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Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one’s well-being or self-esteem. What is perceived as threatening to one is not always perceived as threatening to another. For some students, the cause of anxiety will be clear, for others, it may be difficult to determine. Anxiety is very often a result of intense academic competition, fear of inability to meet certain academic challenges, pressure from others or self, or personal relationships.

Anxiety is marked by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Hyperventilation
  • Flushed skin

The student may also complain of:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Always being “on edge”
  • Having difficulty making decisions
  • Sleeping problems
  • Being too fearful to take action
  • Constant worrying or racing thoughts

In rare cases, students may experience panic attacks in which physical symptoms occur suddenly and intensely in such a way that the student may feel paralyzed by fear.

It is helpful to:

  • Allow the student to discuss his or her feelings and thoughts.  Often this alone relieves some of the pressure.
  • Provide reassurance and support.
  • Remain calm and talk slowly.
  • Be clear and direct.
  • If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment until symptoms subside.

It is not helpful to:

  • Minimize the perceived threat to which the student is reacting.
  • Take responsibility for the student’s emotional state.
  • Overwhelm the student with ideas to “fix” the problem.
  • Become anxious or overwhelmed yourself.