Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
/ Unsplash

The Truth About Anxiety In College, and Why It’s Never Too Late To Get Help

Anxiety is a crippling disorder that makes the most mindless tasks become panic stricken and overanalyzed. College is a stressful time. You are thrown into a world that doesn’t seem that different from high school, except that all of your classes are in different buildings, your parents aren’t there, oh, and the excessive pressure to drink, get straight A’s and have a perfect body. With all of this extra stress, it is almost seemingly impossible not to crack.

Let’s get down to the facts. Anxiety is a comorbid disease. This means that once a person is diagnosed with anxiety, they are also more likely to be depressed, become depressed or take on an array of other mental disorders. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues prevalent on college campuses across America. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, 75 percent of them experiencing their first episode of anxiety by age 22.

My Story:  It took me a while to open up about my personal experience with anxiety, but I believe it is helpful to spread awareness so other people can eventually seek help too. It started in the summer going into my sophomore year of college. The worst is over, right? Freshman year is supposed to be the hardest. I mean, you got above a 3.0 GPA, you didn’t gain the freshman 15, you made tons of friends, you have a family that loves you, you’re coming back to school with all the money you made from this summer and you declared a major. What on earth is there to stress about? These are the things I, along with so many other people, would tell myself. The answer? I. Don’t. Know.

Of course, there’s the anxiety of everyday life that everyone has to deal with: before a test, before a big game, before giving a speech, a date with a cute boy, and so on. This is called situational anxiety. Situational anxiety is a state of apprehension that we experience before we do something that we know may be nerve-racking or we know is important. This is normal, and happens to just about everyone at some point or another. I shook it off and figured I was just nervous to go back to school. I wanted to be the best possible version of myself, wanted to get good grades, and make myself, but most importantly my parents proud. So I tried to shake it off.

“Lauren, just come to the party! No one is going to judge you, they’re all so nice, they want you to come, they’re all so accepting. They love you! They always ask where you are! They think you’re so funny!”

These are all of the things my friends would tell me to convince me to come out with them. By this point, I had heard everything in the book. But it wasn’t that easy. Instead of my mind blocking out all of these truths, it accumulated with countless “what ifs.” I couldn’t go into a room and not feel like everyone was looking at me, judging me, scrutinizing me, or thinking the absolute worst. My friends didn’t understand it and quite honestly, neither did I. Why on earth was it that I suddenly just didn’t want to participate in activities that I so desperately used to love and enjoy? Dinner dates with friends were replaced with panic attacks on the way somewhere. Date with a cute guy? Forget it. I would always just say, “I was sick”. A lot of people called me out on my excuses. “You get sick a lot.” I mean technically, I wasn’t lying. Mental illness or physical illness, they’re both illnesses nonetheless.

Confused and frustrated with myself, I went back to school with an incessant knot in my stomach. Fast-forward a few weeks into the fall semester. If I wasn’t in class or speed eating my meals (to get it over with), I was in my room, keeping to myself, upset and confused. Who have I turned into? I don’t understand what happened. Unbeknownst to me, my anxiety had turned into full-blown agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that makes a person avoid or want to avoid places or situations that might cause him or her to feel panic, trapped, embarrassed and helpless. Needless to say, I lived off of P.O.D salads. After class I would grab dinner and run directly to my room. I didn’t want to see anyone, and I didn’t want anyone to see me. I didn’t even like going out with my friends. I knew I had a problem when I came back from ethics class one day and just started hysterically crying, for no reason at all. My family, my friends, and I were all aware I had a problem. I’m not one to ask for help, but at this point I knew it was completely out of my hands. I was letting an invisible monster take over my life and suck away my happiness. The once carefree, always smiling and happy girl that I once knew was gone. I hated myself. The worst part? I had no valid reasons to.

I have THE most loving and accepting parents who put no pressure on me whatsoever, probably because they know I do it enough to myself on a regular basis. I would be studying, and call them asking them “what’s the worst GPA I can get this semester for you to still love me?” or “What if I drop out and waste all of this money?” Looking back on it now, these were some of the most irrational questions ever. I got so wrapped up in the silent competition between peers and classmates talking about test grades or deans list that I turned into my biggest critic, my biggest competition and my own worst enemy.

Over fall break, I went to my doctor and told him everything I had experienced the prior months. Sitting on the white paper with my head in my hands, I looked up, and he told me that he was going to help me. He told me that benefits of exercise and how important that is not even just for my body, but also for the mind. It does a world of good and I’m sure you have all heard all the reasons why, so I will spare you the details. He also told me he was going to prescribe me an SSRI, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. SSRI’s work by altering levels of a mood-enhancing chemical called serotonin. While some may claim it is a “happy pill” or a crutch, I can truly say that by getting this help my life completely turned around for the better. I finally feel that I can be myself and I am no longer nervous to do everyday activities that I could before this whole mess happened. It doesn’t consume my mind anymore. I am much more confident, happy and most importantly, back to my old self.

Many people claim, “everyone has anxiety” or “it’s all in your head.” They’re correct with the latter, it’s a mental disorder that affects the brain, and so, technically, it is all in your head. But it is not a made up thing. Anxiety is physically, mentally and emotionally paralyzing and exhausting. It’s not an illness that you can always necessarily see from the outside. You may not be able to prove it by a blood test, but this should not ignore the fact that millions of Americans are not suffering from it.

Getting help is not always easy. It’s not fun for anyone to admit that they think they are suffering from something or have a problem. But it is necessary. A person in a white lab coat is not your only option. On campus you can utilize The Counseling Center located in O’Hara Hall, 6th Floor. Their phone number is (570) 941-7620, or visit their website at www.scranton.edu/counseling. You are not alone in your struggle, and should never feel guilty for what you are feeling. Never be afraid to ask for help, it is more common than you think.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is in no way promoting prescription drugs.

Lauren is a sophomore Strategic Communication student with a business minor at The University of Scranton. She enjoys quoting irrelevant lines from Mrs. Doubtfire and Elf, buying things she doesn't need online, going on long drives and making impulsive Wawa trips. Lauren hails from Allentown, PA (yes, right by Dorney Park).
Similar Reads👯‍♀️