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"Anxious Nation": A Film Review

The new documentary film helps us understand the recent wave of anxiety.

Key points

  • Anxiety disorders, the most common of mental conditions, have increased during and after the COVID pandemic.
  • Medication is no longer the primary treatment of anxiety disorders.
  • Avoidance of anxiety gives it power, while steadily facing it produces "extinction."
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You will not need to go further than this documentary to understand the wave of anxiety that has hit our nation during and in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. We learn, as well, what can be done to mitigate its awful consequences, especially for kids, teenagers, and young adults.

Anxious Nation begins with film clips of children (of varying ages) in the midst of an anxiety storm; many also convey, with the camera lens on them alone, depictions of life with this illness. But don’t stop there because you will deny yourself a single-sitting learning experience about the most common mental disorder in the U.S., even before the pandemic. It’s a condition that every family will encounter, if not in their home, then in the families that surround them.

We also are witness to the experience, pain, and mastery of parents, moms especially, with children who have an anxiety disorder. These moms are ready to do anything to end the suffering they witness in their children, day after day. They need support, not criticism, and can benefit a great deal from what we now know about anxiety and how to quell it, over a lifetime if needed.

Stay the course, never give up. You are not alone; don't go it alone.

As Anxious Nation unfolds, we are "briefed," if you will, by an ongoing series of highly informed and kind experts. They speak directly to viewers, not to lecture us but as teachers and coaches. They concisely inform viewers, in everyday English, about what is known about the genetic, biological, and psychological causes of this illness. One commentator said, “Genetics is the gun and environment the trigger," which says far more than the simple slogan it may seem.

These experts provide essential information about the causes and manifestations of this illness and the psychological and medical interventions that work. We hear that medications are no longer the primary treatment for children with an anxiety disorder and that many of the psychological approaches to the symptoms of this illness are available and meant to be used by the parent or child themselves, underscoring the control available to a family that often feels overwhelmed and hopeless.

Anxious Nation does not hide from us the gravity, in some children, of this condition: How their lives are corroded by highly impaired functioning. How essential friendships and relationships are gutted. How persistent pain, with little relief or hope, drains a child’s self-esteem, leaving condemning themselves as the ruling state of mind. Hearing kids talk about suicide and mean it gave me a frisson.

As the credits roll, we view a collection of kids and grown-ups who have come to terms with and are mastering their illness, thereby taking away the power it once had in their lives.

Anxious Nation premieres in New York and Los Angeles before opening nationwide. It will be available on May 5 online and will allow for anonymous messages 24/7.

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