Social Anxiety and Panic Attacks | Are you ready to rock the next four (or more) years of your college life? Or are you feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of making new friends, trying new things, and managing a heavy workload? If you’re in the latter camp, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

In England alone, 6 out of 100 individuals are diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder each week. And it’s not just England – across the UK, over 8 million people are currently living with some form of anxiety disorder, as reported by Mental Health UK.

Yes, college can be an exciting and challenging time for many students. It’s a time for learning, growth, and self-discovery. However, for some students, college can also be a source of anxiety and stress, particularly debilitating. These conditions can impact academic performance, social life, and overall well-being.

This blog post will discuss social anxiety and panic attacks and their symptoms and provide practical tips and strategies to help you cope. So, hold on and keep going!

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder is a common disorder that causes individuals to experience intense anxiety or fear in social settings. It can make even the simplest social interactions seem impossible, like talking to new people or attending social events.

College students with a social anxiety disorder may worry excessively about others judging or scrutinising them, even if they recognise that their fears are irrational. Consequently, they may avoid social situations altogether, which can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation.

When does it Happen?

Social anxiety disorder affects individuals differently, and the fears associated with this condition can vary from person to person. While some individuals may experience anxiety in specific situations, such as speaking in public or initiating a conversation, others may feel anxious and fearful in any social situation.

Some everyday situations that students with social anxiety disorder tend to struggle with include:

  • Talking to strangers
  • Public speaking
  • Making eye contact
  • Eating in front of others
  • Going to college
  • Using public restrooms
  • Attending parties
  • Starting conversations

It’s important to note that not all of these situations will cause anxiety for everyone with social anxiety disorder. For example, someone may feel comfortable speaking but struggle to attend social events. Another person may excel in one-on-one conversations but feel overwhelmed in a crowded classroom.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Some common physical symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include:

  • Difficulty speaking in public
  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension
  • Increased Heartbeat

Some common emotional and behavioral symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include:

  • Severe anxiety or fear in social situations
  • Fear of meetings where you could acquire an unfavorable judgment
  • Concern about making yourself look bad or humiliated
  • Worry that people may notice that you look nervous
  • Severe anxiety while engaging or conversing with strangers
  • Fear of a dreaded activity or event-related anxiety
  • Avoidance of situations or interactions with individuals out of embarrassment
  • Avoiding circumstances where you might be the focus of attention

How to Cope with Social Anxiety in Colleges

While social anxiety disorder usually requires professional help from a medical expert or qualified psychotherapist, there are several coping techniques that students can try to manage situations that are likely to trigger symptoms:

  • Build new friendships gradually by smiling, nodding, and saying hello to new people.
  • Be prepared for conversations by having compliments ready and researching current events.
  • Attend social functions with a close friend to balance your responsibilities as a student.
  • Eat healthily to perform better on exams and live a healthier life in general.
  • Exercise daily to meet new friends and reduce stress.
  • Practice mindfulness through meditation to control your mind and emotions, even in stressful situations.

What are Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks can be extremely frightening experiences that strike suddenly and without warning. They can occur at any time, even while a person sleeps, leaving individuals feeling overwhelmed and out of control.

During a panic attack, people may experience intense terror and fear. They may feel like they are dying or going crazy, and the physical symptoms they experience can be incredibly distressing. These feelings of anxiety and terror are often disproportionate to the actual situation and may be unrelated to what is happening around them.

How Long it may Last

Typically, panic attacks are brief and usually last for less than 10 minutes. However, some symptoms may continue for longer periods, and it’s not uncommon for sufferers to feel exhausted after an attack.

Symptoms of a Panic Attack

Some common symptoms of a panic attack may include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Sudden anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Trembling
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Feeling weak
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Feeling a loss of control
  • Tingling in the hands and fingers
  • Feeling sweaty or having chills

How to Cope with Panic Attacks in Colleges

Attending college with panic disorder can be challenging, but with proper management, it can still be a fulfilling experience. Here are some helpful tips for coping with panic attacks while in college:

  • Seek help from college: Check with your college for available counseling services or seek a local mental health provider. Early treatment is crucial for managing panic attacks.
  • Talk to trusted friends: Only share your situation with close friends to avoid unfair judgments.
  • Develop a coping plan: Attend counseling sessions, join support groups, and track progress with a journal or panic diary.
  • Take care of yourself: Prioritise personal needs by getting enough rest, exercise, and nutrition. Engage in creative, spiritual, and networking activities to enhance overall well-being.

Tips for Supporting Friends with Social Anxiety and Panic Attacks

If you have a friend who struggles with social anxiety or panic attacks, it can be challenging to know how to help them. Here are some tips for supporting your friends and helping them manage their symptoms.

1.   Be patient and understanding

People with social anxiety and panic attacks often feel embarrassed or ashamed of their symptoms. It’s essential to be patient and understanding, listen to their concerns and offer support without judgment.

2.   Avoid judgment

Social anxiety and panic attacks are real and challenging. Avoid telling your friend to “just relax” or “get over it.” Instead, acknowledge their experiences and validate their feelings.

3.   Provide a supportive environment

Create a safe and supportive environment for your friend. Avoid triggering situations or activities that may worsen their symptoms. Instead, suggest low-stress activities they might enjoy, such as walking, watching a movie, or having a cup of tea.

4.   Encourage professional help-seeking

Social anxiety and panic attacks can be debilitating, and your friend must seek professional help. Be supportive and encouraging, but don’t pressure them to seek help if they’re not ready.

The Bottom Line

It’s essential to seek help and support if you, your friend, or anyone you know is struggling with social anxiety and panic attacks. Many resources are available, including on-campus counseling services, support groups, and mental health professionals specialising in treating these conditions.

So grab a cup of coffee and take a deep breath. With the right mindset and helpful coping strategies, you can overcome social anxiety and panic attacks and thrive in your academic and social endeavors. The question is – Are you ready?