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College Can Be Stressful!

And at times, it should be! Most of us experience feelings of anxiety. It can often occur right before coming back to school, leaving home for the first time, before an important event, job interview, exam, new social situation, or first date. Anxiety is a natural common human reaction and in moderation can actually be helpful. When faced with a looming deadline for a paper, preparing for an exam, or anticipating an upcoming sporting event, anxiety can motivate you to better prepare yourself, push you to complete an assignment on time, overcome fear, and carry out a task at peak performance. However, too much stress can have the opposite effect. Instead of energizing you, stress can be quite emotionally draining and can interfere with your life in many ways.

Normal Anxiety or Anxiety Disorder?

Anxiety is hardwired in all of us; it is part of the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” and “freeze” responses which prepare us to act or react quickly in the face of danger. Anxiety is a normal response to situations in which the body is overwhelmed with uncertainty, trouble, danger, and/or fear.

However, if common everyday events seem to persistently bring on severe anxiety or panic — senses of unreality, fear of impending doom, or a fear of losing control — and this anxiety appears to be unrelenting, somewhat irrational, abrupt, and/or appears to have no trigger at all, you may have an anxiety disorder. Excessive anxiety is a real medical condition that can minimize your ability to focus, disrupt your academic life, result in physical symptoms — fatigue, headaches, muscle tension/aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritably, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, frequent visits to the bathroom, feeling out of breath/smothered, and hot flashes — and have an overall negative impact on your daily life.

When to Get Help

If your normal routine is interrupted by excessive worry, you should seek help from a professional. A visit with a clinician can determine whether the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both. Treatments may include a combination of medication, stress management techniques, behavior change, or several kinds of psychotherapy.

Anxiety can be exhausting and debilitating. It often helps to talk to professional counselor who can help you find ways to deal with stress in your life and teach you skills to manage anxiety.