One of the most common problems facing college students is anxiety. Certainly the added pressures of being in a new environment, being away from home and the stress of wanting to do well in college can overwhelm some people. Anxiety disorders are among the most common or frequently occurring problems facing college students. Typically, anxiety disorders involve disturbances in mood, thinking, behavior and physiological activity. In the college student they may take many forms. Often they present as adjustment disorders with anxious features, test or performance anxiety, social phobia, or substance induced anxiety disorders. Like depression, anxiety disorders and panic disorders often run in families. Therefore, genetics, biochemical and environmental factors may all be involved. It is important to remember that with help the symptoms are treatable and you can learn alternative ways of coping with anxiety. It is usually not very helpful to pretend that anxiety will simply go away on its own.
Some mild anxiety is appropriate regarding certain events like an exam, an important or new event like an interview or speaking in front of an audience. It usually causes us to become more alert and to be prepared. However, when the worry or anxiety becomes overwhelming and interfere with ones daily living and ability to cope effectively, then it is unhealthy and requires the intervention of a mental health professional. Panic attacks may be one way in which these overwhelming feelings of anxiety are expressed. Panic attacks are usually brief episodes of intense fear that present with physiological symptoms, such as heart palpitations, dizziness, stomach discomfort, etc., that occur unexpectedly in the absence of any external threat. As many as 1.6% of otherwise healthy individuals may experience an isolated panic attack. They can occur in conjunction with social phobia, generalized anxiety and major depression. Often an individual will recognize that the fear they are experiencing is excessive or unreasonable. However, they are unable to cope with the anxiety that is generated. At least two unexpected panic attacks with persistent concern or worry about further attacks, changes in ones behavior to avoid or minimize the attacks that create difficulty in daily functioning should be further investigated with the aid of a counselor. It is best to seek treatment early to help prevent it from progressing to later stages.
There are many types of treatment approaches. However, usually a combination of treatments is irecommended such as medication and psychotherapy. Once the initial symptoms of the anxiety are managed, a therapist and client may want to work together to uncover through the talk therapy any underlying emotional conflicts and problems to help better understand what may have caused the anxiety. Through therapy one can learn alternative coping strategies for managing future difficulties. Some anxiety or tension in certain situations is normal. However, too much anxiety can be very detrimental and incapacitating. A therapist can help you identify what is going on and help you learn to manage the symptoms more effectively so that they do not interfere with your ability to perform well.
Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?
- Unrealistic or excessive worry and fears
- Exaggerated startle reactions
- Excessive sweating, trembling, shakiness, muscle aches
- Stomach upset, diarrhea, excessive dry mouth
- Dizziness, chronic tension headaches
- Racing or pounding heart, chest tightness (not related to a medical/cardiac condition)
- Rapid pulse, episodes of hyperventilation
- Ritualistic behaviors to reduce anxiety or avoid anxiety
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms call the Counseling Center at (860) 297-2415 and we will be happy to help you evaluate what is going on.
For the occasional and milder forms of anxiety you may want to try the following suggestions:
- First recognize that what you are experiencing is anxiety. Trying to deny or avoid what you are feeling may only make matters worse.
- Take a deep breath and try asking yourself why you might be anxious
- Talk with a friend, relative, etc., to see if talking helps you
- Take a walk or engage in some physical activity to help you work off the nervous energy you are feeling
- Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc.
If these things do not work for you it may mean that you need help in understanding what is causing your anxiety and you may also need additional help in finding ways to cope with the symptoms. The Counseling and Wellness Center staff is available so you do not have to try and do this on your own. Please feel free to contact us.