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Last modified: Tuesday, 16-May-2017 15:15:20 EDT

University Counseling Center (UCC)

Stress and Anxiety

Stress is a natural reaction to changes in your life - both happy and sad. Going on an exciting first date or getting rejected both create stress. Stress is normal and can even motivate you, e.g., when you are stressed the week before a test and you study hard. However, too much stress can cause DISTRESS. Faced with too much stress over long periods of time, the body can become exhausted and you can become ill. Some illnesses associated with prolonged stress are high blood pressure, heart disease, migraines, allergies, etc.

New York State Department of health lists these top ten ways of telling you are stressed:

The suggestions below can help you deal with stress. It is important to remember that different things work for different people, so try several different ones, and see what works best for you.

(Sources: New York State Department of Health, University of Rochester - University Counseling Center, and Learning Assistance Services)


Anxiety can be described as fear or dread lacking a clearly defined cause or specific threat. Though some anxiety is part of the experience of being human, too much anxiety can cause interference with life, avoidance of certain activities or situations, physiological symptoms (such as shortness of breath, hearth palpitations, sweaty palms, dizziness, etc.) and/or depressive feelings.

Feeling anxious temporarily is one thing, but when your anxiety interferes with your life and work and leads you to avoid certain situations or keeps you from enjoying life, you may have a medical condition known as an anxiety disorder.

Some examples of anxiety disorders are:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - persistent worry for 6 months or more. This worry is exaggerated and unfounded and is more than what most people experience. Individuals with GAD worry about their health, finances, jobs, and loved ones even when there is no reason to worry. Generally, these people find it difficult to relax and often suffer insomnia.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - persistent symptoms that develop in association with the experience of a traumatic event and last over an extended period of time. Individuals with PTSD are unable to shake the images of the traumatic event from their minds, have nightmares, lose sleep, have flashbacks, replay the event in their minds over and over again, have physical symptoms similar to those during the traumatic event, etc.

Obsessive - Compulsive Disorder - persistent preoccupation with dirt or germs, nagging doubts, or a need to have things in a certain order, i.e., obsessions that are relieved by engaging in repetitive rituals (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety brought on by the obsessions. Some examples of compulsions include constant hand washing, checking and rechecking, following rigid procedural rules, hoarding, etc.

Phobia - a fear that the person knows is irrational but yet is excessively distressing and causes significant disruption in a person's life. There are three main types of phobias:

Panic Disorder - experiencing repeated feelings of intense, sudden terror or impending doom. The symptoms, which usually peak in 10 minutes, include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, choking sensations or fear of going crazy, etc. Because these attacks can occur without any warning, individuals with panic disorder sometimes limit their activities, and even avoid leaving their homes.


Psychotherapy and medication can provide significant relief for anxiety disorders:

Psychotherapy (or counseling) involves working on the symptoms and causes of the anxiety disorder with a mental health professional. University Counseling Services (UCC) provides psychotherapy for many U of R students with anxiety disorders.

Medications can provide fast and effective anxiety relief. Safe and effective medications are also available for the long-term treatment of anxiety disorders.

Treatment for anxiety disorders often incorporates both psychological counseling and medications. Your UCC therapist can refer you for a medication consultation.

(Sources: National Mental Health Association, University of Rochester - University Counseling Center)

Compiled by Erla Leon, M.A. for the University Counseling Center