WellCat Counseling Center

The Anxious Student

Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one's well being. These students are highly anxious about the unknown and may perceive danger is everywhere. Uncertainty about expectations and interpersonal conflicts are primary causes of anxiety. High and unreasonable self-expectations increase anxiety also. A panic attack is an overwhelming sense of dread and fear and is the extreme result of feeling anxious. Regardless of the cause, symptoms may include rapid heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, dizziness, sweating, trembling or shaking, or cold, clammy hands. The student may also complain of difficulty concentrating, always being "on the edge," having difficulty making decisions, or being too fearful to take action. In more rare cases, a student may experience a panic attack in which the physical symptoms occur spontaneously and intensely in such a way that the student may fear she/he is dying. The following guidelines remain appropriate in most cases.


  • Let the student discuss his/her feelings and thoughts. Often this alone relieves a great deal of pressure.
  • Provide reassurance.
  • Be clear and explicit about what you are willing to do. It may be helpful to have the student repeat what you have said to ensure that he/she understands.
  • Provide a safe and quiet environment until the symptoms subside.
  • Remain calm.


  • Minimize the perceived threat to which the student is reacting
  • Overwhelm the student with information or ideas to "fix" his/her condition
  • Take responsibility for the student's emotional state