Attacked by anxiety

By on March 3, 2015

Your palms sweat, your heart pounds and your throat tightens. You’re feeling anxious, but why?

Maybe it’s because midterms are approaching or you’re traveling alone to a foreign place for spring break. These are normal reasons to feel anxiety. But if you feel anxious every day or can’t pinpoint a reason, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

It is common to feel some anxiety when there is something nerve-wracking going on in our lives, such as an important test or job interview. Kenneth Wenning, consultant to the Quinnipiac University counseling services, said that these lower-level forms of anxiety benefit us in several ways.

“[Anxiety] keeps us on our toes a little, helps us make judgments about situations and to anticipate consequences,” he said. “It can motivate us toward our goals.”

Wenning also said that anxiety keeps us out of danger, which is why we may feel uncomfortable in an unfamiliar city at night.

Freshman Sarah Schwartz said she has experienced anxiety when completing schoolwork.

“Writing a big paper is like a big animal coming at you; you’re afraid of it,” she said. “It feels like you’re being attacked… it’s overwhelming.”

However, there is a point at which anxiety is no longer considered as healthy or useful. For some people, feelings of stress and worry are constant, upsetting and begin to interfere with daily life, according to WebMD. Wenning said if anxiety becomes all-consuming and persists for more than six months, it may be classified as an anxiety disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders.

According to Wenning, there are a variety of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common include include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder and panic disorder. There is also a condition called adjustment reaction with anxiety, but this is different because the anxiety is often due to one traumatic event and can be alleviated fairly quickly.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) offers extensive descriptions of each of these disorders, as well as others such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and specific phobias.

“People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it,” NIMH stated.

Wenning added that those with this disorder often worry about personal failure at work or school in particular.  Other GAD symptoms include an inability to control worry, perfectionism, restlessness, muscle tension, fatigue, and difficulties with sleep and concentration.

Social anxiety is related to the fear of receiving negative judgments from others, and panic disorder involves unanticipated episodes of extreme anxiety coupled with physical symptoms, such as dizziness, increased heart rate and tremors, according to the NIMH.

Anxiety disorders and depression commonly interact, according to Wenning. The two conditions may coexist, or one could be secondary to the other. This means that sometimes people are depressed about having anxiety or anxious about having depression.

Wenning said stress and anxiety are the most common reasons why Quinnipiac students seek out counseling services at the Health and Wellness Center.  However, he emphasized that not all cases of anxiety will lead to a diagnosis.

“Many of the students that come in with stress and anxiety do not have disorders,” Wenning said. “It’s just that college is not easy.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed.”

Wenning offered several tips for the management of anxiety while at college.

“I find that the anxious mind is always looking for a 100 percent guarantee that everything’s going to be okay… [but] there are no guarantees,” Wenning said. “The way to calm down is to learn to talk to yourself [with a statement like] ‘Probably everything’s going to be okay.’”

Other tips include practicing yoga or meditation, going for walks and taking breaks. Even 10 or 15 minutes can do wonders for the mind.  Wenning also said that students are always welcome to reach out to Counseling Services.

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About Jeanette Cibelli

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Sociology Major, Media Studies and Psychology Minor
Class of 2017