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Failure, success and changes: university life proves a source of anxiety for many

June 11, 2015

Homework, work, classes, relationships — college students have a lot going on in their lives. With so much to do, many students often feel anxious and stressed, and as a result, anxiety disorders tend to form. 

Patrick Soltis, a Georgetown University physics sophomore who is taking classes at MSU over the summer, said he gets stressed out by homework and tests. 

“I feel like I’m always not doing enough to be on track to ... keep up with my classes,” Soltis said.

However, Simon Rego, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said it is normal for people to feel anxious and it is often a useful emotion which helps people concentrate. 

There’s a long list of reasons why college students feel stressed, such as meeting new people, being away from home and competing with classmates, Rego said. 

Soltis said college students feel stressed because they fear failing. 

“Everybody wants to get ahead and so you grab more and more to do,” Soltis said. “If you don’t make the most of this time … don’t get in some quality experiences, than you’re not going to be as employable.” 

Another stressful thing for college students is their ever-mounting debt, psychology senior Joe O’Connor said. 

“Everybody I talk to has … financial difficulties that they’re always stressing out about,” O’Connor said. 

But, Rego said, feelings of anxiety turn into a mental disorder when a person is no longer able to function in school, work or their social life because of their anxiety. 

Rego cited a recent study that said about 15 percent of college students are diagnosed with a mental disorder and 4 out of 5 students often feel overstressed. 

MSU assistant professor in clinical psychology Jason Moser said the great changes that occur during the college years are a source of anxiety.

“It’s a stressor and a big transition in life,” Moser said. “Adolescence into adulthood is the primary time for anxiety disorders to occur.” 

Moser said besides the transition, some people are more prone to developing anxiety disorders and will have a harder time making friends and focusing in classes. 

Moser said he believes the stigma of mental illness is starting to lift, and there are more people seeking help for their disorder.

Mental disorders becoming more widely accepted is one reason why there seems to be more development of anxiety disorders, Rego said. But in reality, it is a combination of the three factors. Besides the lifted stigma, more people have the disorders, and people are getting better at identifying these disorders, which is why more people seem to be developing them, he said.

Moser said between 20 and 30 percent of people experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and, although more people are coming out and seeking treatment, he said it is creating an increased demand on psychological clinics, many of which are understaffed. 

Because of this, Moser said new techniques that effectively deliver therapy to a large group of people should be created. 

But Soltis has his own ways of dealing with stress, including running, listening to music and taking naps. 

Rego said that recently more pressures have been created by society for our generation, but Moser thinks we can combat stress in the classroom. 

Too much focus is put on grades and passing or failing, Moser said. Communicating messages that are less anxiety inducing can really aid college student’s mental state. 

If you are feeling stressed out and need someone to talk to, there are many resources on campus. Olin Health Center has a counseling and psychiatry clinic, inside the Psychology Building is the MSU Psychological Clinic and there is also the Counseling Center located in the Student Services Building. 

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