Division of Student Affairs



What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling that many people experience when dealing with stressful or threatening situations. Anxiety is often called “stress”, but an anxiety disorder is associated with more intense feelings of nervousness, and reactions to this nervousness.  Some anxiety is normal. Anxiety helps us at times to deal with difficult situations because fear and anxiety alert us to danger. These responses are the result of the body and mind telling us that something is wrong.

However, just as these emotions can be helpful, if they become too overwhelming, they can actually keep us from doing the things we need to do in order to help ourselves. In a way, they can become paralyzing unless understood and dealt with in a rational way. There are many different types of anxiety disorders, for example; panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, specific phobias like social phobia and agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. For more specifics on each of these you can visit http://www.adaa.org/.

The following gives more specifics on general anxiety:

Where does it come from?

There are many times when college students feel anxious. Tests, deadlines, papers, and balancing family, school, and work are all external factors that can affect ones emotions. Most of us have felt butterflies in our stomachs before a big exam. And, most people have a pretty good idea of what causes their own anxiety and can identify these external triggers. But, it is also important to know that each of us has a different chemical make-up, and can be affected by situations in different ways. This internal or genetic influence also plays a big part in whether or not we become anxious in a particular situation.

There is no telling exactly why a person develops anxiety but there is known biological and psychological causes of anxiety disorders. There can also be times when a situation won’t cause anxiety, and other times when the same situation will cause intense anxiety. It can depend on what is going on in a person’s life. Additionally, there may also be times when anxiety may creep up for no apparent reason at all.

Severe anxiety is not like typical stress — it is more intense. In terms of treatment, it usually requires more attention. Individuals who experience prolonged anxiety that interferes with his/her daily functioning (e.g. socializing, working, and relaxing) should talk to a mental health professional.

Who does anxiety affect?

Anxiety can affect anyone. Some of us are more prone to developing anxiety because of external and internal factors. Role modeling is an example of an external factor that can play a role in whether or not someone will be affected by anxiety.  For example, someone who grew up in a household where challenges and problems were dealt with in a calm and manageable way, with a parent or guardian who exhibited coping skills that helped them through these situations, may be more likely to have learned those coping skills themselves. This could better prepare a person to deal with their own stressors as they grow up.  Likewise, a person who received different role modeling, where problems were dealt with in a frantic, unmanageable way, with a parent or guardian who lost control or could not cope, may be more likely not to have learned the necessary coping skills to deal with difficult situations. This may lead to increased anxiety. However, just because an individual developed inadequate coping skills does not determine the amount of anxiety they will feel in life. It just may mean that with inadequate coping skills, this person may be more prone to anxiety.

Chemical make-up or genetics can also play a part in determining the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder. If a parent has an anxiety disorder, it is more likely that a child will develop anxiety at some point.  Finally, some anxiety is caused by medication, drugs or alcohol. Anxiety that is produced by the effects of the medication, drugs or alcohol can resemble generalized anxiety disorder. For more information on generalized anxiety disorder, see the “Where Can I Get More Information” section below.

How do I deal with it?

As stated before, anxiety and stress are not one in the same. But stress management techniques can help with overcoming mild anxiety. See stress management self-help page. Anxiety should be taken seriously if it begins to affect your daily routine more severely. If you feel that you cannot manage your day as a result of overwhelming anxiety, you should seek help from a professional.  You can call the office manager at the Counseling Center (203) 837-8690 or stop by (Student Center, Room 222) to set up an appointment with a professional. Similarly, there are community and private agencies and practitioners that specialize in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Check your local listings for referrals, or contact University Counseling Services to assist you with a referral if needed.

Where can I get more information?

For more self-help information you can go to http://www.adaa.org – and click on “About Anxiety Disorders. This website gives more specifics about the different types of anxieties, their symptoms and how they affect an individual.


Counseling Center, Midtown Student Center Room 222,
Phone: 203.837.8690, Email: CounselingCenter@wcsu.edu, Fax:203.837.8416