Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder and affects 18% of Americans during their lifetimes.
- National Institute of Mental Health



Know the facts.

DEFINITION: Everybody experiences anxiety and/or stress sometime. A person with an anxiety disorder experiences disabling, intense and irrational fears and worries that get in the way of daily life. An anxiety disorder differs from everyday stress in the following ways:

  1. it is more severe,
  2. it is long-lasting, and
  3. it interferes with a person’s life. 

Some Common Anxiety Disorders Include:

  • General anxiety disorder
  • Phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia)
  • Panic Disorder

Symptoms of anxiety disorders:

A person with a 
general anxiety disorder might...

  • worry excessively, more days than they don’t, about everyday problems and things out of their control for at least six months.
  • not be able to relax, have trouble sleeping and concentrating and might be easily startled.
  • have physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or feeling out of breath.

A person with phobias might...

  • have an intense, irrational fear of something harmless like butterflies.
  • do almost anything to avoid the object of their fear (a specific place, an event or object), and this may limit their life experiences in many ways.

A person with social anxiety disorder might...

  • experience intense nervousness in social situations, performances or being in public.
  • feel afraid that they are being closely watched, judged or criticized by other people.

A person with panic disorder might...

  • experience recurring panic attacks, and is persistently worried about future panic attacks.
    • a panic attack is the sudden onset of intense fear or terror, even though the person is safe.
  • experience sudden feelings of severe fright for no apparent reason.
  • stay away from certain activities or places to try to avoid having panic attacks.
  • Note: A panic attack can feel like a heart attack and can include physical symptoms such as an upset stomach, sweating, pounding heart or shortness of breath.

For managing day-to-day anxiety, a good diet, exercise, sleep, and self-calming techniques can help.

Reducing screen time and increasing outdoor activities can be beneficial.

Having supportive family and friendship networks also promote feelings of well being and can help someone get through difficult times.

Working with a mental health professional in talk therapy or taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist are possible forms of treatment.


  • Practice with the person to help them breathe slowly.
  • Breathing can help the body calm and think clearly.
  • Help the person think about something positive (e.g., sunset, beach, forest, puppies) for 12 seconds. These thoughts can replace stress or fear.  
  • Sit the person down, if possible.
  • Ask the person what has helped in the past.
  • Remember that it is not helpful to try to convince someone with an anxiety disorder that there is nothing for them to worry about.


  • Educate yourself about the disorder.
  • Listen to your friend when they want to talk.
  • Keep checking in with your friend.
  • Use 1st person language. Say,
    “My friend has anxiety.” not “My friend is anxious.”
  • Reassure your friend of your support and understanding.


  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I am here for you.”
  • “It’s the illness that causes these thoughts and feelings.”
  • “This must be really difficult for you.”


  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “Get over yourself, you have no reason to feel that way.”
  • “Shouldn’t you be better by now?”


  • ...tell a friend to “Snap out of it!”
  • ...diagnose.
  • ...gossip.
  • ...take your friend’s withdrawal personally.

Find additional information on our Mental Health Disorders page and other suggestions on our Understanding Stigma page >>

Can you answer these questions?

  1. What is the difference between anxiety or stress-related disorders and everyday stress (such as too much homework, a job interview, a championship game, or a big test)?
  2. How common are anxiety disorders?
  3. What are the signs and symptoms of each of the anxiety disorders?
  4. What treatments are available for people experiencing the symptoms of these disorders?
  5. What can you do to support someone with an anxiety disorder?
  6. How do you think stigma might affect a person with an anxiety disorder?

*Hint: Read the ANXIETY facts at the top of this page to find the answers for 1-5. And view our Understanding Stigma page for question #6.



Anxiety: 11 Things We Want You To Understand
Social Anxiety Disorder
Dylan's Panic Disorder


Know the facts.

Fact: Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million American adults per year, which is about 18 percent of the country's population.  

According to Alison Baker, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the director of the adolescent program for Columbia University Medical Center, anxiety disorders are also one of the most prevalent pediatric psychological conditions.

- Adapted from Huffington Post   

Fact: Telling someone who is experiencing anxiety to "just relax," would be like telling someone with a broken leg to just get it together and run a race.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help manage the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Research has shown these treatment options to be successful in most cases. Although relaxation might be a part of the treatment plan, it needs to happen in line with other self-help strategies and treatment options advised by a mental health professional. 

- Adapted from (Australia)

Fact: If you have an anxiety disorder, it is important to be aware of what may trigger your anxiety.

However, avoiding risks all together can trigger and reinforce anxiety.

- Adapted from Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Fact: Eating nutritious foods, exercising, avoiding caffeine and following a healthy lifestyle are good for mental wellness for us all.

However, this is not a "cure" for an anxiety disorder.

These healthy habits won't make anxiety go away. Anxiety disorders are sensitive to stress, but stress does not cause them.

- Adapted from Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Fact: According to Greg Hajcak, PhD, an associate of psychology at Stony Brook University, too many people with an anxiety disorder wait about 10 years to seek anxiety treatment.

