How do Rutgers students deal with anxiety?


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Photo by Edwin Gano |

A survey by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America noted that anxiety among students is at an all time high. According to psychologist Robert Leahy, college students today are about as stressed as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.

“College students are at a high risk for anxiety. A new home, new friends, roommates and an alternate lifestyle puts students in a confusing place in their lives. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of changes,” said Harry Silver, a licensed clinical social worker.

Students who have built an identity for themselves at their high schools find themselves at a loss when the familiar people who used to reinforce this identity are no longer present. These students feel a loss of connectedness, which makes them susceptible to depression and anxiety, Silver said.

As if all these changes were not enough, college students face off against heavy academic stress.

“I’m finding Rutgers coursework difficult,” said Nihar Khare, a School of Engineering first-year student. “I’m at the engineering school and this is the most competition I’ve faced in my life.”

According to a survey on Rutgers students by The Odyssey, 94 of 100 students said college has increased their anxiety. Meanwhile, 28 of 100 said they are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

The survey goes on to say schoolwork is by far the leading cause of anxiety at Rutgers, with 65 of 100 students reporting it as their most anxiety-inducing factor. Relationships are reported as second, with 15 of 100.

This fact, coupled with the fact that the expectations on students are only increasing, creates a deadly combination. 

The average age of onset for many mental health conditions is the typical college age range of 18 to 24-years-olds, said Courtney Knowles, director of Love is Louder at the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit which seeks to improve mental health among college students.

Excessive anxiety could lead to afflictions like general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, as well as phobias.

Treating anxiety could address other problems on campus.

Forty-five percent of college students binge drink, and nearly 21 percent abuse illegal or prescription drugs, according to a survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

Silver attributes some of this behavior to mental health issues.

A shaky identity and lack of confidence can lead college students to make poor choices about drinking and drugs, Silver said.

Some of the physiological effects of worry are headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, fatigue and sleep problems.

“Every student faces some level of anxiety,” Richards said. “Even if your anxiety doesn’t descend into a full blown disorder, it can still have an affect on you.”

Even with all these side effects, students still avoid seeking aid.

The NCASA reports that students cited embarrassment as the No. 1 reason for avoiding seeking aid in a 2006 survey. A mere 23 percent of students said they would tell a friend they were getting help for a mental health issue.

Rutgers is working to break down the stigma surrounding mental health. Posters around campus, an informational campaign and a video on the Rutgers Counseling, ADAP and Psychiatric Services website showing celebrities that also face mental illnesses are just some of the ways Rutgers seeks to make mental health a less taboo topic.

Silver suggests students gauge themselves mentally to ensure their mental health stays on course.

“Ask yourself what makes you happy? What are the stressors in my life? Can I stick up for myself and ensure my emotional and physical safety in a way that is socially acceptable and appropriate?,” he said.

“It’s important to take care of yourself,” said Jill Richards, director of CAPS. “If you feel stressed, talk to someone, whether a friend, a parent or a counselor at CAPS.”

Rutgers offers assistance to people dealing with mental health issues. Richards suggests scheduling an appointment by calling the main counseling office at (848) 932-7884. Additionally, CAPS offers a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course that students could find helpful.

“I would consider an MBSR course if school ever got too hard,” Khare said. “But for now, my friends give me all the support I need.”


Irfan Shaik

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