By Erica Dunigan
Staff reporter

Anxiety is quickly becoming the number one mental illness for college students. Stress levels spike around midterms and finals every year but anxiety is more than just the normal stress of dealing with classes.

Mary Ann Smith, wellness coordinator, said, “Anxiety can be defined as a student being really nervous, especially around finals and when they have to tell their parents their grades, also it can lead to unpleasant emotions, worry, and a lot of anticipation can occur with anxiety.”

Cori Hunt, undecided freshman, said, “When I first arrived on campus I was really excited to be away from home, but then after a month I realized that I truly missed my family and being there with them. I didn’t like the feeling of being by myself, facing the real world, and not having a support system.”

As anxiety sets in on students, Dawn Pleas-Bailey, vice-president for student life, said that one of the biggest stress-factors is the need to please.

Pleas-Bailey said, “Many students really get homesick after the first month, when they realize that their family isn’t always going to be there for them. But, yet the parents still may put pressure on their children to succeed and do well.”

“There is the simple pressure and stress a student may take on, but the biggest problem is the need for a student not to fail,” said Bailey. “Students feel the need not to want to fail their parents. They want to get their parents money’s worth, and make sure to get a good paying job after college. With putting this pressure on them and the result of that can lead to built up anxiety.”

Anxiety symptoms can vary, but occur at many of the same times each year.

Hunt has seen this amongst her peers. She said, “I believe that a lot of freshmen do feel a lot of anxiety, and it can cause problems with emotional health. There have been many times that I’ve felt that I couldn’t make it, or I would get down on myself because of the amount of work that I might have pushed aside because I was tired.”

“For some students it’s hard to adjust from just being in high school, to having to adapt to college,” said Smith. “They may not understand the professor, and they also may feel pressured into choosing a major.”

The struggling economy is also taking a toll on college freshmen.

Smith said, “Financial aid is the biggest problem with students having emotional health problems. Students find themselves wanting to excel at school because their parents are helping them pay for college. Also they know that if their paying this much for college and with the economy that they have to make the grades in order to get a good job.”

Hunt said, “My grandparents help pay for my schooling. When they decided to help me pay for school, I had to agree to maintain a certain GPA, and if I didn’t they would stop helping me.”

Financial stress can affect a student.

Pleas-Bailey said, “Many students find themselves struggling with money while at college because they don’t want to ask their family for help. They feel since their parents are helping them with school, then they don’t want to have to ask them for money. Then they’re not for sure if they want to take a job on or not, so it just adds more stress to pile.”

To reduce anxiety and increase emotional health, Smith suggested that students who are feeling overwhelmed take time from their schedule to focus on themselves, and hang out with friends, which will help build that support system. Also exercise and making sure to eat right, while getting sleep will help them get rid of some of the anxiety.

“We encourage students to build a bond with other students, and to even get to know their professors and staff members at Southwestern,” said Pleas-Bailey. “If they feel overwhelmed with school, it’s nice to have someone to turn to. A support system is a great thing to have in college.”

As for the financial stress, Smith said, “Freshmen can take an on campus job, or maybe a job off campus to save up extra money to help buy needed things, or to even put back for when they go out with their friends.”

Hunt has her own personal solution to deal with anxiety.

Hunt said, “What keeps me from breaking down is I tell myself that I can accomplish anything, and I know this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Erica Dunigan is a junior majoring in convergent journalism. You may e-mail her at

Edited by Lea Shores.