Anxiety is generally defined as fear, uneasiness, or worry about something that is unknown, uncontrollable, or “irrational.” Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Everyone gets nervous or anxious from time to time. However, for some people, anxiety becomes so frequent, or so intense, that it begins to take over their lives and can interfere with daily activities such as work or academic performance, and relationships.
In the U.S., anxiety affects about 40 million adults age 18 years and older and is one of the most common reasons college students seek the assistance of mental health professionals at Counseling Centers across the country.
Everyday anxiety or anxiety disorder?
- Worry about bills, a job, a breakup or other important life events
- Embarrassment or self-consciousness in an uncomfortable or awkward social situation
- A case of nerves or sweating before a big test, business presentation, stage performance or other significant event
- Realistic fear of a dangerous object, place, or situation
- Making sure that you are healthy and living in a safe, hazard-free environment
- Anxiety, sadness, or difficulty sleeping immediately after a traumatic event
- Constant and unsubstantiated worry that causes significant distress and interferes with daily life
- Avoiding social situation for fear of being judged, embarrassed, or humiliated
- Seemingly out-of-the-blue panic attacks and the preoccupation with the fear of having another one
- Irrational fear or avoidance of an object, place, or situation that poses little or no threat of danger
- Performing uncontrollable repetitive actions such as excessive cleaning or checking, or touching and arranging
- Recurring nightmares, flashbacks or emotional numbing related to a traumatic event that occurred several months or years before
What is a Panic Attack?
A panic attack is an overwhelming sensation of fear that typically builds quickly and lasts from five to 20 minutes. Although some panic attacks are triggered by specific situations, some may seem to occur out of the blue. Panic attacks tend to be very distressing and often lead to increased worry of having additional attacks in the future.
Symptoms may include:
- Pounding heart and/or chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Lump in your throat and/or choking sensation
- Tunnel vision
- Shaking or trembling
- Hot flashes or chills
- Uncontrollable crying
- Terrified thoughts or fears
What Can I Do to Cope With Anxiety?
Change the way you think about anxiety.
Remember that it is a natural reaction to an important event. Learn to channel your anxiety into something productive.
Learn relaxation techniques.
Listen to a relaxation recording, practice deep breathing exercises, or sign up for a yoga class.
Use positive self-talk.
Use positive self-reinforcement, such as “I trust myself to get through this,” “I can handle this one step at a time,” or “ I’ve made it through difficult things before.”
Treat your body right.
Eat a balanced diet, get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, and avoid alcohol, tobacco, excessive caffeine, and other drugs.
Reach out to friends.
Just talking about your problems with someone who listens and care can be very helpful for relieving stress. They don’t have to take on your burden or “fix” things to be better.
Avoid over scheduling your day.
Leave space in your life for downtime and give yourself permission to engage in activities that bring you joy and meaning.
Challenge negative thinking patterns.
The following are examples of common thinking patterns which occur when experience anxiety. It is common to overestimate negative threats and underestimate your ability to cope with a stressful situation.
- Black or White Thinking
- Pattern of only considering two scenarios. Creative problem solving involves considering at least three options and decreases that likelihood that you are overlooking options.
- “She hasn’t returned my call. She either hates me or didn’t get my message.”
- Mental Filter
- Unchallenged belief that impacts how you process information or view yourself.
- “If I don’t do well on this speech, I am a failure.”
- Emotional Reasoning
- Pattern of allowing your emotions to override your cognitive interpretation of a situation. It involves taking our emotions as being evidence for the truth. “I feel, therefore it is.”
- “I feel anxious when I’m in large crowds, so I know something bad is going to happen.”
- Jumping to Conclusions
- Assuming you know what others are thinking or know the outcome of the scenario before it happens.
- “I feel anxious about this conversation…I know it’s going to go badly.”
- “I didn’t finish my project in time…he must think I’m lazy.”
- Using negative labels to describe yourself and others.
- “A normal person wouldn’t feel nervous now or have these thoughts. Am I crazy?”
- Using Absolutes
- Drawing conclusions based on a singular or repeated event and not considering all the facts. These phrases typically start with words like always or everything.
- “You’re always ignoring me.”
- Should Thinking
- Judging yourself based on what you believe a “good person” would do.
- “I should have better control over my worried thoughts.”
- Blocking Information
- Cognitive pattern of not acknowledging the good in a situation or a past success. Such as thinking you will not succeed in a task, even though you have never failed at similar tasks.
- Self-shaming or Blaming
- Intense feeling that you are defective and should take responsibility for a negative outcome or situation.
- “That went well, but who I am to think I’m so great. I’m such a joke.”
- Jumping to an extreme conclusion and making the situation more dramatic than it needs to be.
- “If I’m 15 minutes late to class, my entire day will be reuined!”
*Adapted from Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
Effective treatments for anxiety include group therapy (it’s often very helpful to learn that you are not the only person who struggles with anxiety), individual therapy, mindfulness meditation, and/or medication. Asking for help is strongly recommended because overtime, anxiety can get worse if not treated.
The BSU Counseling Center is here to help!
If you believe that anxiety is interfering with your daily functioning and you would like a safe place to express your concerns in a confidential manner, we encouraged you to contact your Counseling Center at 765-285-1736.
Here are additional resources that may answer some of your questions:
Clarify some myths about Anxiety @ http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/myth-conceptions
How are you feeling? Complete a FREE confidential mental health screening to determine if you or someone you care about should connect with a mental health professional @ http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/CARDINAL
For information on various Anxiety Disorders visit the National Institute of Mental Health webpage @ http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml