Here's How YouTube Has Opened Up A Conversation About Anxiety

1 October 2015, 16:37 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:11

We the Unicorns

By Hollie-Anne Brooks

If you're between the ages of 13 and 18, you're probably more clued up on anxiety disorders and mental health issues than any other generation before you. And that is, in part, thanks to your favourite YouTubers being more open and honest about mental health than we as a society have ever known.

Zoella is probably the most well known for discussing her anxiety disorder, what it actually means and how it has effected her life. Unlike fellow YouTuber Tanya Burr, Zoe is rarely seen at public events and has shunned the limelight in favour for a quieter home life; she's claimed this is due mostly to her anxiety disorder which has a huge impact on her life.

But has the fact Zoe and other YouTubers have spoken about what anxiety means and how they deal with it done a lot to shift the stigma of the condition? Or are some people devaluing anxiety thanks to the rise in it being diagnosed?

Search for "anxiety" on YouTube and two out of three of the most viewed videos come from Zoella; one with how she deals with anxiety and the other a Q&A; on the topic. On both these videos there are thousands of comments from fans thanking her for her help and explaining how she has helped them come to terms with their own anxiety issues.

Since Zoe spoke out, other YouTubers have followed and gained similar acclaim for their work to battle the stigma of mental illness. Tanya Burr- known for her vibrant and confident personality - spoke about the anxiety she suffers, Pixiwoo's Samantha Chapman has filmed her story and Kathleen Lights has also discussed the issue. But, as we know, anxiety isn't a one stop shop. Ingrid Nilsen has discussed her travel anxiety and Dolly Bow Bow about her health anxiety. We'd hazard a guess that - amongst teens - anxiety disorder is way more known about than other issues such as depression, eating disorders and phobias; all of which are equal within their own right.

However, have we got lost in a blanket term? And are we now amongst a generation of self diagnosed anxiety disorder sufferers? We seem to have lost the notion of having anxious feelings versus having an anxiety disorder. Dan Howell discussed the differences recently during a live stream; having used the word "anxiety" in a Tweet, fans became concerned but also hit back at Dan for using the word "anxiety" when he doesn't have an anxiety disorder. In the video, Dan has to point out how one can feel anxiety and feel anxious despite not having an actual anxiety disorder.

One can feel anxious or anxiety about something without having anxiety disorder and whilst YouTubers have gone to incredible and brave lengths to highlight anxiety and anxiety disorders, there is the fear that people can jump to the conclusion and self diagnose themselves with an anxiety problem when in actual fact they're prone to feel anxious like 99% of humans are.

However, whether you've ever felt an ounce of anxiety or not, it's pretty safe to say YouTubers have led to us knowing more about it, being able to spot to signs and giving us coping tips. So whether it's a friend, family member or colleague experiencing any level of anxiety, our knowledge of coping mechanisms and general understanding can only be seen as a good thing.

Charities, sometimes not the first port of call for people seeking advice on mental illness, have also harnesses the power of our favourite YouTubers and digital stars.

Last year, Zoella was announced as a digital ambassador for Mind, a mental health charity. At the time, Mind's CEO said: "For many, the internet and social media can be a lifeline. By connecting people with similar experiences and providing access to information and support, the online world has a significant role to play increasing awareness about mental health problems. Zoe is an inspiration to many and in speaking candidly about her own battles, has given others the confidence to seek help. We are absolutely thrilled to have her on board as a digital ambassador for the charity, and know that together we can have an even bigger impact in stamping out stigma around mental health."

A year on since Zoe's appointment, YouTube continues to stand out as the number one platform for advice and acceptance on anxiety. Last year was a real turning point, with more YouTubers than ever discussing mental health issues and telling their stories of anxiety. As a result, we've seen more people commenting on videos and engaging with content creators about their own struggles and have they've had the courage to seek help as a result.

If you're experiencing any sort of mental health issues, there are a lot of charities that can help if you need to talk. Click here to visit the Mind website for more information and support.