If you have anxiety, going away to college may make it worse.
You probably already know that, and you may be dreading its onset. The good news is that some of us have already navigated college with anxiety tucked into our backpacks like a spare pencil. You have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
It’s hard to go to parties when you have anxiety. Sometimes, it might even be hard just to leave your room. Because aren’t people going to judge your clothes? And the way you walk? And aren’t they going to think it’s weird that you’re walking alone? Don’t you have friends? Why don’t you have friends?
Similar spirals of worry grip those of us with anxiety when we want to leave our rooms, but our minds won’t let us.
The best thing to do is to open the door. The hardest part about doing most things — socially or academically — is the moment leading up to them. It might help to put in your headphones and listen to a podcast while you walk down the block. Starting small and basking in the glory of tiny triumphs is a slow but sure path.
But what if you want to do more than walk across campus?
If you want to go to a party, club meeting, extracurricular social, it can help to bring a friend or even someone you know casually. If you’re a first-year student, chances are you’ll have a handful of people you’ve met but aren’t necessarily close to. They’re people you can cling to, and they may cling back. The reality is everyone is looking for a connection their first year. Invite these people along when you want to go out but don’t have a stable friend group yet. They can be a little cushion of support while you meet others you have more in common with.
It’s also best to keep your parents and caretakers in the loop about your anxiety, if they aren’t already. Talk to your doctor about it too. I didn’t get prescribed anti-anxiety medication until I told my physician that I was experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. He said my body was having a physical reaction to my anxiety, telling me to get help.
Since then, I’ve been taking anti-anxiety medication, and I have noticed a significant increase in my quality of life. Clearly, medication isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it makes a noticeable difference for many anxiety sufferers.
Now, I get to do what I want without anxiety constantly holding me back. I can joke around with my supervisor at work and watch movies with my roommates and go on dates with more people. Don’t be like me and wait three or four years before getting medicated. If that’s a path you’re considering, talk about to your doctor sooner rather than later.
Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and there are many ways to handle anxiety. Talk to your friends, family and health professionals to create a personalized path. It’s more manageable to fight anxiety if you have a team of people on your side to guide you.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.