Anxiety comes with the territory in college, and a little is a good thing. After all, it\u2019s what helps spur you to finish that paper, to pay attention to your health and safety, and to show up for class. However, for many people, anxiety takes over your life. Anxiety and the college student don't have to be connected. For treatment for an anxiety disorder, contact the experts at Promises Behavioral Health today. Anxiety and the College Student For some students, anxiety \u201cruns amok and becomes out of proportion to what\u2019s actually in front of them,\u201d explained Anne Marie Albano, PhD, ABPP, professor of medical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD). \u201cIt\u2019s future-oriented worry, and it keeps you ruminating and stuck on things that then make you not problem-solve appropriately and take control of the situation.\u201d It\u2019s an all too common issue. The 2014 National College Health Assessment found that more than half of all college students felt overwhelming anxiety within the previous year, and more than a fifth said anxiety affected their academic performance. But only about 14% were diagnosed or treated for their anxiety, the assessment found. Of those who sought help for emotional issues, anxiety was the most common problem, according to the 2014 annual report from Penn State's Center for Collegiate Mental Health, which pulled together data from 140 college and university counseling centers. Close to 20% of that number considered anxiety their top concern. It\u2019s these numbers that Dr. Albano and her colleagues seek to change through a variety of anxiety management and life-skills programs designed for people in college, those of college-age and high school students preparing for college. Parents can also take part, learning ways to give their child the best start, as well as how to let go. Making the LEAP The model in CUCARD\u2019s offerings, Dr. Albano said, is the Launching Emerging Adult Program (LEAP) geared toward 16- to 28-year-olds with anxiety and mood issues. About 10 years in the making, the program\u2019s been running successfully for about five, Dr. Albano said. In fact, her team hopes to release a LEAP manual next year that can guide others. Through LEAP, \u201cwe work with the parents and the young adults not just to understand anxiety and what the young adult has to do to overcome it, but also developmentally what people their age are doing on their own that their parents have been doing for them, inadvertently contributing to them remaining stuck.\u201d The student might learn, for example, to go to doctor\u2019s appointments alone, handle their own scheduling, even do a solo college visit. \u201cIt\u2019s developmental steps,\u201d Dr. Albano said, \u201ckind of like when they were little and their parents eventually had to let go of the bicycle seat and let them ride on their own. The same thing with getting into life.\u201d Groups are another important part of the program offerings, Dr. Albano said. \u201cWe group young adults or adolescents who are close in age, and then we recreate scenarios that produce anxiety. They then work to manage those and learn how to use the skills for anxiety management and also for moving along the developmental path.\u201d A student might role-play meeting with a college professor, for example, or inviting a fellow student to lunch. \u201cOne of the big things we work on is helping the college student learn to ride out feelings of anxiety,\u201d Dr. Albano said. \u201cWe\u2019ve all had those feelings of dread, those knots in the stomach. Understand that those are normal. If you pull the covers over your head and just stay in bed, it doesn\u2019t get any better. If you avoid, if you escape, if you hide, it only makes the anxiety go away momentarily, but then it comes back twice as strong each time.\u201d Why Anxiety Is So Prevalent So why are so many of today\u2019s college students struggling with anxiety? There\u2019s the extreme competitiveness of the college application process, of course, which can cause some students (and their parents) to get caught up in the frenzy to get into the \u201cright\u201d school and keep up when they get there. Some also point to the trend toward so-called \u201chelicopter parenting,\u201d in which meddling parents don\u2019t allow adolescents a chance to fail. Thus, they never learn how to pick themselves up \u2014 a troubling situation for those suddenly on their own in a college atmosphere. Others note that social media boosts pressure by providing a global stage for missteps, as well as allowing for endless comparison, that thief of joy. On top of that, this is a generation raised on the anxiety of the 9\/11 terror attacks and witness to an economic upheaval that\u2019s erased any sense of job security even if they do get that college degree. Dr. Albano agrees that there\u2019s some truth in each of these ideas. \u201cIt\u2019s a completely different age,\u201d she said. But she\u2019s wary of saying today\u2019s students are more anxious than they used to be. \u201cOne of the things I always tell people to understand is we actually didn\u2019t start tracking anxiety disorders until the 1980s,\u201d she said. That means valid studies weren\u2019t available until the 1990s. Studies conducted then and since have found that anxiety remains the most common mental health diagnosis for any age group \u2014 children, adolescents, or adults \u2014 and it\u2019s most prevalent among those ages 18-29. Obstacles to Treatment \u201cThe other interesting thing that\u2019s been shown is that an anxiety diagnosis is among the least treated in the college-age population,\u201d Dr. Albano said. You\u2019re more than twice as likely to get help for a mood disorder than for an anxiety disorder, she said. Dr. Albano said she believes there are several reasons for this shortfall. One is the stigma of anxiety, she said. \u201cIt\u2019s hard to admit, and it\u2019s hard for people to understand some of the things that come with anxiety, such as fear of being away from home or the embarrassment of social phobia,\u201d she said, adding that many who confess to anxiety are likely to simply hear \u201csuck it up.