Helping College Students With Social Anxiety
Many kids experience social anxiety as they transition into college. Here's how you can help.
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Do you have a teen going into or already in college? Anxiety is becoming increasingly common in college students, which is negatively impacting their studies and ability to socialize with others. One of my close relatives has had to deal with anxiety as a college student, which has showed me the extent of its negative impacts. By researching this subject, I've learned that anxiety and other mental health issues have become far more prevalent than they were in the past, and if society does not care about this growing problem, they are effectively tossing this generation of students aside.
One 2010 study by Dr. Lindsay S. Ham and others reports research on the correlation between social anxiety and problematic alcohol usage. Ham’s study found that because college students constantly meet new people and collaborate with fellow students, social anxiety is amplified. Researchers found that while the relationship between alcohol usage and social anxiety is complex, correlations between the two exist. This article both supports and contradicts common knowledge about social anxiety, as Ham’s study finds that some students with social anxiety find relief by engaging in social activities, while others to refuse to participate in social activities for the same reason.
Later research reported by Dr. Leah D. Doane in 2015 states that there is a correlation between anxiety and sleep deprivation among young adults. Doane’s research suggests that the amount of sleep teens and young adults get is significantly lower than people of other ages due to large amounts of school activity. Doane also states that the adjustment to college is a jarring shift, as students’ personal relationships drastically change. Doane’s results found an increase in self-reported anxiety symptoms and issues with sleep and mental health in young adults. The implications of this study are that students at American institutions are under enough stress to cause issues with their mental health and sleeping patterns.
Another study by Dr. Anjana Madan of 209 college students ages 18-24, published in 2014, suggests that young people having so much freedom to look at media is causing them to develop mental health disorders such as anxiety. Madan states that adolescents and young adults have more exposure to media through the use of modern technology than previous generations did. Madan shows through her results that the students who witnessed the most media violence had the highest rates of reported anxiety symptoms.
If your teen or young adult is dealing with anxiety, there are solutions that can aid in alleviating those symptoms. Having the student seek counseling at his or her institution is also a good option. One thing many parents have trouble doing is letting their child face their anxiety on their own. Dr. Eli Lebowitz says using methods such as Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) or cognitive behavioral therapy are additional options for anxiety therapy.
By helping children away from home deal with their anxiety, parents can help their student make the most of his or her studies and time in college.
Guest blogger Jeremy Soper is an undergraduate at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in business administration.