The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Conquering the Paralyzing Effects of Anxiety

Keri was in her junior year of high school taking honors and AP classes. She was facing pressure in school and dealing with the typical high school drama. All while suffering from anxiety disorders.

“The anxiety day to day could be paralyzing. In middle school and most of high school, before I had started any type of treatment, my anxiety kept me in the nurse’s or guidance office most the day,” said Keri.

Keri knew she could not continue to live up to her full potential in the typical high school environment. She ultimately ended up withdrawing from high school and decided to get her GED. She is now taking classes at Bucks. With effective treatments and a better environment, Keri’s anxiety is under control and she is thriving.

While everyone’s story is different, Keri is an example of one of the 6.8 million people in the U.S. that are affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In recent years anxiety has been increasing among young people. A New York Times article stated that over the last decade anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services.

So, why is it that young people are so stressed? School seems to be a major contributor. The American College Health Association found that undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” rose from 50 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2016. Bucks psychology professor Dr. William Ford weighed in on the rising problem of stressed-out students.

“Anxiety is normal and happens at every age; it is just like any other emotion. However, adolescent’s brains are wired differently. Their highs are higher, and their lows are lower,” said Ford. Which means young people are not necessarily experiencing more anxiety compared to other age groups, anxiety just tends to be more intense for them.

Young people and college students in particular are facing a lot of stress. College students have to deal with the fear of possible student loan debt, an uncertain job market after graduation, passing classes, and social acceptance.

“Young people also have a hard time taking the perspective of other people. So, in return they are more self-conscious and more self-focused. In general, they have a hard time seeing the big picture. They can be very stuck in the right now which can add to their anxiety,” said Ford. Any mishap can feel like the worst thing in the world to a young person. According to Ford young people have a tendency to feel like everything is bigger deal due to some parts of their brain still developing.

It seems that anxiety has taken a toll on many Americans. In 2018, Barnes & Noble stated that sales of books related to anxiety rose 26 percent from the previous year. “Anxiety and depression have always been the top reasons why students come to visit me. However, from what I see anxiety is definitely becoming more prevalent,” said Bucks counselor Jim Gilligan, when asked if he felt anxiety has increased in students.

Gilligan also weighed in on what factors into college student’s anxiety. “College is a completely new culture. Students face a big change from high school. Many have a hard time keeping on top of their work,” said Gilligan.

Both Ford and Gilligan said one of the best ways to combat anxiety and other mental illness is to talk to a professional. However, many young people dealing with anxiety face the stigma associated with mental health problems.

“No one feels shame seeking treatment for the flu. However, when it comes to mental illness people are scared. Mental illness is a real physical condition and there should be no shame in seeking help for it,” said Ford.

The current digital era also plays a role in anxiety. Arousal is the state of being physiologically alert, awake, and attentive. High arousal levels cause one to feel anxious. The internet and social media specifically often raise arousal levels.

“Anything you can do to lower your arousal helps with anxiety. Just taking a walk or not checking your Facebook feed will lower anxiety,” said Ford.

A simple break from social media helped Keri when dealing with her anxiety, “Sometimes I do a complete digital detox. I delete my apps and just shut off my phone for a while. I feel less anxious when I do not have to keep up with everyone’s social media feeds,” said Keri.

Pew Research Center recently published a study with a survey that found that 70 percent of teenagers saw mental health as a bigger issue than bullying and drug addiction. Statistics like this show how prevalent concerns about mental health are among young people. Some may be afraid to seek help but talking to someone is the first step.

“All of the counselors here at Bucks just want to help students,” said Gilligan. Students can connect with a counselor face-to-face, by telephone, or email. To schedule an appointment with a counselor, call 215-968-8189 or email [email protected]. All appointments are kept confidential.

“We need to let people to know what to look for when it comes to anxiety or any mental illness. We need to remove the stigma of asking for help,” said Ford. If we remove the stigma perhaps, we can help decrease the levels of anxiety in young people.