UH counseling services hosts anxiety workshop
A Counseling and Psychological Services Food for Thought Workshop presented on Sept. 14 focused on the widespread issue of anxiety and included tips on recognizing signs and symptoms as well as coping methods.
“We at CAPS know that anxiety concerns are very common on college campuses as over half of the students we see at CAPS have some diagnosis of an anxiety related condition,” said Kevin Siffert, a CAPS doctoral psychology intern.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are some of the most common mental health problems on college campuses. About 18 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are affected by anxiety disorders every year, with 75 percent of them experiencing their first episode of anxiety by the age of 22.
Anxiety disorders can include, but are not limited to, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
Those who suffer from anxiety disorders may not know what they are going through, even though they can tell something is not right.
Junior education major Esmeralda Valdez attended the workshop hoping to gain perspective on what she thinks may be symptoms related to social anxiety.
“I had symptoms of social anxiety, so I came to see what kind of tips I can get,” said Valdez, who found out about the workshop online after researching learning disabilities for an education project.
While anxiety disorders can appear in different ways, most are characterized by excessive, irrational fear and dread, as opposed to rational fears or worries that trigger healthy anxiety.
“Anxiety has a very protective feature,” said Siffert, citing the natural fight or flight phenomenon. “It can occur during positive and negative events.”
Physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, shortness of breath, tremors, sweating and dizziness.
“When I’m speaking to people my mind goes completely blank,” said Valdez.“I stutter a lot and don’t know what to say.”
The presentation addressed triggers for anxiety symptoms including stress related to issues at home or work, public speaking and school.
Other triggers include cultural and diversity factors, traumatic events and fears.
Methods of coping are important to those with anxiety disorders or anxiety-related symptoms.
Siffert utilized an audio clip that guided attendees through a relaxation exercise, which focused on deep breathing.
The clip is available online at www.caps.uh.edu under self-help resources, along with other clips, videos and web links.
The workshop suggested efficient ways to cope, such as taking action, being proactive in preventing anxiety and keeping things in perspective.
Recognizing that stressful periods are common and everyone experiences anxiety differently can help with learning to cope, said Siffert.
Students who attended the workshop gave ideas about relaxing including listening to music, working on hobbies, exercising and disconnecting from the outside world by shutting down computers and turning off cell phones.
Siffert also said it is important to focus on strengths and not just weaknesses when talking about anxiety and how to get through it.
There are a variety of methods that can be used to reduce stress and anxiety, but “there is no one right way,” said Siffert.
Valdez said she enjoyed the presentation and liked the idea of using a scale of 1 to 10 to rate what you are feeling to really think about what is happening as a way to cope.
“I liked that he told us that it wasn’t the end of the world, and sometimes we think it is,” she said.
Anxiety often occurs with other common issues such as depression, eating disorders and substance abuse.
Today’s workshop, “I’m Listening Honey! Communication among Couples” addresses issues regarding communication within relationships.
Learn about other common issues by attending CAPS Food for Thought Workshops from 12 noon to 1 p.m. every Wednesday in the Student Services Center 1 Building, Conference Room 210D.