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Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one’s well-being or self-esteem. Intense academic competition, fear of inadequacy regarding an academic challenge, or relationship discord may be some of the sources of the anxiety. Symptoms associated with anxiety include: feelings of losing control, rapid heartbeat, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, sweating and trembling. The student might appear to be confused, agitated, have difficulty concentrating, worry excessively, have difficulty making decisions, and be too overwhelmed to take action.

Students may suffer from a wide range of anxious conditions which can include panic attacks. Panic attacks result in severe physical symptoms which can lead to the fear that one is dying. Some students may have a generalized anxiety, which can impact their ability to perform academically by affecting concentration, memory, the processing of information, the ability to recall information, and the ability to comprehend.

When you observe a student who is struggling with anxiety:


  1. Listen and let them discuss their feelings and thoughts. This can relieve some pressure.
  2. Be supportive and provide reassurance.
  3. Talk to the student in private, when possible. Remain calm and talk slowly.
  4. Assume control over the situation in a soothing manner. Speak in an explicit, concrete and concise manner. Be clear and directive.
  5. Focus on the relevant information. Respectfully help the student focus on items that can be addressed.
  6. Assist the student in developing an action plan that addresses the most pressing concern.
  7. Refer the student to Stress Management and Biofeedback Services at 801.422.3035 or online at
  8. Refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services or call CAPS (801.422.3035) while the student is in your office. If a student is experiencing a panic attack, he/she may be seen at Urgent Care in Student Health Center. If possible, call 801.422.2771 prior to the student arriving at SHC.


  1. Make solutions complicated.
  2. Overwhelm the student with information or ideas on how to “fix” their condition.
  3. Argue with irrational thoughts or catastrophic thinking.
  4. Crowd the student’s physical personal space.
  5. Try to solve all problems presented.
  6. Devalue the information presented or minimize their concern.
  7. Take responsibility for their emotional state
  8. Assume the student will get over his/her anxiety without treatment.
  9. Insinuate that the student’s anxiety is due to spiritual or religious inadequacy.

Other Resources/Suggested Reading:

Books:The Happiness TrapThe Illustrated Happiness TrapImp of the Mind (OCD)Brain Lock (OCD)Get out of Your Mind & Into Your Life by Steve Hayes

Digital Resources: Excellent podcast on obsessive thoughts: