The Constant AHH! of Having Anxiety in College

Everyone has jitters when they first get onto a college campus, away from family and friend, thrown out into the wild, on their own, potentially for the first time. The difference between a person medically diagnosed with anxiety (if getting a diagnosis was possible or wanted), and a new college student who is just nervous about meeting new people, is that a person with anxiety will have this feeling of being on edge daily.

 

What is Anxiety?

Doesn’t Everyone Have It?

An anxiety disorder can be designated by many different names such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Anxiety is specific to the patient who is diagnosed with it, and the symptoms can be quite different for each individual. The stigma around the term ‘anxiety’ arises because the word ‘anxious’ is used so regularly in everyday life. Therefore, when someone says, “I’m anxious” or “I have anxiety,” people who don’t have it act as if it’s something that everyone has. This is not the case, and anxiety for those who have an anxiety disorder is a daily struggle that can interfere with their daily life.

 

What are the Specific Types of Anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - GAD involves a person constantly worrying about everything, to the point where it interferes with daily interactions and life.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - OCD is present when a person excessively obsesses over things and starts to engage in compulsive behaviors or thought patterns.

Social Anxiety - Social Anxiety can be identified when a person becomes anxious when meeting and interacting with others because of the fear of being judged negatively.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - PTSD can be manifested after a traumatic event and it can prevent a person from normally adjusting to life again after experiencing that event.

 

Personal Experience with Anxiety

I have been medically diagnosed with anxiety, as well as with depression. I have a mix of generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. Anxiety affects me every day and after I started college it got to the point where it was unbearable. Anxiety symptoms are different for everyone, but for me I worry, overthink, and sometimes react physically. These physical reactions manifest in the form of an increased heartbeat, shaky hands,frantic eye movement, and in extreme cases, I panic.

 

Being in a new state, on the opposite coast of the place I am used to and having to step out of my comfort zone daily and talk to many people every day became way too overwhelming. I got to a point where I wouldn’t go to the Lair, even if I was hungry, because I wasn’t up to talking to anyone. Close to finals everything got very overwhelming and I had a panic attack. Panic attacks are rare for me, but when I have them they involve rapid breathing, blurred vision, rapid heart beat, excessive crying, and the need to see my mom. This panic attack caused me to have to skip a class and call my therapist. My anxiety after the panic attack continued to get worse and become so unbearable that I couldn’t eat, finish an assignment, go to class, or interact with new people without feeling drained. I also started getting irritated and depressed with everything. During winter break, as a last resort, I went to a psychiatrist to get medicated so that I could start managing my life again. Now, during second semester, I continue to see a therapist on campus and additionally take daily medication.

 

Friendly Reminders

Medication does not make you weak.

Starting on a medication doesn’t mean you should stop seeing a therapist.

 

How to Deal in High Anxiety Situations

In my experiences at LMU I have had to learn how to deal with anxiety daily. However I am still learning what to do in situations that cause my hands to shake and my thoughts to go all over the place. For those with anxiety, who feel as if they will never be able to take a class out of their comfort zone, join a new club, and get a good grade in a class that requires participation. This is how I have figured out how to fake it till you make it when you feel overwhelmed.

Acting like you don’t have anxiety

 

This semester, I decided to take a beginning acting class where I am constantly put on the spot to perform improv and act with scene partners I barely know. This was the first ever class in which I had to tell my teacher after my first class that I was medically diagnosed with anxiety. If you think you need academic accommodations, or you need your teacher to know not to push your boundaries, make sure to talk to or email them.

Email does wonders!

 

The Menacing Her Campus

 

The club that I’m writing for right now was one of the biggest anxiety triggers for me this year. I didn’t mentally feel up to going to the first meeting, but after a quick cry I headed over to the club. I didn’t feel like holding a conversation with anyone new the first meeting and I kept this mental boundary up when I got there, even after getting more comfortable. Be sure to uphold your previously set boundaries. Don’t tell yourself you can’t do something, because you can even if it seems impossible. Give yourself a minute to prepare and feel, then go.

 

I didn’t raise my hand, don’t call on me

 

Many classes require class participation, but don’t be afraid to clearly set your boundaries with others, including teachers. Here I bring up my point, ‘Emails do wonders!’, again. If this is too anxiety provoking, ask a friend to press ‘send’ after composing your email. In a recent class I had a teacher ask me to contribute when I was not feeling up to it and I simply said, “I have nothing to comment.” He tried to push my boundaries, but I stayed strong with my set vocal boundary and didn’t let anyone disrespect the boundary I had previously set.

 

Anxiety isn’t something that can be turned off by choice, but it can be dealt with in a way that is bearable.

 

If you think you have anxiety you should visit LMU’s Student Psychological Services (SPS), in order to see a therapist, if this is something you are comfortable doing. LMU provides Individual Therapy, Group Therapy, and has a Service Dog on campus. Their website has all the information on how to make an appointment.

 

Note: I believe that therapy is not for everyone and that sometimes schools or businesses may not have the best psychological resources, therefore this is something to be aware of.