Anxiety Surpasses Depression as the Most Common Reason College Students Seek Counseling Services

by Megan Dreher and August Kissel

Asst. Editor & Editor

“Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting ‘overwhelming anxiety’ in the previous year,” an Oct. 11 New York Times article read.

This is true for the Manhattan College community as well.

“It is definitely the most self-referred reason to come to the counseling center. It’s panic attacks, it’s social anxiety, generalized anxiety, academic anxiety, the fear of failure, the fear of success. I have people in healthy and wonderful relationships and they are worried sick that something is going to happen,” said Jennifer McArdle, the director of counseling and health services here at Manhattan.

This rise in the number of young people with anxiety can be attributed to various circumstances. Psychologists can agree to the fact that anxiety is a diagnosis unique to each individual.

Some students today are far less exposed to hardship, compared to older generations. Many parents of children in this generation do their best to shield their children from the dangers of society, assuring they would not have to experience the same struggle they themselves may have had to face. So when the students comes to school, and are living on their own for the first time, they may find life overwhelming.

The recent rise in the use of trigger warnings protects young people. They are shielded from seeing something that may make them uncomfortable and therefore the next time they are approached with the same topic it becomes more threatening than the first time. Therefore heightening the situation.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, students of today have the world at their fingertips. Young people are exposed to all aspects of life and through social media and the constant use of smartphones, they compare themselves to their peers and strangers. Students are no longer competing solely at an academic level, but they have to maintain a perfect image socially as well.

“Look at this world, we can watch a war on television. Live footage. This is something that people were not exposed to. In a way it’s a lot of protecting and in a way there is too much exposure. It’s not a good combination that can increase anxiety,” McArdle added.

Anxiety is hard to diagnose simply because everyone feels anxious to a certain degree. Anxiety is a feeling that stems from a moment of extreme stress. The difference is that the anxious person internalizes the pressure and the stress so that they inflict the stress upon themselves.

The New York Times article defined anxiety as “the overestimation of danger and the underestimation of our ability to cope.”

Despite all of this, Manhattan College has been taking steps to create a more aware environment. For example, the peer career advisors spend a day of their training with a counselor from the center.

“We were told that students coming in may be anxious. The counselor told us to reassure them and to do our best to make sure their resumes are top notch and that everything looks good. We can also provide advice about what to wear to the interview or how to prepare for questions. Of course this is not a complete solution but we are doing the best we can in providing even a little bit of aid and support to our peers,” said Shannon Raczynski, a sophomore peace studies and philosophy major.

Students are also encouraged to go to counseling center if they feel any difference in their state of being. McArdle especially encourages this so that the students can get a proper diagnosis and find their own way of coping with anxiety in the long term.

“Yoga is awesome, meditation is awesome. Deep breathing exercises are proven to be very effective. If it’s a chemical imbalance, then the person should be on an anxiety medication, or they may have a nutritional imbalance. I tell everyone that they should take fish oil, it’s very good for brain health. It can increase your B Vitamins,” said McArdle

If you have any further questions, the counseling center can be reached by phone at 718-862-7394 or you can make an appointment in person. The office is located in Miguel Hall, Room 501. And in the case of an emergency, you can call Public Safety at 718-862-7333 or dial 911.