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Anxiety, it is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder in the United States with approximately 7% of college students reporting symptoms of an anxiety disorder. More than 40 million men, women and children are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. We have all experienced anxiety, and most people could easily provide examples of situations in which they have felt anxious. This leads to the question often posed to me: “how can I tell if my anxiety is normal or a problem?”
When is Anxiety Normal?
Believe it or not, a certain degree of anxiety can be normal as well as healthy for us all. It serves many functions: motivating us to complete tasks, making us more aware of environment, helping us to problem-solve and helping us to perform at our optimal level. Anxiety can be a survival skill and occurs as a reaction to a stimulus that we perceive as dangerous. For example, when you encounter a bear in the woods, anxiety prompts you to take immediate action - maybe you run for your life, maybe you drop to the ground and play dead or maybe you fight with all your might. The point is you do something as a result of the anxiety you have experienced.
When is Anxiety a Problem?
In a nutshell, when anxiety begins to interfere in your performance or functioning, it has crossed the line of becoming a problem. Let me provide a few concrete examples:
Anxiety is a Treatable Condition
- When feelings of worry are persistent and do not diminish over time
- When a person becomes so nervous or self-conscious, he/ she begins to avoid everyday situations (avoidant of the grocery store, bank, post office, etc.)
- When anxiety impedes ability to complete or perform well at a task (mind going blank during a test a student is well-prepared to take)
- When thinking exaggerates a problem/ worst-case scenario thinking (always imagining that the worst possible outcome will occur)
- When engagement in compulsive or repetitive thoughts or behaviors cannot be controlled (repeatedly washing hands, continually checking to make sure appliances are turned off, inability to divert from a set routine)
- When changes in mood or behavior occur as a result of a traumatic event (nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, paranoia, etc.)
- When panic attacks occur (episodes of shallow breathing, sweating, pounding heart and light-headedness not caused by a medical condition)
- When daily routine is disrupted as a result of anxiety (inability to sleep, loss of appetite)
Most people with anxiety disorders can find relief and often return to their typical level of functioning. Therefore, if you feel you may be exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, do not hesitate to seek help. There is no reason to suffer through this alone. Schedule an appointment at the Counseling Center to discuss your specific concerns.
About the Counseling Center
The Counseling Center is located on the first floor of the HMSC, directly across from the elevator.
We are open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
All counseling services offered at the Counseling Center are free and confidential to any student enrolled at Thiel.
How do I schedule an appointment?
Contact the Student Life Office at ext. 2125 or simply stop by the Counseling Center to request an appointment.
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