"It starts with palpitations in the abdomen, my pulse races, dizziness comes along and the feeling that the ground is being pulled out from under my feet," Wolfgang B. describes the symptoms: "Also fear of death. If it increases, then the fear of death comes in addition." For the film "Angst - Seelen im Krisenmodus" (Anxiety - Souls in Crisis Mode), sufferers like Wolfgang B. overcome their shame and let us look deep inside their own stories.
There have never been as many anxiety disorders as there are today. It is estimated that about every fourth person suffers an anxiety episode in his or her life. The pandemic and the Corona measures have been acting like fire accelerators for more than a year now: "Psychological stress has increased, especially among young people," notes Christoph Pieh from Danube University in Krems. The lock-down measures, the isolation and the lack of social contacts have particularly affected them. A representative study by Danube University Krems showed that about half of young people between the ages of 14 and 20 described signs of depression and anxiety, five times more than before the pandemic.
The film takes as its starting point the mental burdens of the young, and accompanies sufferers who have been suffering from anxiety, panic attacks and phobias for many years. Emotions run high. It becomes clear how much the mental illness limits the chance of a self-determined life. "I was suddenly afraid that I would do something wrong, that it would be embarrassing, that I would fall down and that I would be laughed at," Alma B. describes the beginning of her illness during her school years: "I was supposed to give a presentation and then I felt that everything increased and became stronger and stronger until I was really scared to death.
The film alternates between the intense experience of the sufferers and the perspective of the scientists: When does anxiety actually become a burden? Why does the disease develop primarily at a young age? Which therapies help - and what promotes recovery? The cinematic journey leads from Austria, with its months-long closure of schools, sports fields and leisure centers, via Germany to Sweden. The government in Stockholm chose a "special path" in which it decided to leave the schools, and thus the possibility of social encounters, largely open. "Orientation in a peer group is so important," emphasizes Paul Plener, responsible for child and adolescent psychiatry at the Medical University of Vienna: "Adolescents are going through a very sensitive phase of life. They have to make many important decisions in a short period of time; it's about school, training or apprenticeship. And about the big question: what am I going to do with my life?" A pressure to make decisions that eases in later years, making them less susceptible to mental illness.
Director Andrea Ernst's cinematic journey shows how recovery is possible with psychotherapy - and how important it is to build resilience to traumatic life events, even in childhood. A plea for the great importance of one's own inner strength - and the necessity of a safe social environment and society. Because fear can also be politically intended and fomented. And then unleashes a special toxic cocktail.