I just finished my first year in college and am home for the summer. I’ve struggled with a lot of fear for the past couple of years; fear of meeting new people, of having to make small talk, of getting a job other than the one I’v been at for five years, fear of having to talk to people on the phone, of walking anywhere by myself (because I imagine something bad will happen). It has never been as bad as it is now, though.
Now I find myself avoiding going places. I don’t really want to be with other people, besides my immediate family. Some extended family is coming to visit in a few weeks and I dread having to make small talk…
I am scared I wont be able to get a job in my field when I graduate because I’m too scared of failing. I also imagine worst case scenarios for everything, which is one of the reasons I’m so scared of not just doing new things but some everyday things.
I am still able to manage things somewhat. I make phone calls when I have to. I still attend my church. I force myself to make small talk when I have to, even though I’d rather not. I’m just worried because I dont want things to get worse.
Just so you know I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks in the past. I was in counseling at school, but obviously since I am home for the summer, I am no longer in therapy. I just need some advice…Thanks!
Hello, and thank you for your question:
What you are describing is pretty common among college students (at least those who care about their futures). You are going through a life-stage right now of trying to understand what you are supposed to be doing in life and how you are to accomplish goals. These are very common fears, and I see many college students with similar anxieties. Chances are too, that you have a parent or older sibling with anxiety and you learned to be anxious from them.
Anxiety feeds itself with irrational thinking, circular reasoning, and an escalation of panic symptoms which include rapid breathing, heart palpitations, dry mouth, etc.
The good news is that you don’t have to live with your overwhelming fears. There are specialists who can help you pretty quickly. Sometimes you need medications, but the more rapid “fix” is proper techniques of breathing, challenging these nasty thoughts that take you into some terrible place, and talking with someone who knows how to help you.
School counselors can help, but unless they specialize in anxiety disorders, they may not know the “shortcuts” to getting you better the quickest way. You can even find help with CDs that help you de-stress and master your anxiety. Websites such as The Stress Masters have these.
Although you are on break, you might get a few sessions in with a professional who can give you some ways to conquer your anxiety. Usually just 4 -6 sessions can do the trick. Check out therapists in your area at Psychology Today.
I hope this helps,
Dr. Diana Walcutt
Walcutt, D. (2009). Overwhelming Fears. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 1, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/06/25/overwhelming-fears/