Understanding Mental Illnesses 2: Anxiety Disorders


Nervousness, worry and anxiety, although normal and healthy responses to some situations, can be debilitating when it is excessive and takes place at other times. This activity walks you through useful resources on anxiety disorders and their symptoms. After this initial research, you will have the opportunity to express your findings in a creative writing activity. If you are looking for resources to help with anxiety issues, please visit the Anxiety Resources Folder.


1. Visit the teenmentalhealth resources on

  • generalized anxiety disorders and
  • panic disorder

    as well as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health resource on anxiety disorders:

  • CAMH resource on anxiety disorders

    2. Write a 500 word Dear Abby style letter (to an advice columnist in a magazine, blog or newspaper). Pretend that you are someone who is suffering from an anxiety disorder that has not yet been diagnosed. Use one of the disorders we have learned about:
    • panic disorder
    • agoraphobia
    • social phobia
    • specific phobia
    • obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • generalized anxiety disorder
    For example, describe an event where you had a panic attack or persistant rituals you cannot stop doing. Imagine the social, economic and personal implications of this action. How does it make you feel? Do you notice it? Why don't you stop? How do you feel about seeking treatment?

    3. Post the letter to the Student Writing section of the classroom. Be sure to select the appropriate assignment from the pulldown menu at the bottom of your submission.

    4. As a class, read a few of the letters out loud, and have other students identify the symptoms being described-do these problems point towards a possible anxiety disorder? If so, which one(s)? What are the 'next steps' for the letter writer? Alternatively, write a response to one of your classmate's letters with advice for the help-seeker.

    Learning Objectives

    • Understand the different disorders that fall under the category of anxiety disorders
    • Learn about the symptoms of each disorder
    • Explore treatment options for these disorders
    • Decrease stigma surrounding anxiety disorders
    • Develop critical thinking and analytical skills

    Continue to Understanding Mental Illnesses 3: Schizophrenia »