Those who are still able to work and function well enough often delay getting help, hoping the anxiety will get better on its own.

The reality is that this rarely happens. Therefore, it is important for people who have the symptoms of an anxiety disorder to get the help they need and deserve.

- Adapted from Everyday Health



It's OK to ask for help.
Talk to a trusted adult.

Visit and access the all new YouthWell Community Resources Directory. You will find youth behavioral health and wellness resources in this resource directory.

If you or someone you know has harmed themselves or is in immediate risk of harm CALL 911 immediately.

SAFTY ~ Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth 

  • 888-334-2777 - SAFTY is a mobile crisis response service available daily 8am-8pm, providing crisis intervention, phone, and in-home support, and linkage to mental health services. Available to all SB County youth, age 0-20, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. 

Crisis Text Line

  • Text SIGNS to 741741 for 24/7, anonymous, free crisis counseling.
    Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via text. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  or  ONLINE LIVE CHAT
    24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call is routed to the nearest crisis center in the national network of 150+ crisis center

Learning about mental health is the first step to wellness. The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) can help families find medical and professional care, as well as teach important skills on how to manage your mental health. Many families in our community have teenagers who are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health issues. It can be overwhelming as a parent to find support for your teenager and difficult to talk about these issues. The MWC is focused on providing a safe and confidential space for families to connect with others, access community resources and get the support your family needs.


Keeping Connected Group
Come discuss life, work on communication and social skills and enjoy time with your peers! This weekly group brings together teens, 14-18, to learn emotion management in a fun, safe and confidential place. Learn and practice self-management skills for better self-regulation. Drop-ins are welcome.

Wellness Connection Program
The Wellness Connection is a high school leadership program of the Mental Wellness Center that educates, empowers, and engages students. Students raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health by promoting self-care, connection, kindness, education, prevention, and outreach amongst their peers.

In Fall of 2020, the Wellness Connection welcomed more than 50 local high school students to their leadership council from high schools throughout Santa Barbara County.

To learn more about the Wellness Connection Program at the Mental Wellness Center, visit

Mental Health Matters • 6th & 9th GRADE CLASSES
MHM teaches basic facts about mental health to sixth and ninth grade students in the classroom. Instructors talk about stigma and how it affects our perceptions of mental illness and taking care of ourselves. Students learn the facts, including symptoms and warning signs, of specific mental health disorders.


SPOT (Support for Parents of Teens and Adolescents)
Mom Group - Meets Mondays at 10:00 AM (Spanish Group), Tuesdays at 12:00 PM (for moms) and Wednesdays at 6:30 PM (for all caregivers).

SPOT is a safe space for caregivers of teens and young adults to connect with other caregivers who might also be struggling in parenting a child with mental health challenges. We listen, support, and gain perspective in what is in our control and what is not. Facilitated discussion on emotional intelligence, coping strategies, and mindfulness is all incorporated during our time together.

For more information and to participate in SPOT, please contact Mental Wellness Center Family Advocate, Ramona Winner, at: 805-884-8440 ext. 3206, You must contact Ramona first to receive ZOOM link. If you are interested in joining the SPOT Spanish Group for Moms, please contact Isis Castaneda at: 805-448-0920.

Family Advocate
The MWC Family Advocate can assist families and provide assistance in understanding and navigating the local public and private mental health systems, help identify various clinical and support services available in our community and provide one-on-one support in times of crisis. 805.884.8440 x3206


Mental Health First Aid, Youth Mental Health First Aid, Teen Mental Health First Aid
This 8-hour course is offered monthly at the MWC and teaches participants how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. It also teaches an action plan to use in a psychiatric emergency. This course can be customized and provided on-site in schools and organizations. For more information visit

NAMI Santa Barbara County

Family-to-Family Educational Classes
This 8-week course (in English and Spanish) helps families better understand how their family member experiences their illness, how to best support the recovery process and how to better cope with the impact on the entire family. Contact the MWC Family Advocate to inquire or reserve a place in the next series. 805-884-8440 x3206

4th Thursday Speaker Presentations
NAMI Santa Barbara County offers free monthly presentations with dynamic speakers on topics of local interest related to mental health. Visit to learn more and see a full listing of NAMI Santa Barbara County offerings including upcoming groups and classes.


The Mental Wellness Center (MWC) lending library provides books for independent learning available for loan to MWC clients and their families.

The collection covers a wide variety of topics related to mental health and wellness and contains books on a range of mental health disorders including ADD/ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar mood disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia. Materials on client and family coping and survival strategies, drug abuse in dual diagnosis, and suicide are also available. You will also find a limited selection of materials on psychopharmacology, memoirs, some relevant fiction, and a small collection of books written for children and teens.

The MWC Library Online Catalog is available for free online, click the button below to access. Simply input “MWC Library” as the library name, no password is required.


You may check out the library collection during MWC open hours or formal meeting periods. Contact your Support Group Facilitator to register as a library patron and obtain information on library procedures.