The Basics: Anxiety Disorders
Colleges are designed to be challenging academically, personally, and socially. Some anxiety is a natural by-product of the accelerated pace of learning and growth. Everyone feels anxious in certain situations, but anxiety disorders can make it difficult for students to function.
One key sign of an anxiety disorder is nervousness that is or impossible to control or out of proportion to what’s going on. For some people, anxiety can feel so overwhelming that their ability to work, study, interact with people, or follow a daily routine is affected.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting approximately 1 in 9 people at any given time according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Fortunately, it is possible to manage anxiety with counseling and/or medication.
You Should Know
There are different types of anxiety disorders – all a collection of problems that involve, in one way or another, excessive worry, fear, avoidance and irritability:
- Phobias, where people have strong and irrational fears related to objects, creatures, or experiences. In social phobia, people are so anxious in the presence of other people that they avoid social situations.
- Panic attacks, where people are overcome with an overwhelming sense of dread or fear that causes racing heart, sweating and shortness of breath. Sometimes, panic attacks are accompanied by agoraphobia, where people have an extreme fear of leaving home.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder, where people perform certain acts repetitively in the belief that doing so will prevent some feared event or consequence.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which emerges after a person has witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. This condition is characterized by intrusive memories of the event, avoidance of reminders of the event, emotional numbing, inability to concentrate, sleep disturbances and aggressiveness.
Signs and Symptoms
- Intense episodes of fear or panic
- Recurring nightmares
- Avoidance of social situations
- Difficulty concentrating
- Repeated, unwanted thoughts (obsessions)
- Sleep disturbances
- Upsetting, intrusive memories of a traumatic event
- Physical symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, shaking, dizziness, numbness, or difficulty breathing
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