Causes And Treatment Of Anxiety Disorder
When we move to college, everything seems exciting to us, anticipating the new environment, meeting new people, and doing new things as well as having to discover ourselves, our interests, and even our purpose.
In a survey done in 2018, the American College of Health Association revealed that over 63% of college student experience anxiety in one way or the other in the space of twelve months. Moreso, a lot of universities are also reporting the increased prevalence of students visiting the university or colleges’ counseling departments (1).
Another study conducted among 36 universities revealed that approximately 34% of the students reported having anxiety disorders ranging from moderate anxiety to severe anxiety disorder.
During the college years, a storm of stressors, including pressure from academic activities, the change of environment different from home, new psychosocial factors, and financial stressors, can cause anxiety to appear.
It is not necessary to have fears or worry about how a situation will turn out to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
But, if these symptoms persist for six months or longer and interfere with your daily activities, you may require expert assistance. Fortunately, anxiety is easily managed (2).
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety is a typical emotion. Your brain reacts to stress in this way to alert you to approaching danger.
Everybody experiences anxiety occasionally. You might worry when faced with a challenging circumstance at school, before a test, or before making a significant decision, for example.
Periodic anxiety is not a disease. But there are several types of anxiety disorders. They are a group of mental disorders that cause strong, constant worry and terror. Because of your severe anxiety, you might stay away from things like work, school, family get-togethers, and other social gatherings because they might make your symptoms worse (3).
It is not surprising that anxiety affects so many college students. Students sometimes have to balance heavy workloads of school, extracurricular involvement, and part- or full-time employment.
Additionally stressful for students is selecting a career pathway based on their educational objectives. Even though anxiety is so common among college students, university administrators may be unaware of the harm anxiety may do to students or are unsure of how to effectively manage the disease (4).
Types Of Anxiety Disorder
The following are the types of anxiety disorder:
Increased worry and fear over anticipated future events, like a forthcoming exam or contact with a consultant, describe anticipatory anxiety.
Separation anxiety in students might cause them to miss their established relationships and feel lonely or isolated. There may be a hindrance to the social and communal growth of the students. When students refuse to take part in on-campus events with their peers, they feel more alone and the impacts of separation more keenly.
Test anxiety can still manifest physically and cognitively even when a person is adequately prepared for the exam, such as a racing heart and difficulty concentrating, frequently resulting in an enhanced sense of panic or acute fear.
Social anxiety is a severe fear or stress about social situations. The desire to participate in extracurricular social activities related to college studies grows over the college years.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This includes thinking disproportionately and continuously about ordinary, everyday problems as well as particular events or activities. When compared to the circumstances, the worry is excessive, difficult to control, and affects how you actually feel. It typically occurs alongside other anxiety disorders, such as depression.
This involves frequent, quick, intense experiences of concern, fear, or terror that reach their height in a couple of minutes. There may be warning symptoms of impending disaster such as trouble breathing, tightness in the chest, or a rapid, fluttering, or hammering heart (palpitations). These panic attacks can make people fear they’ll happen again or want to avoid situations where they’ve already happened.
Children consistently struggle to communicate in settings like school, yet can do so in others such as at home with their immediate family. This may affect how you function at work, school, and in your social life.
Severe anxiety feelings that happen as a result of abusing drugs, taking pharmaceuticals, exposure to the toxin, or stopping using drugs are what this is defined by.
This is a form of anxiety disorder whereby you have fears and frequently avoid places or circumstances that could make you feel confined, helpless, or uncomfortable and could lead you to panic (6).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can appear after exposure to a terrible experience in which severe bodily injury happened or was threatened. Violent personal attacks, catastrophes caused by nature or people, accidents, and military conflict are examples of traumatic events that might set off PTSD (7).
Causes And Risk Factors Of Anxiety Disorder
Below are some conditions that can precipitate anxiety disorder among college students:
The breakup of a relationship: Students experiencing relationship break up in college often experience anxiety and depression over time
Sexual misconduct: College and university students who have to undergo one form of sexual misconduct and the other often time end up with severe anxiety
Use of drugs or alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption has been traced as one of the common risk factors for anxiety among college students.
Comparison of one’s performance: Competition is not a bad thing but it becomes unhealthy and birth anxiety when becomes a chronic thing comparing one’s academic performance or social level to others.
Failure: A previous history of academic failure or failure at college examinations has been traced as one of the commonest causes of anxiety among college students.
Depression runs in the family.
Fear of disappointing parents due to performance in school or career choice.
Challenges with peer relationships
Difficulty adjusting to one’s sexual identity (4).
Factors Influencing Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety disorder has its etiologies just like other medical illnesses. They are not brought on by flaws in temperament, faults in oneself, or concerns with upbringing. Researchers are unsure about the precise cause of anxiety issues. They think the following factors are in play:
A. Environmental factors: Trauma can predispose to anxiety disorder, especially in those who are predisposed to it genetically.
B. Genetics: There is a familial tendency for anxiety problems. Anxiety can be inherited from either of the parents and at times, from the two.
C. Chemical imbalances: Stress that is severe or persistent might alter the chemical balance that helps control your mood. A continuous and repeated stress overtime will produce an anxiety disorder (5).
D. Medical Conditions: Some medical diseases such as thyrotoxicosis, heart disease, and diseases of the lungs can exacerbate or induce symptoms that are similar to those of anxiety disorders.
When discussing anxiety with your doctor, it’s crucial to undergo a thorough physical examination to rule out any medical disorders.
