school so that you know it’s a good fit.

  • Having to say good-bye to your current therapist could be a difficult loss for you. You have worked together several years and it sounds like you have come to feel comfortable with this person, so it will probably be hard to say good-bye. FX thinks that it is important to take some time to process this ending both with your current therapist and your new therapist.

  • It is the experience of many mental health professionals that medications, such as Lexapro, can be extremely helpful in dealing with anxiety disorders. When certain feelings are so difficult to manage or tolerate, taking medication can help to take the edge off, which then makes the therapeutic process more effective. That said, if a psychiatrist has advised you that Lexapro would be helpful for you, then FX thinks it is important that you speak with your current and new therapists about your reservations about medications. Many mental health practitioners have had clients who have had reservations about medications – and many of these clients have been able to work through these reservations, come to a place of feeling comfortable taking medication, and then benefiting greatly from it.

  • Remember that if you decide to take medication, it does not mean you will be taking it for the rest of your life. Nor do we think you’ll be dealing with your anxiety at this level for the rest of your life. The combination of medication and therapy, when indicated, can help to diminish anxiety over time so that meds are not needed forever and the intense levels of anxiety will also not be present forever.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.