Feeling the pressure


Forty million adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder, with 75 percent experiencing their first episode by age 22, according to Anxiety Disorders Association of America's website.

"I don't know if stress-related disorders are more common in college towns, but college tends to be a particularly stressful time of life," said Jenna Silverman, senior staff clinician at Student Counseling Services.

She said students are under pressure to succeed academically and balance time with work, friends, extracurricular activities and their families.

Silverman said anxiety and depressive symptoms were the most common concerns of students seeking counseling, but those are also the most common concerns for the general population.

"College age is generally the time with most mental health issues present," said Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of activeminds.org.

Active Minds is an organization that tries to remove the stigma about mental health issues and encourages open communication about mental health on college campuses.

"A lot of people believe that you should be able to solve all your problems yourself," Silverman said. "That's simply not true."

Silverman said many students believe they have to have major problems to merit the use of psychotherapy, but the psychologists at Auburn's counseling services treat students with a wide range of concerns, from homesickness to thoughts of suicide.

Malmon said anxiety is a real issue that can profoundly affect school, life and work, but there is help.

One of her suggestions is to be true to yourself and be true to things you like to do.

"Basically, stress puts us in a fight-or-flight situation biologically," said Sheila Patel, staff clinician at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. "What we believe is a major cornerstone for stress reduction is meditation."

One of the founders of the Chopra Center, Deepak Chopra, was coined by Time Magazine as the "poet-prophet of alternative medicine."

He has written numerous books on mind-body health.

Free guided meditations are provided on the Chopra Center's website, www.chopra.com.

Exercising, practicing yoga, eating well-balanced meals, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, getting involved and maintaining a positive attitude are among the suggestions for managing stress, as listed on the ADAA's website.

Patel said she also suggests journaling.

She encourages students to journal about their stresses, particularly before exams.

"Having a good social support system is really important as well," Patel said.

Silverman said scheduling time for fun activities can be just as important as setting aside time for schoolwork.

"View these activities as self-care instead of procrastination," Silverman said.

Women are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as men, according to the ADAA's website.

"I feel it has a lot to do with just how both men and women view the world," Patel said.

Silverman said some research suggests women are more likely to internalize stress, such as through anxiety disorders.

Men, on the other hand, appear to externalize stress by being irritable or getting into arguments.

"If you are stressed and it's interfering with your everyday life, you should talk to someone about it," Malmon said.

Student Counseling Services offers 10 free individual counseling sessions for Auburn students.

Unlimited free group psychotherapy is also provided for those who are interested.

To make an appointment, call 334-844-5123 or go by the center located on the second floor of the Auburn University Medical Clinic.

For more information, visit the counseling services website at www.auburn.edu/scs.

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