Overcoming Anxiety as a College Student

The college years can be a stressful time of life, and college students are no strangers to the realities of anxiety. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, a recent survey of college and university campus counseling centers found that anxiety was the top concern among students who sought mental health services, with 41.6 percent of students presenting with anxiety. Furthermore, the survey found that nearly a quarter of students were taking some sort of psychiatric medication.

Anxiety appears to be a common problem on college campuses, and there are several reasons college students are so stressed. For example, a 2015 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that academic performance, pressure to succeed, and post-graduation life were the top causes of distress among students. This makes sense, as many college students are juggling the demands of multiple classes while also trying to make time for work and friends. They worry about earning high enough grades to please their parents, make it into grad school, or land a high-paying job after graduation. Given these pressures, it is no surprise that so many college students are anxious. Fortunately, there is help available to allow college students to overcome anxiety.

Getting Help through Campus Counseling Services

Many colleges and universities offer campus counseling centers that provide services to students who are struggling with mental health concerns like anxiety. These centers employ trained psychologists, clinical counselors, and social workers who are licensed to provide confidential mental health services. These professionals can diagnose mental health conditions and provide therapy to help you overcome anxiety. For instance, a therapist at a campus counseling center may treat you with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In this form of therapy, you can learn to replace unhelpful, anxiety-provoking thoughts with healthier ways of thinking. Should you require additional services beyond those offered at your campus counseling center, your therapist can refer you to outside professionals, such as a psychiatrist or a physician with experience treating anxiety.

Seeking Outside Help

If you prefer to work with a counseling provider of your choice, you can seek therapy services in your community instead of turning to the campus counseling center. Your insurance provider’s website can likely provide you with a list of mental health providers that are covered under your policy. You can also perform an Internet search of area counseling providers to determine what conditions they treat and whether they accept your insurance plan.

Practicing Self-Care

College can be a busy time of life, but it is important to also take time to practice self-care. This means taking time to eat properly, get adequate sleep, engage in physical activity, and make time for things that you enjoy. If you are experiencing anxiety, self-care activities such as physical exercise can relieve your symptoms. In fact, research in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology shows that exercise may reduce anxiety even more than established anxiety treatments. You may be worried about taking time away from your studies to exercise and do things you enjoy, but if these activities relieve your anxiety, they will likely pay off in the form of better grades in the long-run.

Reaching Out for Support

Beyond practicing self-care, you can overcome anxiety by reaching out for social support. Chances are that other students on your college campus are also struggling with anxiety, and they can support you during your journey. If you are living with anxiety, reach out to your campus student life department to determine if your college or university offers an Active Minds chapter. These chapters are available on campuses across the country, and they aim to support students with mental health issues like anxiety. Active Minds chapters are official student organizations, and they draw awareness to mental health concerns, encourage students to seek help, and advocate for policies that support students with mental health issues. This type of organization can be a valuable source of support for college students with anxiety.

Understanding that Anxiety is a Clinical Condition

Despite the fact that anxiety is common on college campuses, there may still be some misconception surrounding it and other mental health conditions. Some students may feel ashamed to seek help for anxiety, as there is a stigma associated with it. For example, some people may feel that anxiety is a sign of mental weakness, when this is not the case. Anxiety is a diagnosable clinical condition and not a sign of weakness or personal flaws. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are numerous anxiety disorders:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder– Displaying excessive anxiety a majority of the time, accompanied by symptoms such as muscle tension, irritability, and sleep problems
  • Panic Disorder– Suffering from panic attacks, characterized by sweating, shortness of breath, racing heart, and a feeling of being out of control
  • Specific Phobias– Anxiety related to intense fears of specific objects or situations, such as spiders or being on a plane
  • Social Anxiety Disorder– Fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations, which leads to avoiding situations like meeting new people or speaking in public
  • Agoraphobia– Specific fear of being in crowds, public places, or open spaces
  • Separation anxiety disorder– Intense fear of being separated from important people, often out of fear that something bad will happen to them while separated

Given the fact that there are numerous diagnosable anxiety disorders, it is clear that anxiety is a legitimate mental health condition that warrants care and treatment. If you are a college student suffering from anxiety, remember that you are not alone in your struggle, and support is available. Anxiety is common among college students, but with proper treatment, you can overcome it and achieve your academic and vocational goals.


  1. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/06/college-students
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165032714006867
  3. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jsep/30/4/article-p392.xml
  4. https://www.activeminds.org/programs/chapter-network/about-active-minds-chapters/
  5. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml


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