\u201d Another reason students might not seek help is that it\u2019s not always easy to determine when anxiety becomes unhealthy. \u201cAnxiety is the big liar,\u201d Dr. Albano said. \u201cIt fools a person into thinking they\u2019re helping themselves when they\u2019re not. It may take a person a little while to realize, \u2018Hey, wait a minute. This isn\u2019t good for me.\u2019 \u201cFor example, a college student who has social anxiety problems may show up to the dorm, unpack their stuff, and while everybody else is mixing and mingling in the hallway and getting to know one another, they\u2019re spending time rearranging their clothes in their drawers. Everyone goes off to dinner together and they\u2019re telling themselves, \u2018Well, it\u2019s more important for me to get my room in order.\u2019 And then this continues. They get to class right on time. They don\u2019t get there ahead of time to meet the professor or talk to people. They eat oodles of noodles in their room in a hot pot rather than make their way into the social scene of the cafeteria on campus. And so it becomes something they don\u2019t recognize right away, but they become more and more isolated.\u201d Anxiety\u2019s Red Flags Loved ones may or may not pick up on these problems. But Dr. Albano offers advice for parents trying to determine whether their college student is handling their anxiety or arranging their lives to challenge themselves as little as possible. One is to seek details. For example, ask for the names of the fellow students they\u2019ve met rather than asking only whether they\u2019ve met anyone. \u201cIf you\u2019re not getting specific information, that\u2019s a red flag,\u201d she said. Your young adult\u2019s extracurricular pursuits also matter. No matter how demanding their schedule, \u201cthere\u2019s got to be a social life on campus because this is a time of great social emotional development, not just intellectual academic development,\u201d Dr. Albano said. If the answers you get concern you, encourage your young adult to talk about what\u2019s getting in the way. \u201cA lot of parents are going to hear, \u2018It\u2019s just that I\u2019m overwhelmed. You don\u2019t understand. I have so much work.\u2019 And that\u2019s where you can say, \u2018OK, are you making use of the tutoring center? Have you met with your professors?\u2019 Breaking down the stigma that some kids feel about asking for help is very important.\u201d Because of the party culture on most campuses, it\u2019s also important that the student understand that drugs and booze only seem to offer relief. In reality, they\u2019re more likely to create new problems. \u201cAlcohol and other substances are things they use to try to comfort themselves when they\u2019re challenged with anxiety,\u201d Dr. Albano said. \u201cSo the co-occurrence of those conditions, especially in college age, is something that we see and that has to be addressed. You can\u2019t treat one and not the other.\u201d When you talk to your young adult, \u201cit\u2019s not that you want to be drilling them,\u201d Dr. Albano said. \u201cAnd you don\u2019t want to over-impose yourself on their life.\u201d But as long as the student is dependent on the family, the family needs to be involved in teaching them how to become independent. \u201cWe want to change the helicoptering to helping,\u201d she said. Moving Beyond Anxiety Dr. Albano began studying anxiety in the 1990s and quickly enjoyed the rewards of the work. \u201cSeeing the ways kids blossom and the happiness of their families when they overcome an anxiety condition, whether it\u2019s separation anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder \u2014 it became a reinforcing experience.\u201d Through her progression to renowned anxiety expert, which includes credentials such as writing the book You and Your Anxious Child, Dr. Albano said she\u2019s come to understand that anxiety can be \u201csubtle and insidious in the way it grabs you\u201d and that for those vulnerable to it, \u201canxiety is going to be their Achilles\u2019 heel at different stages of change through their life \u2014 the transition to college, the transition to work, starting a relationship.\u201d The good news is anxiety is among the most treatable disorders. \u201cYou may be anxious,\u201d she said, \u201cbut if you have the tools or access to groups like ours, you can shore yourself up and move along.\u201d One thing that can help all of us keep anxiety at bay, Dr. Alabano said, is coming to terms with the fact that missteps are a part of life. \u201cSometimes we make mistakes, and that\u2019s OK,\u201d she said. \u201cWe can mess up and we can deal with it, but then we have to profit from our mistakes.\u201d Get Treatment Today If anxiety and the college student seem inextricably linked, it may be time to reach out for help. At Promises Behavioral Health, we understand what a challenge it can be to struggle with anxiety. However, we also know that there is help available. With our treatment program, we give you the tools you need to overcome anxiety, using a range of helpful therapy methods. Your treatment program may include: \tCognitive-behavioral therapy \tIndividual therapy \tArt therapy \tYoga therapy \tMeditation therapy To learn more about the connection between anxiety and the college student, contact Promises Behavioral Health today at .