College Students & Anxiety


The challenges of college life, such as adapting to being away from your childhood home and trying to figure out a career path, can lead to stress-related mood disorders. Sometimes the stress is short term, or situational -- worry over a particular exam or project, for example. But when these stressful feelings include fear, the student is experiencing anxiety. If anxiety is occurring on a regular basis, it can get in the way of day-to-day social and academic success. In this case it's necessary to seek treatment.

Anxiety Symptoms and Causes

  • Anxiety has physical and mental symptoms. Physically, the student may experience a racing heart, sweating, digestive disorders, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Mentally, the student may be troubled by excessive worry, feelings of dread, fearfulness and inability to concentrate. External factors that cause anxiety include academic or financial stress, death of a loved one, problems in relationships or drug use. Anxiety can also be the result of a mental disorder, such as a phobia, panic disorder or stress disorder.

Types of Anxiety

  • A student suffering from generalized anxiety disorder feels worry about more than one problem. Often these worries are exaggerated and unrealistic. Social anxiety disorder occurs when the student feels extremely uncomfortable in social situations, including group projects and social activities. A student may have a phobia, such as fear of heights or snakes, that leads to anxiety. Panic attacks happen when a student's anxiety is coupled with dizziness, palpitations and shortness of breath.

Preventing Anxiety

  • College students should be aware of triggers for anxiety and develop coping mechanisms. Living a stress-free lifestyle can be difficult for students given academic pressures, social activities and food options that sometimes make it difficult to maintain good health. Adequate sleep and exercise and a nutritious diet can help curb anxiety. So can the cultivation of interpersonal skills and friendships. Relaxation exercises, such as meditation and visualization, are also effective.

Seeking Treatment

  • Sometimes a healthy lifestyle and relaxation exercises aren't enough to stop anxiety. In this case, a student should seek help from a mental health professional. The counselor or psychologist may recommend psychotherapy; this is essentially "talk therapy" in which a counselor helps the patient reframe life problems to better manage stress and anxiety. In some cases, a mental health professional might recommend pharmaceutical treatment.

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