Anxiety on campus: A series on mental health
Almost half of GC students who went to counseling services last year reported anxiety as the main reason they sought counseling.
“I really easily overwhelm myself in terms of all the things that I have to do,” said a sophomore English major who is diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder*.
Being told to calm down and that she’ll get everything done does not ease her anxiety.
“People with anxiety know that they can do stuff,” she said. “I know that I’ll be able to still finish all my stuff, it’s just getting there. So telling me that I’m gonna be okay, and it’s not worth worrying about, that’s what I hate.”
Anxiety looks different on each individual, and it can be helpful for people without anxiety to ask questions about what normally happens during a spike in anxiety, she said.
“Listening to someone who is in distress and giving them space to share is very important,” said Susan Spencer, a counselor in GC’s Counseling Services. “Empathizing and reflecting that their struggle seems real can also be helpful.”
Symptoms of an anxiety disorder can manifest mentally, emotionally and physically.
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
There are seven main types of anxiety disorders listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V): generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, specific phobia, agoraphobia, selective mutism, social anxiety and separation anxiety.
One difficulty the English major experiences is wanting to be alone when her anxiety spikes.
Most students have roommates or suite mates, meaning limited time alone, even at home.
“Even just walking to and from class,” she said. “There are some times I really want no one else to see me, not that anyone really judges each other when you walk past each other, but I just want to be by myself. And it’s hard, because you want to be by yourself, but you can’t really control where other people go, so I think that’s been one of the most difficult things about when I start to get an anxiety or panic attack. Just trying to get by myself somehow.”
Her advice to other students suffering from anxiety is to make an appointment with the Counseling Center.
“I think that talking to someone else who is there to listen can be a really good first step in terms of figuring out how you deal with things and how this affects you,” she said. “Especially if it’s new to you and you don’t really understand it.”
Counselors offer many tools to help students deal with their anxiety, from breathing exercises to worksheets.
GC’s Counseling Services are free and confidential. Students can make an appointment by visiting the Wellness and Recreation Center on West Campus or by calling (478) 445-5331.
“We work to put the student at ease and begin building a safe relationship in which the student can hopefully explore their concerns and identify how to best deal with the issue,” Spencer said.
There are also a number of student-led organizations centered on mental health. Active Minds, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), the Collegiate Animal Therapy Society, the Meditation Club and the Unleashing Positivity (UP) Project are all organizations on campus students can join.
*The student requested her name be omitted due to campus responsibilities.