What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a reaction to stress characterized by worry and tension.
It is a normal response to uncontrollable, uncertain, or negative situations,
and can help you cope with everyday challenges, such as studying for a test. However, when these feelings become a constant
presence in your everyday life regardless of whether or not there’s a specific
cause for them, you may have anxiety disorder.
Having anxiety disorder means that you continually
experience excessive worry, irrational fear, and dread, even though there is
little or nothing to cause it. When these feelings interfere with your ability
to function or cope with everyday situations, you need to get help.
Signs and Symptoms
- excessive, irrational fear and dread
- can’t seem to control or shake your worry, even though you realize it’s probably more intense than the situation warrants
- restlessness or feeling “on the edge,” often becoming startled very easily
- trouble falling or staying asleep
- muscle tension and aches
- nausea, lightheadedness
- feeling out of breath
Coping with anxiety
Here are some
tips for ways to better manage your anxiety in your everyday life:
- Talk to someone – be open and honest about how you’re
feeling with someone you trust, like a close friend or member of the college
personnel, such as a college master or RA.
- Seek professional help – disordered anxiety is often treated
most effectively through therapy, medication, or a combination recommended by
your doctor or counselor. To set up an appointment, contact the Rice Counseling
- Exercise – find a type of exercise you enjoy, and
go out and break a sweat.
- Relax – do something that calms you down, from a quiet leisure
activity, like reading or taking a hot bath, to indulging in a relaxing
- Meditate – practice deep breathing exercises. Set
aside quiet time where you can be alone and let yourself just “be” – no
pressures, no expectant thoughts. Check out our Lending Library for meditation books, CDs and DVDs.
- Set aside “worry time” – limit the amount of time you allow yourself
to worry about something. Set aside a specific amount of time in the day where
you can think about something, or all the things, that worry you. Write them
down, or let them rush through your brain, and then when the time’s up, you’re
not allowed to waste your time or energy on worrying about them anymore.
- Distract yourself – engage in an activity you enjoy, like
cooking, walking, reading, hanging out with friends, listening to music,
playing a game, etc.
1. What’s normal and what’s not?
Plenty of people occasionally experience
anxiety in their everyday life. However, there’s a difference between normal
and disordered anxiety. To learn more about distinguishing between the two,
check out common differences between everyday and disordered anxiety in "signs and symptoms" section above, or read on below for more specific types of anxiety disorders.
2. What are the different kinds of
Anxiety disorder describes a general
set of characteristics commonly associated with this type of disorder. However,
there are several different kinds of specific anxiety disorders, which have
unique or additional symptoms. Some
of the most common varieties of anxiety disorder include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder – characterized by chronic, exaggerated
worry and tension about a variety of everyday problems, even though there is
little or nothing to provoke it, for an extended period of time.
- Panic disorder –characterized by unpredictable attacks
of terror, usually along with sensations of sweatiness, dizziness, weakness,
and oftentimes a fear of losing control.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder – characterized by persistent, upsetting
thoughts (obsessions) and or/repetitive behaviors (compulsions) that interfere
with everyday life.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder – characterized by recurring,
frightening memories and flashbacks of a traumatic ordeal, which may cause
sleep problems, emotional numbness, and detachedness.
- Specific phobias – characterized by an intense,
irrational fear of something that poses little or no threat, to the point where
the person would rather avoid his fear at the risk of impeding his everyday
life, than face it and cause severe panic
- Social anxiety – characterized by an overwhelming, persistent
self-consciousness in everyday social situations and a fear of being watched,
judged, or humiliated by others. As a
result, the person avoids or dreads social situations to the point where it interferes
with everyday life.
3. I think I have anxiety, but I don’t feel
comfortable talking with a counselor. What should I do?
- If you’re not ready or comfortable
talking with someone from the Counseling Center, consider talking with someone
you trust, such as a close friend, college master, RA, RHA, or faculty mentor.
They may be able to help guide you to appropriate resources.
- If you’re afraid that going to the Counseling
Center implies that you’re “weak,” or “crazy,” feel reassured that this is an
incorrect perception. In fact, the majority of people who use the Counseling
Center have very typical college concerns which have become burdensome. Also,
seeking counseling is actually seen as a sign of strength, not weakness.
4. I think I have anxiety, or at least some
of the signs and symptoms, but not to the point where I feel the need to seek
professional help. What should I do?
if you think that you can manage anxiety symptoms on your own, it never hurts
to seek help early for help, advice, and tips on coping with your anxiety. Consider
talking with someone you trust, like a close friend, member of the college
personnel team, or RHA, about any issues you’re struggling with. If you’re
exhibiting some of the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, consider the intensity,
duration, and frequency of the symptoms before you write off going to a
counselor. If any or all of these factors are significant, then you should
consider talking with someone from the Counseling Center
to figure out better
ways to address it.
5. How do I tell my friends about my anxiety?
What and how you tell your friends about your anxiety disorder is completely up to you. However, make sure you know the parameters of the information you choose to divulge before having the conversation, whether that concerns addressing your symptoms, struggles, and/or treatment, etc. Consider asking a close friend to check in with you regularly about how you’re coping with your anxiety.
6. I think one of my friends has anxiety, what should I do now?
Having a conversation with a friend about your concerns can be hard. For tips on ways to approach the conversation, check out the “Get Help for a friend”
link. If you’re still unsure about how to have an effective conversation, consider contacting the Counseling Center
. A staff member can help you figure out better ways to talk with your friend based on your specific situation. If you’re uncomfortable speaking with someone from the Counseling Center, start with a trusted mentor or adult in your life, such as a member of the college personnel team.
7. How do I deal with my anxiety disorder in my everyday life?
For tips on ways to cope with anxiety, see our “Coping with Anxiety” section of this page. Please keep in mind that these are only suggestions, and are not a substitute for professional help or medical advice. On the other hand, if you’ve tried these suggestions for a period of time and they don’t seem to be alleviating your anxiety symptoms, consider talking with a counselor from the Counseling Center
to figure out better ways to address your anxiety issues.
Levy, Lois. Undress Your Stress: 30 curiously fun ways to relieve the Tension. 2005.
Wilson, Paul. Instant Calm: Over 100 Easy-to-Use Techniques For Relaxing Mind and Body. Penguin Group: New York, 1995.
These, and many other related books, are available in the Wellness Center Library for students to check out at no charge. To check out our collection of books and other useful resources, including videos, brochures and more, visit our link or drop by the Student Wellbeing Office: http://books.wellness.rice.edu/deliciouslibrary/index.html
How to Meditate: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm
David H. (November 2002). "Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety
and its disorders from the perspective of emotion theory". American Psychologist55 (11): 1247–63. PMID 11280938.
anxiety diorder.” Pub Med Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001915/
"Anxiety Disorders." National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml