College can be an incredibly influential time in the lives of young adults. However, it is also a time that can be filled with a great deal of stress, which can cause or exacerbate anxiety disorders with potentially long-lasting effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, as many as one in three college students experience severe anxiety that can lead to depression. Additionally, research from the American College Health Association indicates that 63% of students in the United States have reported feeling overwhelming anxiety at least once in the past year.
While many universities are taking steps to address stress and anxiety on campus, it is crucial to recognize the potential severity of anxiety disorders and the need for active treatment in such cases.
Experiencing occasional anxiety is normal and expected in situations where a person may face something they fear, such as before an interview, examination, making significant decisions, or dealing with work-related issues. However, anxiety disorders are different.
Anxiety disorders are mental health conditions that involve frequent and intense feelings of anxiety and fear that can be overwhelming. These types of anxiety can significantly impact an individual’s ability to carry out daily activities and may cause them to avoid work, isolate themselves from family and friends, and refrain from attending social events that could trigger their anxiety. Therefore, it is essential to recognize the difference between occasional anxiety and anxiety disorders and seek appropriate treatment when necessary.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition categorizes anxiety disorders into various types.
Here are some Types :
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – characterized by excessive and persistent worry about everyday life events, activities, and issues.
Panic Disorder – characterized by sudden and unexpected panic attacks, which are brief periods of intense fear and discomfort that can cause physical symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath.
Social Anxiety Disorder – characterized by an intense fear of social situations and interactions, which can cause significant distress and avoidance of social activities.
Specific Phobia – characterized by intense fear and avoidance of specific objects or situations, such as heights, animals, or flying.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – characterized by recurring and intrusive thoughts or obsessions, and repetitive behaviors or compulsions that are performed to reduce anxiety.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – characterized by symptoms that develop after exposure to a traumatic event, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of triggers associated with the event.
Separation Anxiety Disorder – characterized by excessive and inappropriate anxiety or fear concerning separation from people or places that provide feelings of security and safety.
According to recent studies, anxiety is prevalent among college students. Additionally, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that anxiety is the most common mental health concern among college students, with approximately 40 million adults in the United States experiencing anxiety disorders.
Although symptoms may vary depending on the type of anxiety disorder, there are common signs that individuals with anxiety disorders may exhibit. These include:
While these symptoms can occur in all individuals, those struggling with anxiety disorders may experience them to an extreme level that significantly impacts their daily functioning.
College is generally seen as an exciting and positive experience, offering opportunities for making new friends and creating lasting memories. However, for some students, these new experiences and changes can become overwhelming and lead to anxiety. As a result, many colleges and universities are seeing a rise in the number of students seeking counseling services.
Although the causes of anxiety in college students may not be clear-cut, there are several factors that may contribute to it.
One of the causes of anxiety in college students is the act of moving to a new environment. This transition can be especially stressful, particularly when students move far away from home. Enrolling in college involves adapting to multiple changes at once, including heavy workloads, potentially finding new employment, adjusting to living with roommates, and experiencing different cultures. Balancing all these changes while also transitioning to adulthood can take a significant toll on many students.
Another cause of anxiety in college students is the separation from their family and friends. It can be challenging for students to leave their lifelong support system, and even the most self-assured individuals may experience a dip in self-esteem when away from their support network. This lack of familiarity and support, coupled with the pressures of college life, can create a significant amount of stress and anxiety for many students.
Another cause of anxiety in college students is not getting enough sleep. College life can be very demanding, and many students engage in excessive partying, caffeine consumption, alcohol consumption, and drug use. Getting adequate sleep is critical to keeping anxiety levels low, but the demands of college life can make it almost impossible to achieve quality sleep, thus increasing the risk of anxiety.
The fear of failing is a significant cause of anxiety in college students because many feel immense pressure to succeed academically. Students may feel that they need to excel in their studies to secure a good job and financial stability in the future. The fear of failing can lead to procrastination, avoidance, and self-doubt, which can all exacerbate anxiety levels.
For college students struggling with anxiety, several treatment options are available. The most common approaches include:
Therapy is one of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders. A licensed mental health professional can help a student develop coping mechanisms, identify triggers, and manage their anxiety. Depending on the type and severity of the anxiety disorder, different types of therapy may be recommended, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
Medication can be an effective treatment for students with severe anxiety disorders. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed medications for anxiety. However, medication is usually only recommended in combination with therapy to address the root causes of the anxiety disorder.
College students can make several lifestyle changes to help manage their anxiety. These include getting regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, practicing good sleep hygiene, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
College students struggling with anxiety can receive outpatient treatment, which involves attending therapy sessions and medication management while living offsite. This form of treatment may include group or individual therapy sessions, but it does not require overnight stays at a facility. Overall, outpatient treatment provides a flexible and less intensive option for individuals who have completed inpatient treatment or do not require that level of care.
With the rapid advancement of technology, college students today are experiencing higher levels of anxiety than ever before, and when left untreated, anxiety disorders can have a negative impact on daily life. Fortunately, there are effective treatments available for anxiety, including medication management and psychotherapy.
If you or a loved one is a college student struggling with an anxiety disorder, consider reaching out to Solace Treatment Center for help. Our team can provide answers to your questions and help you understand our outpatient mental health treatment options. We offer customized anxiety treatment plans tailored to the individual needs of each patient.