With financial and moral pressure greater than ever, college students have to cope with a different stress than our parents and grandparents had to deal with in their college years. Being a college student in the 20th century means pressure with drug and alcohol experimentation, increased competition in classes, and poor eating and sleeping habits.
[girl]Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness among Americans. Many experience the symptoms from childhood; due to stress, puberty, and lifestyle changes these anxiety disorders commonly appear in adulthood. About 40 million Americans, ages 18 and older are diagnosed with anxiety disorders every year.
Many anxiety disorders develop when young adults enter college. There is no doubt about the added anxiety and stress a person feels entering college. For many it’s adapting to a new niche and needing to find a new way to succeed and handle new challenges. In some cases, after considering I was experiencing symptoms involving stress and talking with a physician, I realized my anxiety was jerked by the change of scenery and my symptoms were not irregular for a college freshman.
There are many kinds of anxiety disorders, all which can be linked to stress of college life. Panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder are all common anxiety disorders. The majority of these disorders develop nearly twice as much with girls than with boys. These have been proven to develop in accordance with substance abuse and depression.
Partying, binge drinking, and drugs are common happenings on a college campus. Because of the excess freedom that comes with entering college, these substances are abused at different levels than when living under a parent\’s roof. The increase in substance abuse provides a platform for anxiety disorders. This is not to say everyone who suffers from alcoholism has an anxiety disorder or vice-versa but they are factors which can influence one another.
Depression is another symptom of anxiety disorders. College is seemingly the time of one\’s life, but not everyone experiences the fun-filled memories that stereotypically appear in conversation with alumni. In fact, some people never learn how to adapt to a social scene and once they are out of their comfort zone, no longer feel like they have people to support them. These reasons provide insight to why depression rates rise with anxiety disorders.
Basic symptoms of anxiety disorders include irritability, fatigue, restlessness, headaches, and nausea. But if everyone has anxiety how are disorders easily diagnosed?
The process a psychologist uses after the symptoms arise, include close observation and a survey pinpointing the severity of the disorder. When I took the survey the questions seemed pretty basic. After talking with professor and counselor at MSU, David Novicki, he convinced me the process went much deeper than what is presented in the questionnaire.
It was explained that the questionnaire was the foundation to determine what may be the problem area. After this process, there is a typical check-in with teachers, parents, and other close relations who may have noticed abnormal behavior, or could pinpoint the problems a bit more. Peers are typically asked to provide observation information through a survey form.
There are common medical procedures such as checking blood pressure from the patient, but anxiety disorders are mostly determined through conversation and observing the patients’ everyday capabilities. Some disorders like OCD can be discovered through PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans, which are imaging scans to look at the cellular function of the body.
“There is really not a lot of room for error in clinical judgment.” Novicki assured when asked if overmedication and misdiagnosing took place. “Psychiatrists and clinical care doctors are concerned about people being over medicated; they don’t want them to get addicted.”
The difference between normal anxiety and anxiety disorders are differentiated when common events bring upon persistent anxieties. These anxieties are severe and do not go away. It is no longer a feeling of self-consciousness in a social setting, but it is now completely avoided; no longer is it just an occasional worry about an exam, and no longer can you sleep for multiple nights, having recurring nightmares. These are some of the lines drawn at normal anxiety and anxiety disorders.
[books]My experience with college demonstrated many normal anxieties; however sophomore nursing major, Kyle Barden, recognized her symptoms as more than just common anxieties. Before coming to college, Barden not worrying about her load of high school homework, and only getting worked up over big events such as her ski meets. Once entering MSU, the class loads started piling up, getting the best of her mind set. No longer could she continue her laissez faire lifestyle, she now was constantly worrying about something. Ever since her first meeting with her advisor, she was filled with anxiety of whether her entrance into the nursing college would happen or not. This worry, like many other everyday distresses for Barden, were years away, but she couldn’t shake them.
Barden’s anxiety became such a problem she couldn’t keep on track because she couldn’t focus. She became prone to constant headaches, had difficulty sleeping, was very irritable, and had constant fatigue. Barden couldn’t cope with her symptoms because they were getting in the way of her ability to be productive, focus, or be relaxed. Barden soon found out that she had Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
“It came to a point where I knew I needed something to calm my nerves. I talked with a friend who I knew had problems with anxiety as well, and my symptoms sounded about the same so I decided to get it checked out,” explained Barden.
After being diagnosed with GAD she was put on the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
“I can’t say that I don’t have anxiety issues anymore,” said Barden, “However, I can now stay in the present and relax long enough to feel good about myself and get what I need to get done, done.”
Many anxiety disorders are treated with SSRIs. These are antidepressants that raise levels of serotonin in the system in order to work against depression and anxiety. Other common medications are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Apart from medications, counseling centers are convincing patients to confront the fearful situations they have anxiety towards.
Antidepressants take two or four days to begin to work. The antidepressants cause nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, and dry mouth in the majority of people who are prescribed to take them.
Anxiety has also been treated with valium-like drugs that work like a tranquillizer to calm anxiety. These drugs are used for short term problems. Tranquillizers can be addictive and a person can suffer withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication.
Perhaps there are some inappropriate clinical judgments, but for the most part the difference between anxiety and having an anxiety disorder has a fine line. Normal anxieties may not be fun to deal with, but who’s to say they are just common anxieties? Everyone has to relax sometime, whether tensions can be eased independently or with the aid of medications. Either way, anxieties can be coped with; your body will tell you when you’ve had too much.

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