Anxiety has surpassed depression as the leading mental health diagnosis among college students. Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety. Cramming for finals or trying to balance a job and schoolwork can cause many students to feel overwhelmed or anxious at one time or another. Even scrolling through social media can lead students to feel anxious when they see pictures of friend’s fun adventures, a feeling now dubbed “FOMO” or Fear of Missing Out.
Occasional feelings of anxiety are a normal part of the college experience. But generalized anxiety disorder is a mental illness characterized by persistent and excessive feelings of worry, nervousness and panic and is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control these feelings on more days than not for at least six months. Generalized anxiety disorder can interfere with a student’s ability to attend class and maintain schoolwork and relationships.
Knowing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can help students identify what is normal and what is cause for more concern. Symptoms can include:
- Persistent worrying or obsession about concerns
- Inability to let go of a worry
- Distress or fear about making decisions
- Difficulty handling uncertainty
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being easily fatigued
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Withdrawal from typical daily activities
Many colleges offer on-campus counseling centers where students can seek help. Seeking professional help before anxiety becomes severe can make it easier to treat and manage. Treatment options can include psychotherapy—or working with a therapist to reduce the symptoms of anxiety—medications, or a combination of the two.
As the stigma around mental illness lessens, more students feel comfortable speaking up and seeking treatment for anxiety disorders. Organizations like Active Minds empower college students to speak openly about mental health issues to educate others and encourage help seeking on campuses nationwide. Helping students get more in tune with their mental health can lead to better education and awareness about their risk for anxiety and how to cope.
Jenna Melton works as a public relations and marketing specialist at a health system in the Washington, D.C., metro area. She is currently pursuing a M.S. in Health Communication through Boston University and has a B.S. in Health Care Management from Appalachian State University. She is most interested in using health communication to help change the way we talk about and perceive mental illness. For more information, please contact Jenna at firstname.lastname@example.org.