Coping with Anxiety
Did you know that there is a difference between stress and anxiety? While both can be triggered by the same things and lets the body know something isn’t quite right, anxiety has the added component of the sense of fear. When anxiety occurs frequently, it can interfere with everyday life and can become a problem.
According to the 2012 National College Health Assessment, 56% of Georgetown students have felt overwhelming anxiety within the last 12 months. If your anxiety consistently affects your day-to-day life, there are a number of available on-campus resources.
There are six major types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): constant worries and fears distract you from your day-to-day activities, or you’re troubled by a persistent feeling that something bad is going to happen. You feel anxious nearly all of the time, though you may not even know why.
- Panic disorder: characterized by repeated, unexpected panic attacks, as well as fear of experiencing another episode.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): characterized by unwanted thoughts or behaviors that seem impossible to stop or control. You may be troubled by obsessions, or feel compelled to perform repeated actions called rituals.
- Phobia: an unrealistic or exaggerated fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that in reality presents little to no danger. Common phobias include fear of snakes, spiders, flying, and heights.
- Social anxiety disorder: characterized by a debilitating fear of being seen negatively by others and humiliated in public. It can be thought of as extreme shyness.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): An extreme anxiety disorder that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic or life-threatening event. Symptoms include flashbacks or nightmares about what happened and avoiding situations that remind you of the event.
- Emotional symptoms include: feelings of apprehension or dread, trouble concentrating, feeling tense and jumpy, anticipating the worst, irritability, restlessness, watching for signs of danger, and feeling like your mind has gone blank
- Physical symptoms include: pounding heart, sweating, upset stomach, dizziness, frequent urination, diarrhea, shortness of breath, tremors and twitches, muscle tension, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia
Symptoms of anxiety attacks include: surge of overwhelming panic, feeling of losing control or going crazy, heart palpitations or chest pain, feeling like you’re going to pass out, trouble breathing or choking sensation, hyperventilation, hot flashes or chills, trembling or shaking, nausea or stomach cramps, and feeling detached or out of touch with reality.
Consult with a doctor or counselor before taking any medications or starting any therapies.
- Anti-anxiety medications: sedatives that have the advantage of easing anxiety; they can be taken as prescribed, when needed, and they act within 30 to 90 minutes.
- Antidepressants: influence the activity of certain neurotransmitters that are thought to play a role in anxiety disorders.
- Both types of medications have their own pros and cons. You need to work with a physician to find which one works best for you.
- Helps patients identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones. It is based on the idea that your own thoughts – not other people or situations – determine how you behave.
Strategies to try on your own
- Try meditation or yoga which has been proven to calm the mind and body
- Work exercise into your weekly schedule
- Balance your diet
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid caffeine and products with high amounts of sugar
- Do not smoke or use nicotine products
- Identify and keep track of stressors
- Keep a journal
- Join a club or take up a hobby to give your mind something else to focus on
- Seek help: although it can be intimidating, consider talking to someone you trust or making an appointment at CAPS or Health Education Services