E. Substance abuse: Some anxiety symptoms may be concealed or reduced with specific medications. Alcohol and drug abuse can go simultaneously with anxiety disorders (3).
What Makes College Students Especially Vulnerable To Anxiety?
University students seem to be more susceptible to anxiety and depression due to stressors such as managing their first time living far from their families, challenging course assignments and schedules, increasing social expectations, independent individual routines, the need to perform themselves, and financial obligations.
A college student may experience depression and anxiety disorder when they are struggling to adjust to several areas of college life. Typical examples of these ideas include self-criticism, self-talk, concern, cycles of stressing about different outcomes, and many others.
The likelihood that the student may start to feel anxious and perhaps isolate themselves to avoid being discovered increases as these ideas intensify.
The intensity of the symptoms, particularly when they occur for the first time, can make a student feel lonely and alone even though they are aware that most of their colleagues are also stressed out about school. If anxiety is affecting you, talking to someone is constantly a good idea (2).
How Is Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?
Anxiety cannot be diagnosed by a single test. Instead, a diagnosis of anxiety necessitates a protracted procedure of medical evaluations, psychological exams, and mental health assessments.
To rule out underlying health disorders that could be contributing to the signs you’re experiencing, some physicians may do a physical examination, including blood or urine investigations (8).
Your doctor might refer you to a psychiatry doctor, psychotherapist, or another mental health professional if they can’t identify a physical cause for how you’re experiencing it. To determine whether you could have an anxiety problem, those doctors will interrogate you, perform tests, and utilize diagnostic tools.
When examining you, your doctors will take into account how long you’ve had the clinical manifestations, signs, and how severe they are. If your anxiety interferes with your ability to enjoy or accomplish routine chores at home, work, or school, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor (3).
Furthermore, mental health specialists can conduct the DSM-5 manual, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical manual of mental disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association APA, DSM-5 is the reference and gold standard manual to diagnose any mental condition (5).
When To See a Doctor For Your Anxiety
See your doctor if you experience any of the following:
You believe that your excessive worrying is affecting other aspects of your life, such as your career and relationships.
You find it distressing and challenging to manage your dread, worry, or anxiety.
You have anxiety in addition to depression, problems with substance use, or other mental health issues.
You believe there may be a connection between your anxiety and a medical condition.
You engage in or contemplate suicide. In such a case, get emergency care right away (6).
Medical Treatment for Anxiety Disorder
Medications will not cure anxiety but they are best for the symptomatic management of the disorder. Hence, the use of drugs will help to reduce and eliminate some of the symptoms. Examples of such drugs are:
Anti-anxiety drugs: A good example of anti-anxiety medication is the benzodiazepines. These group of drug has a calming and sometimes sedative effects when given to anxiety patients. The body easily form resistance to them and because of that, with time they become less effective compare to when you initially started using them. Your doctor will taper the dose gradually when it is time to take you off the drug. Hence, don’t stop using except directed by your physician.
Antidepressants: Anxiety disorder patients can also benefit from other drugs and one of such is antidepressants. Their actions do not start immediately, hence the need to be patient while on the drug for its effects to be seen.
Beta-blockers: The common blood pressure medication beta-blockers can help lessen a number of the physical signs of anxiety. They can calm nervousness, shivering, and palpitations (5).
Psychotherapy: This kind of counseling teaches you how your feelings impact your actions. It’s also known as conversion therapy. Your feelings and emotions are discussed with you by a qualified mental health professional who also offers suggestions on how to comprehend and treat your anxiety illness. A common example of psychotherapy is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) (3).
Prevention Of Anxiety Disorder
There are many ways anxiety disorder can be prevented, some of the available options are:
Support group: Being in a support group gives you the feeling that you are not alone, and it also helps you to listen and share the experience of the patients, and how they have been coping so far
Stress management: Being intentional about stress management and avoiding every unnecessary form of stress is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of anxiety disorder
Avoid substance abuse: Alcohol and drugs have been traced as common causes of anxiety disorder among college students. Avoiding excessive intake of alcohol and the use of hard drugs will help prevent anxiety disorder
Therapy: Occasional visits to the therapist will not only help to prevent a blown anxiety disorder but also helps to develop better-coping mechanisms (8).
(1) Adept. (2019, November 29). The most common causes of anxiety in college students. Meridian Psychiatric Partners, LLC. https://meridianpsychiatricpartners.com/the-most-common-causes-of-anxiety-in-college-students/
(2) Friedman, M. (2021, August 9). Anxiety in College Students: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments. Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/anxiety-in-college-students/
(3) Jeanie Lerche Davis. (2020, June 25). What Are Anxiety Disorders? WebMD; WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-disorders
(4) Druckenmiller, R. (2022, July 19). College students and depression. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/college-students-and-depression#:~:text=Up%20to%2044%25%20of%20college
(5) Cleveland Clinic. (2017, December 17). Anxiety Disorders | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9536-anxiety-disorders
(6) Mayo Clinic. (2018, May 4). Anxiety disorders – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961#:~:text=Anxiety%20disorder%20due%20to%20a
(7) Digital Communications Division (DCD). (2015, August 21). What are the five major types of anxiety disorders? HHS.gov; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.hhs.gov/answers/mental-health-and-substance-abuse/what-are-the-five-major-types-of-anxiety-disorders/index.html
(8) Holland, K., & Johnson, J. (2022, May 17). Anxiety Disorders: Causes, Types, Symptoms, & Treatments. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety#prevention