Microsoft word - stress and anxiety info for students.doc

If you are in distress, feeling overwhelmed, not sure of your next move:

Please take the following steps:
1) Call a friend, family member, or 2270 and talk with the counselor in the Wellness Center. After hours, talk to your RA or call Public Safety at 4444. 2) Make no important decisions until you talk with someone about how you feel. 3) Do no harm, beyond making a call, try not to make things worse.
Stressing out?
Maybe some of the following information will help you move forward to address your
particular issue.
Stress and anxiety are unavoidable as a student. However, at times, it can become a
 Do you have trouble managing the demands of school, work or relationships?  Are you so stressed that you can barely study, work, eat?  Do you become so anxious during exams that you blank out and can't think  Do you have panic attacks that come on suddenly and out of the blue?
The following is general information that may assist. For more help please contact The
Wellness Center, Toolen Hall, 2270 or 2271.
About Anxiety
Most people are familiar with feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal part of life. Anxiety is our body’s way of responding to a physical,
emotional or intellectual challenge. What student has not felt a bit anxious before a final
exam or oral presentation? In fact, moderate anxiety during these situations can be
mobilizing, resulting in better performance. However, if your test anxiety is at the point
where you are too anxious to go to the exam, or if your mind consistently goes blank
during the exam and you cannot recover, you are probably not experiencing ordinary,
everyday anxiety.
Anxiety is a medical problem when it is persistent, overwhelming, and interferes with
your day-to-day functioning. Symptoms of anxiety commonly include unrealistic fears
and worries, physical complaints, such as upset stomach or rapid heart rate, and the
avoidance of anxiety producing situations. Over 19 million American adults struggle with
anxiety. While the exact cause of anxiety disorders is uncertain, the problems probably
result from a combination of factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and
life events.
Anxiety can be successfully treated. The goal is not to eliminate anxiety, but to reduce it
to a manageable level. With the right treatment, many people begin to feel better
immediately or in just a few weeks.
What are the different types of anxiety?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
I can’t stop worrying. I feel keyed up and unable to relax. At times it comes and goes, and
at times it seems constant. I worry about everything from making enough money to send
home to my family to what to give my best friend for her birthday. Now that I’m about to
graduate, there’s even more things to worry about.

I have trouble sleeping or concentrating when studying. Sometimes I feel a little
lightheaded. My heart races or pounds. And that makes me worry more. I’m always
imagining things are worse than they really are: when I get a stomach ache, I think it’s
an ulcer. I can’t turn off the worry—I’m miserable.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is much more than the normal anxiety people
experience day to day. It’s chronic and fills a person’s day with exaggerated worry and
tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. Having this disorder can
mean always anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money,
family, school or work. Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint.
Worries are usually accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches,
muscle tension and aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability,
sweating, and hot flashes. People with GAD may feel lightheaded, out of breath,
nauseated, and easily startled. Concentration and sleep problems are also common.

Social phobia

In any social situation, I felt fear. I would be anxious before I even left the house, and it
would escalate as I got closer to class, a party, or whatever. My heart would pound, my
palms would get sweaty, and I would get this feeling of being removed from myself and
from everybody else
It happened again last year. I had to give a report in front of my class and I got so
nervous and tongue-tied. I think I stammered something, sat down, and stared at my right
shoe the rest of the class. I was so humiliated. My friends tell me they feel nervous before
presentations too, but at least they can talk. I just go blank and stare.

Social phobia is characterized by an intense fear of situations, usually social or
performance situations, where the risk of embarrassment is present. It can disrupt normal
life, interfering with school, work or social relationships. It’s not uncommon for people
with social phobia to worry for days or weeks in advance of a social or performance
situation. Physical symptoms often accompany the anxious feelings and include blushing,
profuse sweating, trembling, nausea, shortness of breath, racing heart and difficulty

Depression often accompanies anxiety and, when it does, it needs to be treated as well.
Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, changes in appetite or
sleep, low energy, and difficulty concentrating. There are effective treatments for
Treatment of anxiety disorders

