Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Being an introvert in college”
In 2015, the American College Health Association conducted a National College Health Assessment survey that found almost one in every six college students had been diagnosed with, or treated for, anxiety. The same survey found that “21.9 percent of students said that within the last 12 months, anxiety had affected their academic performance, defined as receiving a lower grade on an exam or important project, receiving an incomplete, or dropping a course.”
For BYU students with current documentation of a disability from a healthcare professional, the University Accessibility Center provides services to make their college education a more fair and equal opportunity. If students are unsure if they qualify for UAC assistance, they can visit the University Accessibility Center website for more information.
UAC Director GeriLynn Vorkink said if students feel their anxiety is affecting their performance in school in any way they should visit a healthcare professional to see if it has risen to the level of a disability. Even if a student’s anxiety does not match the criteria to get certain assistance from UAC, Vorkink said students should still visit the UAC if they are having problems.
“When students come to our office for help and it is established that they don’t meet criteria for a disability, we still do our best to assist them by letting them know about other campus resources that might be of assistance,” Vorkink said.
She continued,”For example, counseling at CAPS [BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services] could still be very helpful, whether or not a student’s anxiety rises to the level of a disability. We also tell students about resources such as Stress Management & Biofeedback Services (located within CAPS), and the Academic Success Center, which provides workshops on topics such as Stress Management & Test Anxiety as well as one-on-one learning mentoring.”
Vorkink said the UAC might help a student who is struggling with school due to mild anxiety by providing tips for combating anxiety where a student feels it the most. With test anxiety, for example, Vorkink said she often suggests students spend more time in the Testing Center to become more adjusted to the environment, sitting in a front corner of the Testing Center so they aren’t distracted by other students, or writing down thoughts regarding their testing anxiety just before taking tests.
Vorkink said while it is common to experience some form of anxiety during school at some point, it is important to know the difference between anxious feelings and actually having anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers a guide here.
For students who may struggle speaking up in class or giving presentations in front of a crowd because of their anxiety, Vorkink said counseling and/or CAPS’s Stress Management & Biofeedback Services could be very helpful. These are both free services offered to students.
“Counseling could help students learn to approach (rather than avoid) anxiety-provoking situations and see that their fears are usually groundless,” Vorkink said. “Depending on the course and the professor, talking with their professors about their challenges might also be beneficial, as the professor might have some suggestions that would help in that particular class.”
Mikle South, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at BYU, said it is important for students dealing with anxiety to talk about it with friends and/or family, even though it may seem difficult. He also said to keep in touch with professors and let them know the challenges the student may be facing.
“Most professors are pretty understanding,” Mikle said.
For more information on dealing with anxiety in college, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website.