An Online Guide to Mental & Behavioral Health

Resources for College Students

woman holding face in fear

Anxiety and Panic Disorder

Although anxiety can be a completely normal response to stress, it becomes a disorder when it is out of proportion to what is going on, or is impossible to control. Out-of-control anxiety can hurt a person's ability to work, study, interact with people, or follow a daily routine.

It can be a real medical condition, developing from a complex set of biological and environmental factors, including genetics, biochemistry, and traumatic life events.

Some people express their anxiety emotionally, while others show signs of physical distress. The unifying factor, however, is a sense of overwhelming, irrational fear.


  • Excessive worry with an inability to control Intense episodes of fear or panic
  • Recurring nightmares
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Repeated, unwanted thoughts or obsessions
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Upsetting, intrusive memories of a traumatic event
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, stomach pain, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, shaking, dizziness, numbness, or difficulty breathing

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the US. The following are all types of anxiety disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): People with generalized anxiety experience excessive and uncontrollable worries about everyday things. Their anxiety is usually disproportionate to the source of worry. This anxiety interferes with day-to-day life and can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, trembling, and fidgeting.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People with OCD experience intrusive, repetitive thoughts and obsessions. In turn, the obsessions trigger compulsive or routine behaviors meant to prevent an imaginary dreaded event. A person with OCD knows that their thoughts and behaviors don't make sense, but is unable to control them.

Panic Disorder: Panic disorder is characterized by recurring panic attacks, in which a person feels extreme physical anxiety that can last several minutes. Symptoms of a panic attack include shortness of breath and visual disorientation. Many times, people don't realize they're having a panic attack, and will show up at the doctor's office thinking they're very ill. Panic disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, but not everyone who experiences panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, serious accident, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, war, or violent assault. PTSD flashbacks may be so strong that individuals feel like they are actually re-living the traumatic event.

Phobias: A phobia is the excessive or unreasonable fear of something that actually presents little or no danger. Phobias can take many forms; common forms are fear of heights and fear of animals. People with phobias, particularly social phobia, may also have problems with substance abuse.

Social Anxiety Disorder: Social Anxiety Disorder causes a person distress in social situations. The socially anxious person can't relax or "take it easy" around people. They may experience symptoms such as trembling, nausea, and sweating in social settings.

Managing Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are manageable with treatment, such as counseling, psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and, if needed, medication.

Therapy for anxiety disorders works by helping people identify and change the irrational beliefs or fears behind their anxiety. A healthy lifestyle also plays an important role in managing anxiety; adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise can all help minimize symptoms, as can relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.

If you or someone you know may have an anxiety disorder, contact your school's health center, especially if thoughts of suicide are present.

From ULifeline, a project of the JED Foundation. Full Article

Anxiety and Panic Disorder Resources

General Mental Health Resources

The menu on the right will link you to information on specific mental health topics. -->
Below are additional links to excellent websites for mental health information:

  • Go Ask Alice: Website operated by Columbia University to answer the questions of college students on issues related to physical health, mental health, and sexuality.
  • Half Of Us: This engaging youth-oriented site uses video stories of students and high-profile artists to increase awareness about mental health issues and the importance of getting help.
  • This website of the American Psychiatric Association offers a broad array of information on topics related to mental health.
  • Helpguide: Website operated by a non-profit organization offers information and resources on a broad range of mental health topics.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): An advocacy group for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. Good source of information and resources on mental health topics.
  • An information and support service using evidence based principles and technology to help teens and young adults facing tough times and struggling with mental health issues.
  • An online resource for college students with information about protecting your emotional health and what to do if you or friends are struggling with mental health issues.
  • Student Health 101