Getting help: treatment works
Some individuals are able to manage their anxiety on their own through self-help
techniques. Others benefit greatly from professional attention. If you think you have an
anxiety problem, please don’t hesitate to discuss this with a health care professional who
can evaluate your concerns.
A number of effective treatments for anxiety are available and can provide relief from
symptoms immediately or in just weeks. The most common treatments are
psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. A specific type of
psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, is particularly effective in managing
symptoms of anxiety.
Individuals respond differently to treatment, and you may need to try more than one type
before you find the right one. However, before considering other options, give the
treatment plan a fair chance. It’s important not to get discouraged and stop attending
psychotherapy sessions and/or taking the medications before they have had a chance to
be effective.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Research has shown that a form of psychotherapy that is effective for several anxiety
disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). A major aim of CBT is to reduce
anxiety by eliminating beliefs or behaviors that help to maintain the anxiety disorder.
The cognitive component helps people change thinking patterns that keep them from
overcoming their fears. Specifically, this therapy identifies unrealistic beliefs and helps
individuals develop more objective ways of thinking that make stress and anxiety more
manageable. For example, a person with panic disorder can learn that the panic attacks
are not really heart attacks as previously feared. The behavioral component seeks to
change people’s reactions to anxiety-provoking situations. A key element of this
component is exposure, in which people confront the things they fear. A person with
social phobia, for example, may be encouraged to spend gradually increasing time in
feared social situations without giving in to the temptation to flee. In some cases the
individual will be asked to deliberately make what appear to be slight social blunders and
observe other people’s reactions. Generally through the use of exposure techniques, real-
life outcomes are not nearly as harsh as feared, and the person’s social anxiety
Antidepressants for anxiety
A number of medications that were originally approved for treating depression have been
found to be effective for anxiety disorders as well. If your health care professional
prescribes an anti-depressant, you will need to take if for at least a few weeks before
symptoms begin to fade. Some of the newest of these antidepressants are called Selective
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications act in the brain on a chemical
messenger called serotonin. Some people report feeling mildly nauseated or jittery when
they first begin taking SSRIs, but those symptoms usually disappear over time and are
lessened by gradual increases in dosage. Others may experience sexual or other side
effects on these medications. Adjusting the dosage or switching to another SSRI is
usually helpful in these circumstances.
Tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are two other groups of
antidepressant medications that have been around longer than SSRIs, and may be
prescribed for various anxiety disorders, though side-effects are more frequent in general.
Other newer antidepressants, for example, venlaxafine (Effexor), with similar side effects
to the SSRIs, may be effective as well.
Anti-anxiety medications
Benzodiazepines can relieve anxiety symptoms relatively quickly and have few side
effects, although drowsiness can be a problem. They are sometimes used to treat
generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social phobia. Benzodiazepines may be
useful for short term treatment, but because of the potential for decreased effectiveness
over time and the risk of physical dependence, they are not generally appropriate for
ongoing use.
Buspirone (BuSpar), a member of a class of drugs called azapirones, is a newer anti-
anxiety medication that is used to treat generalized anxiety disorder. Possible side effects
include dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Unlike the benzodiazepines, buspirone must be
taken consistently for at least two weeks to achieve an anti-anxiety effect.
Other medications
Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, are often used to treat heart conditions but have also
been found to be helpful in certain anxiety disorders, mainly social phobia or
performance anxiety. When a feared situation, such as giving an oral presentation, is
known in advance, a beta-blocker may be taken beforehand to help keep your heart from
pounding, your hands from shaking, and other physical symptoms from developing.
Regular, daily doses of beta-blockers are not recommended due to the risk of side effects.
Also, they don’t address the psychological components of anxiety.

Working together

When you undergo treatment for an anxiety disorder, you and your health care
professionals will be working as a team. Together, we will find the approach that is best
for you. If one treatment doesn’t work, the odds are good that another one will.
Help yourself: manage your stress
You can increase your ability to cope with stresses that contribute to anxiety. If you are prone to anxiety, it’s important to keep your baseline stress level as low as possible. Here are some self-care tips: Make wise lifestyle choices: There’s no substitute for eating well, exercising
regularly, and getting enough sleep. They help boost your energy level and
increase your overall sense of well-being. Keep in mind that caffeine, tobacco,
alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and other “recreational” drugs can contribute to
sensations of anxiety.
Be good to yourself: Schedule in fun with friends, family, classmates. The
benefits of spending time with other people-and helping others-are
immeasurable. Also, set aside regular time to enjoy some quiet relaxation.
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises (taking slow, deep
abdominal breaths) or progressive relaxation (tensing and relaxing muscles) can
relieve the physical symptoms of stress, and can help when anxiety “hits.”
Engage in constructive thinking: When you notice you are thinking in a
negative way, pause a moment and tell these thoughts to STOP! Then, refocus
your thoughts on something positive and constructive. For example, if you find
yourself thinking, “I got a lousy “B,” everyone is smarter than I am,” say to
yourself, “STOP!” followed by “I’m doing my best; I’m learning and I’ll do fine
in this class.”
Seek meaning from different sources: Having a positive outlook, accepting
what you can’t control, and trusting that things will work out go a long way in
helping to keep stress levels low. In addition, many people find meaning,
comfort and support in spiritual beliefs and in being a part of a spiritual
community. Spiritual practices such as prayer (using words, chanting,
meditation, silence, etc.) can add to some people’s sense of inner strength and


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