Background: Findings reported in this article emerged from the study titled “Youth’s Voices: Their Lives and Experiences of Living with an Anxiety Disorder.” Though the initial focus of this study was not on the pain experiences of youth living with an anxiety disorder, it became apparent from the very first interviews that pain and suffering was key in the youth lived experience, permeating their everyday lives and impeding their participation and functioning in the world.

Aims: The aim of this article is to highlight the ways in which pain is a central experience for young people living with an anxiety disorder.

Methods: The study was approached from the qualitative research design of hermeneutic phenomenology. Fifty-eight young people who were living with anxiety disorders and their parents participated in the study. Youth took part in multiple qualitative open-ended interviews and the participatory arts-based method of photovoice. Themes were developed using van Manen’s method of data analysis.

Results: The overall theme emerged as “anxiety is very much about pain.” The four subthemes are (1) embodied experience of anxiety: physical pain; (2) a prominent symptom of anxiety: mental–emotional pain; (3) difficult interpersonal relationships: social pain; and (4) articulating their pain.

Conclusions: Use of qualitative, arts-based methodologies provided the opportunity and space for youth with anxiety to articulate their multifaceted experience with pain in their own words.

This work reinforces the need for use of qualitative approaches to understanding pain experiences in young people.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Canadian Journal of Pain, v. 4, no. 1, p. 39-51.

© 2020 The Author(s).

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Funding Information

This work was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Operating Grant (CIHR MOP-119277). RLW is supported by a Tier 1 Canadian Research Chair (CRC) in Child and Family Engagement in Health Research and Healthcare (CIHR Canadian Research Chair No. 950-231845).