19 Apr 2021
International journal of environmental research and public health;
Living with anxiety can be a complex, biopsychosocial experience that is unique to each person and embedded in their contexts and lived worlds. Scales and questionnaires are necessary to quantify anxiety, yet these approaches are not always able to reflect the lived experience of psychological distress experienced by youth. Guided by hermeneutic phenomenology, our research aimed to amplify the voices of youth living with anxiety. Fifty-eight youth living with anxiety took part in in-depth, open-ended interviews and participatory arts-based methods (photovoice and ecomaps). Analysis was informed by van Manen's method of data analysis with attention to lived space, lived body, lived time, and lived relationships, as well as the meanings of living with anxiety. Youth relied on the following metaphors to describe their experiences:
A shrinking world; The heavy, heavy backpack; Play, pause, rewind, forward; and A fine balance.
Overall, youth described their anxiety as a monster, contributing to feelings of fear, loss, and pain, but also hope. The findings from this study can contribute to the reduction of barriers in knowledge translation by encouraging the use of narrative and visual metaphors as a communicative tool to convey youth's lived experience of anxiety to researchers, clinicians, and the public.