How college students can deal with anxiety
College is a time to to become independent, gain valuable skills and build lifelong relationships, but the stress of grades, money, making friends and dealing with heartbreak has many college students running to the campus clinic for help.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million U.S adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and 75 percent of them experience their first episode of anxiety by age 22. On college campuses, anxiety is now the most common mental health diagnosis, surpassing depression, which is still on the rise.
More than half of students visiting clinics on campus also list anxiety as their concern, according to a recent study published in the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.
Sarah Katula, PhD and advanced practice nurse in psychiatry at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., defines anxiety as six months of persistent and excessive anxiety or worry. The most common diagnosis is generalized anxiety disorder, but there is also post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and phobias.
“Anxiety can be accompanied by panic attacks,” she says. “Which is an episode of anxiety where a patient feels a racing heart, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, fear of losing control, sense of impending doom and fear of dying.”
If a student is suffering from anxiety or depression, they can contact their wellness centers on campus and find out what programs are available, including individual therapy sessions.
“College campuses can offer stress management workshops, yoga and alternative practices that induce relaxation,” Katula says. “I try to teach my patients how to utilize deep breathing to center and still the mind, and how to use mindfulness along with other relaxation practices.”
Some schools are involved in National Alliance on Mental Illness and have chapters on campus, Katula says. The organization runs awareness programs with students. Residence Life programs also can include activities to discuss the stresses that may occur in college and how to manage them.
Katula discusses with patients the importance of regular exercise, good sleep and good nutrition. Additionally, she says, college students can limit their use of smart phones, bad television programming and social media outlets.
“Social media is constant and students see everyone’s amazing experiences leading to comparisons that impact their self-esteem,” Katula says.
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