What I Learned From “Angst,” A Documentary About Anxiety

Last week I virtually attended a screening of a documentary called Angst. Less than an hour long, the film’s main purpose is raise awareness around and anxiety and start the candid discussion about what anxiety is, what it looks like and how to get help. Even though the documentary seemed like it could be geared more toward people who want to learn more about anxiety disorders (i.e. not me), I still took a lot of away from the screening and I wanted to share why that was.

When it comes to mental health, one of the most powerful types of events I usually experience are awareness ones. Whether they’re fundraisers, walks, speeches or movie screenings, being part of a larger audience that’s looking to learn more about mental health is always a bright spot. Even virtually, I was excited about Angst just after reading the description of the film:

“This documentary is designed to raise awareness around anxiety.  The film includes interviews with kids, teens, educators, experts, parents and a very special interview with Michael Phelps.  The goal is to help people identify and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help.” – Angstmovie.com

What I appreciated about the movie is that it gave equal treatment to education, awareness and personal experience, which are the three biggest points I try to make when discussing anxiety with someone who’s not familiar.

Anxiety Awareness

Since this was the main goal of the film, I think that Angst did its job. This documentary isn’t about mental health, mental illness, or any other generalizing term in the field. It’s about a buzzword that tons of people use (in my opinion, use improperly) every day. The film distinguished anxiety – and its associating disorders – from being anxious and nervous, which is a distinction most people with anxiety disorders have to make over and over. And since this film is told mainly through the experiences of teenagers, we get a raw, real look at how this awareness has changed the parents and other adults in these kids’ lives who have either 1) never been exposed to anxiety disorders or 2) have been exposed, but couldn’t define them.

Anxiety Education

One of the most effective ways of raising awareness is by educating people in a simple and relatable way. Instead of getting stuck on the wide-ranging what is anxiety? question, the film powered through by defining what anxiety disorders are and using first-person narratives to explain what it feels like to have anxiety. Instead of the psychological jargon people are used to hearing, I heard more laymen’s terms, which made it feel more real – like something anyone could have. My dad, who also was able to view the screening, told me that he walked away with some things to think about and how to be more attentive to the students he teaches in regards to that anxiety. And that leads me to the biggest takeaway I had from this film.

Starting A Conversation About Anxiety

Talking about anxiety and anxiety disorders has been part of my life for a very long time. When something is so ingrained in the way you think, you forget there are plenty of people out there who don’t talk about it, maybe don’t even think about it. And it’s events like these that bring me back down to Earth and help me not only continue the conversations I’m having with people, but starting new ones. As much as I talk about anxiety, there are still so many who aren’t aware of it.

And that’s what this film shined a spotlight on. There are kids who don’t understand why they feel this way, teachers who don’t know what signs to look for, friends who aren’t sure how to help and parents who are trying to hard to understand. Sometimes it feels like the same old story, but we have the power to change the narrative – and that’s what Angst comes back to time and again. The conversation about anxiety is different now, and we need to make people listen.

Howard Thurman


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