Cindi is trained as an elementary school teacher and was teaching the third grade in the school her home church operated when she met Greg, the man she would marry. He’s an electrical engineer and has a salary stable enough to allow Cindi to be a stay-at-home mom who homeschools their five children. During the academic year, their home is a-flurry with subjects ranging from eighth-grade science to second-grade spelling happening all at the same time in their basement classroom.
Emma, age fourteen, is their eldest. She’s mature and responsible; she loves school, makes good grades, and helps out with other kids. Cindi started to notice that Emma had bald spots in certain areas on her head. Emma was also using a makeup pencil to draw in her eyebrows because she no longer had any.
One evening, Cindi decided to ask Emma some questions. Emma reluctantly and embarrassingly admitted to her mom that she was plucking out her own hair.
Cindi was floored. She couldn’t figure out why Emma would do such a thing. She tried to talk with her daughter about this, and thought up various ways to try to help her to stop pulling out her hair. Even though Emma tried to cooperate with her mom’s plans, nothing stopped her behavior. In fact, it only got worse. Finally, at Greg’s insistence, Cindi made an appointment with a counselor.
Both Cindi and Emma were nervous during the first appointment, and the second appointment was just as nerve-racking for both of them. In the third session, the counselor asked Emma some very pointed questions. With her head down and in a whispered voice, Emma revealed that she was really stressed out and felt out of control.
“Pulling my hair makes me feel better,” she said. She said it had become a habit, so much so that she was no longer even aware of doing it.
Cindi was shocked that her daughter would be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder called trichotillomania. She was even more shocked when the counselor said Cindi had generalized anxiety disorder.
Like depression, anxiety is a major mental health problem in modern America. If left untreated it can lead to a number of serious complications. At the extreme end of the spectrum these can include suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This is especially true among children and teens and those who are physically, psychologically, and philosophically prone to depression or despair.
In this section we’ll take a close look at the potential link between anxiety and suicide.