College campuses have filled up across the country, and most students are excited about starting a new school year. But one in eight will experience unrelenting anxiety, terrifying panic attacks, or irrational life-altering repetitive routines. These students may have an anxiety disorder, which is quite different from the normal stress and anxiety everyone feels occasionally. The physical symptoms (such as sweating, nausea, dizziness, or chest pain) and mental pain associated with persistent, intense, yet very real anxiety interfere with daily life, and they can be crippling, paralyzing—or fatal.
Anxiety disorders—the most common mental health problem in children, adolescents and adults—commonly emerge during a person’s college years: 75 percent will have their first episode by age 22.
An untreated anxiety disorder can lead to serious health and life consequences, including dropping out of school (panic disorder is often cited as a top reason among women) and secondary conditions such as major depression and substance and alcohol abuse. New scientific research shows that having an anxiety disorder can be a risk factor for attempting suicide.
The good news is that anxiety disorders can be treated successfully, and help is available.
The Anxiety Disorders Association of America has increased awareness about anxiety disorders on more than 350 colleges and universities nationwide by distributing many thousands of brochures and anti-stress tip cards.
The website Got Anxiety? also provides information and resources, including tips to help a friend or family member with an anxiety disorder, stress-relief tools, self-tests for anxiety disorders, questions to ask a therapist or doctor, and much more. To request the Got Anxiety? brochure, e-mail email@example.com.
Anti-anxiety tips for students
- Exercise. Physical activity helps your body and mind. Go to the gym. Take a jog. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Play Frisbee. Just get moving!
- Eat a balanced diet. Don’t skip meals. Try to eat from all of the food groups, and try to stay away from caffeine (minimize soda or coffee). Caffeine can trigger symptoms of a panic attack.
- Limit alcohol and stay away from illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs aggravate anxiety disorders and can also trigger panic attacks.
- Do your best instead of trying to be perfect. We all know perfection isn’t possible, so be proud of however close you get.
- Take a time out. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Stepping back from the problem lets you clear your head. Do yoga. Meditate. Get a massage. Learn relaxation techniques. Listen to music.
- Put things in perspective. Think about your situation. Ask yourself whether it’s really as bad as you think it is or if you could be blowing it out of proportion.
- Talk to someone. Don’t let things bottle up to the verge of explosion. Reach out to your roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend, family member or counselor if you’re feeling low.
- Find out what triggers your anxiety. Take notes or write in a journal when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and then look for patterns.
If after trying all these tips, and you feel your anxiety is still interfering with your life, please consider talking to a mental health professional to help your recovery.