Saturday, January 23, 2016

Coping with College Anxiety

Ah, college... A time of working hard and playing hard, learning who you really are as you fall in love, choose a career path, and post selfies on Facebook documenting it all. First "real" relationships, jobs, and other "adult" accomplishments. Striking out on your own and breaking just enough rules to forge a confident stable self-identity... If this description doesn't sound like your college experience, you're not alone. 

College is not the best chapter of everyone's life. In fact, this time of life when many serious behavioral health conditions appear can be the hardest one has experienced. When this is the case- when college is extremely challenging for you- the disparity between where you are and where you feel you "should" be makes things even worse. And, the many mixed messages college students receive about what constitutes the "right" decisions don't help either. So, what's a college student to do? 

First, let's consider some statistics about today's college students. The American College Health Association's Spring 2015 Reference Group Executive Summary, which states that it is "the largest known comprehensive data set on the health of college students," reflects a harsh reality. Consider these figures, describing students' past 12 months:
  • 74%, of college women don't feel "very safe" on their campus at nighttime
  • 22% of college women and 17% of college men "felt things were hopeless" 
  • 22% of college women and 20% of college men "felt very lonely" 
  • 48% of college women and 38% of college men reported "academics" had "been traumatic or very difficult to handle" 
  • 31% of college women and 27% of college men reported "intimate relationships" had "been traumatic or very difficult to handle"
  • 29% of college women and 17% of college men reported "personal appearance" had "been traumatic or very difficult to handle"
Add to this image the statistic that many of us are aware of, that 1 in 4 college women experience sexual abuse or assault (which many allege is an underreport), and you have a pretty grim picture... 

Now, take a deep breath because... there's hope! It gets better! There are things that we can do. Becoming aware of an issue allows you to get help, which means feeling better faster. Sometimes this looks like getting a mental health diagnosis and prescription medications from a psychiatrist. Sometimes it's talk therapy. Counseling is available on and off campus and provides a safe and confidential space where you can discuss what's going on. A primary goal of therapy will be to come up with new skills and confidence that you can take with you in your daily life in the classroom and beyond to live the life you want.

Many counselors, including myself, are here to assist college age clients with:
  • social and classroom anxiety 
  • body image and self-esteem
  • depression and loneliness
  • accessing academic support services
  • relationship conflict
I also assist clients of all sexualities and gender identities with issues of coming out and other lgbt concerns. 

If college has been difficult for you or someone you know, I hope you will find reassurance in the fact that you're not alone and perhaps for you the best is yet to come. 

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