Panic! in the classroom

A conversation concerning mental health is almost never a pleasant one. Many people who suffer from anxiety, in particular, don’t want to talk to others about their experience. Anxiety is hard to define but for the many who suffer its effects, it is easy to identify. With
approximately 40 million people in
America who experiencing anxiety, does SNC have enough resources for those
affected on our campus?

“Anxiety and depression are rampant in this fast-paced, success-driven, progressive society that we are all participating in on some level,” said Kelly Root, SNC’s on-campus counselor. “Anxiety remains one of the top mental health conditions that I treat on a daily basis.”

Root, a marriage and family therapist, offers appointments on campus for two hours per week, on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and many students can’t make this time slot due to work or classes.

“If there was a more diverse time frame, I believe more students would have
access to, and take advantage of, the
mental health services offered on campus,” she said. “I see an average of three students per week, but I get several e-mails per week from students wanting to see me but can’t make the limited hours.”

So, why is anxiety so pervasive?

“Most studies show that social media and exposure to the internet may cause more awareness of stressful world issues,” said Karen Bloom, a Petaluma, California, physician. “As opposed to the past, when newspapers or radio brought intermittent messages of disaster and wars.

Photo: Creative Commons
Roughly 40 million Americans experience anxiety. Does SNC have enough resources to help students affected by anxiety?

“The Internet and iPhones bring that sort of exposure to people on a minute-by-minute basis. This can magnify all of the negative issues going on and positive interactions or other things we could be grateful for, are usually not broadcasted.”

Many anxiety disorders go widely undiagnosed due to the multitude of ways it can present, such as insomnia, stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, and it is not due to a medical disease but rather to significant untreated anxiety disorder, Bloom said.

The most common treatment for anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help the patient develop coping strategies.

“Most doctors commonly prescribe SSRI medications (such as Zoloft) when needed for an anxiety disorder,” she said. “Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) are not used or are very rarely used because they can become addictive and are not good for long-term use.”

Junior Zoe Tuttle said she has been
dealing with anxiety since middle school when she was first prescribed a psychotropic medication. These pills negatively
affected Tuttle, who went from playing three different sports to barely being able to stay awake due to the effects.

Tuttle went off the medication for years.

“The anxiety didn’t go away,” she said. “I just felt awful all the time.”

Fast forward to being a college junior, Tuttle has settled into a healthy rhythm.

“Thankfully, I found a therapist I adored,” she said. “She genuinely helped me in so many ways, and I felt welcome in her office. She changed a lot of my ideas on the effectiveness of therapy. I saw improvements.”

Having a therapist that you trust and feel comfortable with is crucial to sticking with a treatment process. If you find you need to go deeper in your sessions and need more counsel with Kelly Root than just the on-campus hours, she has a private practice in town where she offers a student rate.

“Also, I do refer students out to
appropriate treatment centers and other outpatient services when necessary,” she said.

Unfortunately, not every person is ready to divulge their personal afflictions with strangers, even those who are only trying to help. An SNC sophomore, who
preferred to be anonymous for this
interview, explained that she doesn’t like talking about her anxiety with people outside her family. She tries to work on her mental health by practicing meditation and yoga.

“Learning about different breathing techniques has changed how I react to my panic attacks,” she said. “Now I’m able to calm myself down and even prevent
attacks that I can feel starting.”

“There’s a lot of good evidence that mindfulness, including meditation and other focused thinking programs, along with regular exercise, do seem to help,” Bloom said. “Avoidance of caffeine,
alcohol and marijuana seem to help control anxiety disorders. Use of these substances regularly seem to make anxiety disorder worse.”