Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one’s well-being or self-esteem. Intense academic competition, fear of inadequacy regarding an academic challenge, or relationship discord may be sources of anxiety. Symptoms associated with anxiety include feelings of losing control, rapid heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, sweating, and trembling. The student may
- be confused,
- be agitated,
- have difficulty concentrating or making decisions,
- worry excessively, and/or
- be too overwhelmed to take action.
Students may suffer from a wide range of anxious conditions, which includes panic attacks. Panic attacks result in severe physical symptoms that can lead to the fear that one is dying. Some students may have a generalized anxiety, which can impact their ability to perform academically by affecting concentration, memory, information processing, and comprehension.
If you observe a student struggling with anxiety:
- Talk to the student in private, when possible. Remain calm and talk slowly.
- Listen and let the student discuss his/her feelings and thoughts. This can relieve some pressure.
- Be supportive and provide reassurance.
- Assume control over the situation in a soothing manner. Speak in an explicit, concrete, and concise manner. Be clear and directive.
- Focus on the relevant information. Respectfully help the student focus on items that can be addressed.
- Assist the student in developing an action plan that addresses the most pressing concern.
- Refer the student to Counseling Services, 906-487-2538, or call Counseling Services while the student is in your office. If a student is experiencing a panic attack, he/she may be seen at Portage Health University Center, located in the Student Development Complex. If possible, call 906-483-1860 prior to the student’s arrival. A student can also be referred for immediate care to the emergency department at Portage Health's main campus, located at 500 Campus Drive in Hancock.
- Make solutions complicated.
- Overwhelm the student with information or ideas on how to “fix” their condition.
- Argue with irrational thoughts or catastrophic thinking.
- Crowd the student’s physical personal space.
- Try to solve all problems presented.
- Devalue the information presented or minimize the student’s concern.
- Take responsibility for the student’s emotional state.
- Assume the student will get over his/her anxiety without treatment.
This page was adapted with permission from material developed by the University of California, Santa Barbara.